Do you know how many votes the Republicans managed to get when uber wingnut Antonin Scalia was confirmed? 98. And Democrats had a majority. We didn't have to even think about a filibuster. We couldn't defeat Clarence Thomas and we had a majority, a huge push from women's groups and a very dramatic set of hearings that went into the wee hours of the morning. . . .
When it became clear that the vote was going against the filibuster, Diane Feinstein, a puddle of lukewarm water if there ever was one, decided to backtrack and play to the base instead of the right wing. That's new folks. Given an opportunity to make an easy vote, until now she and others like her (who are legion) would always default to the right to prove their "centrist" bonafides. That's the DLC model. When you have a free vote always use it to show that you aren't liberal. That's why she was against it originally --- a reflexive nod to being "reasonable."
Obama had to choke out his support for a filibuster, but he did it. A calculation was made that he needed to play to the base instead of the punditocrisy who believe that being "bold" is voting with the Republicans. Don't underestimate how much pressure there is to do that, especially for a guy like Obama who is running for King of the Purple. The whole presidential club, including Biden joined the chorus.
The last time we had a serious outpouring from the grassroots was the Iraq War resolution. My Senator DiFi commented at thetime that she had never seen anything like the depth of passion coming from her constituents. But she voted for the war anyway. So did Bayh, Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kerry and Reid. The entire leadership of the party. Every one of them went the other way this time. I know that some of you are cynical about these people (and ,well, they are politicans, so don't get all Claud Rains about it) but that means something. Every one of those people were running in one way or another in 2002 and they went the other way. The tide is shifting.
Others have noted that Alito will have less support for his final confirmation vote (UPDATE: The vote on January 31, 2006 was 58-42) of Justices who were ultimately confirmed than any Justice other than Thomas, whose final approval vote was 52-48. "Thomas, however, did gain more Democratic support: 11 votes, compared to Alito's four. Alito fell 20 votes short of the favorable votes to confirm Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in September."
I'd like to think that our party has received a wake up call. Maybe some of them have. But, I don't think it will really get through to politicians like Lieberman and Salazar until they feel the pain of truly losing the support of their base. This doesn't have to wait until the next election. If Salazar sends out his usual fundraiser invitations and requests for contributions and finds that the well has run dry, he may get the message.
Hello, Colorado Democratic Party donor class! This means you. Don't send Ken Salazar any money. Not this year. Not next year. Don't return his phone calls. Don't show up to his events. Don't invite him to speak at your events. A couple of years in the wilderness might help him see the light.