The Magazine

If You Were a Democrat

Mar 28, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 26 • By TERRY EASTLAND, FOR THE EDITORS
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If you were a Democrat, you wouldn't worry if Frist tried to end the filibuster for judges. You wouldn't worry if you and your colleagues responded to such an effort by shutting down the Senate. Actually, you'd be ready to blow the place up. Because you'd know nothing was more important than blocking votes on Bush's nominees, even though a leading legal scholar who advises Democrats says that the Bush judges so far are proving no different, in terms of judging, than the judges sponsored by Reagan and Bush's father.

If you were a Democrat, you'd not worry about your party's rejection of the practice of so many years (1791 to 2002) whereby a simple majority was all that was necessary to confirm a judge. You'd not worry that your party had managed to change the vote needed for the confirmation of a judge from a simple majority to a three-fifths supermajority, and in fact you'd think Boxer had nailed it when she said--over there at the MoveOn.org rally--that "for such a super-important position there ought to be a super vote."

You'd not worry that in 2006 or 2008 your party might lose Senate seats as Tom Daschle lost his last fall partly on account of its unprecedented filibustering ways. You'd not worry that some of the five Democrats from red states whose seats are up in 2006 might lose because of this issue. And you'd not worry that a Republican minority might someday decide to follow your example and routinely filibuster a Democratic president's judicial nominees. Certainly you'd not worry, nor would constitutionalist Byrd, that the filibuster (to quote the legal scholar Michael Gerhardt) "is problematic because it creates a presumption against confirmation, shifts the balance of power to the Senate and enhances the power of the special interests."

You'd not worry about those things because you'd agree that nothing matters as much as preventing votes on Bush's nominees. You'd know that because the special interests--er, your "advisers," the folks over at People For the American Way, NARAL, the ACLU, and, fresh off their great success in the 2004 campaign, MoveOn.org told you so. You'd know them, if you were a Democrat, and, more important, they'd know you, and they'd know you'd be afraid of getting crosswise with them and with the Democratic base they claim to represent.

If you were a Senate Democrat, then, you'd be ready to vote no and no and no again. Deep down, though, you'd also know that your party had fallen off its rocker. You'd know that the filibustering strategy was stupid and unwise, bad for the Senate, bad for the presidency, bad for the courts--and bad for the Democratic party. And you'd give it up. If you were a smart Democrat.

-- Terry Eastland, for the Editors