What should the Dems do?
A politician should do what his conscience dictates. I haven't followed these hearings very thoroughly, so I don't have any personal opinion on whether Alito will make a good justice, but if some senator honestly believes in his heart of hearts that confirming him will do irreparable harm to the nation and voting against him isn't enough, then I suppose that senator should filibuster.
Alito is unsound on Presidential prerogatives.
The court will have to take up the issue of Bush's claim that he is entitled to ignore the bill of rights and the statutes on the law books just because he is president and we are in a "war". As Dahlia Lithwick noted at Slate a few days ago, there is no really applicable law to refer to on this question, the justices will (horror of horrors!) have to make up NEW law. And Alito's background and declared interests leads any reasonable observer to the conclusion that he will side with Bush on the issue. Therefore he is "bad for the country" in spades.
I vote unsure for those reasons.
But trying to construct a reciprocal scenario where I, as a Republican, had to decide on a Democratic nominee.... Very little about Alito has been controvertial and he's qualified. So if I had to decide on a Democratic nominee who was qualified and so uncontrovertial he isn't even making the news every day, I don't think I could, in good conscience, vote against him.
My personal opinion of the judicial nomination process is that it's too politicized. Politicians vote along party lines for no other reason than to vote along party lines. Why? Unless a nominee is a bona-fide extremist (ie, the Alabama judge and his 10 Commandments), just having a political opinion (who doesn't?) that you don't agree with is not a good enough reason to oppose a nomination.
As a minority, if the majority threatens to strip you of the filibuster, then it is already stripped from you. At that point you must consider the future and hope that there will be balance of power once more.
So those of you who have Democratic representatives, you should contact them and let them know you support the blocking of Alito via "in committee" and "blue slips" if they aren't already planning such an alternative effort?
Long live our system of checks and balances in the United States!!!
The poll has skewed options. The second option, (No, he is well qualified and that is all teh senate should care about) is contrasted to the first and implies that, even though he is qualified he is not good for the country. Perhaps I'm reading to much into this, but it should say, No, he is not a threat to anything in the country. This would have been my choice.
The ONLY thing that Alito supporters have said about him is that he is a well qualified judge based on his credentials. that is all they have to support him.
Then you obviously haven't listened to many of his supporters. Sure, you've got the big-name supporters who speak in bumper-sticker talk and sound bites: in this instance you're right. However, they don't represent all of his supporters, and are a relatively small number. I suggest you research it a little bit more before making such a sweeping statement.
Qualifications in terms of experience, intelligence, etc., are the minimum expectation. That a conservative president nominates a conservative judge is also to be expected. Is Alito a threat to the country? If he is so conservative that he is an ideologue outside the mainstream, yes he is a threat and should not be appointed for life on the Supreme Court. What I have read indicates he therefore is not an appropriate candidate.
There's a difference between a majority decision and a consensus decision. In the first, the attitude is that the winner wins - screw the losers. The second at least gets some buy in from the loser. When there's a good chance the roles will switch periodically, it's not too good to completely ignore the concerns of your opponent even when you have the majority.
The filibuster tends to encourage consensus decisions vs. majority decisions. It also tends to keep things centered politically - the extremes of either party can't take over. There's still significant groups that are disappointed, but, being so politically different from each other, they can't unite to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, Bush's political base is made up of extremists and they are the most powerful group in the Republican Party. It's pretty rare for extremists to dominate one of the parties. The traditional model doesn't work for extremists in normal times, so there's no penalty for destroying it. This is the only chance for the right wing of the party to get what they want in their lifetime - to them, it will be worth wrecking the traditional model that keeps Congress politically centered.
In fact, this year might be their last chance. It's not a question of whether or not Republicans will lose seats in Congress this fall - it's just a question of whether they lose enough to lose the majority. Even if Republicans survive this election, we have to survive two more years of Bush. That means there's a good chance that Republicans will lose more seats in the 2008 election and that would definitely swing the majority over to the Democrats.
That means the "nuclear option" is a ticking bomb for most Republicans. It would be stupid to utilize it in a year where they have the chance of becoming the minority. If extremist Democrats ever wanted to finally see their goals realized, a filibuster that spurs the "nuclear option" immediately before Democrats take over the majority is their dream come true.
In any event, there are normally things that damp political swings to keep US policy somewhat stable. If you kill off those things, we wind up with undamped motion - US policy will swing from right wing to left wing to right wing endlessly, which makes it hard for people to predict what is going to happen in their future. If you think Congress does a bad job now, just wait until after we eliminate the filibuster.
Compare that to:
From what you know about Samuel Alito, as a Supreme Court Justice, do you think he would be too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?
Based on what you have heard or read about him, do you think Alito’s views on important issues are in the mainstream or do you think they are too extreme?
This is from a USAToday/CNN Gallup poll, I doubt you would consider it biased or skewed. Here's the link in case you think I'm just making this up, http://www.usatoday.com/news/polls/2006-01-09-poll.htm. The Alito poll is quite a ways down from the top of the page, but it's there.
Now, this poll leaves only two options. One, the majority of people that think he is mainstream and are deluded idiots who don't know what they're talking about: you and you alone know the truth. Two, he actually is mainstream! So you tell me, which is it?
Something I didn't go into before - the purely political ramifications of a filibuster:
Even if Dems think that Alito should not be confirmed, blocking his confirmation would have negative political consequences for them unless they can convince the public that he's so far off in right field that it is worth the filibuster. Otherwise it just looks like partisan bellyaching and obstructionism. So the purpose of the hearings (to the dems) is to try to generate controversy on which to base a block. Since they have failed to generate that controversy, the negative ramifications of blocking a candidate that few people have serious problems with will not be worth it.
I agree BobG on all that you said except to remember that the Dems have had majority power for a very long time before now, yet did not abuse the power by exercising the "nuclear option." I agree with Russ how the Dems must consider public opinion and keep their eyes on the ball for the longer term (as unfortunate as that may be). In regard to public opinion, I ask Dawguard – Do you think most Americans have even a minimal understanding of parliamentary procedure, and how the filibuster tradition in the Senate is important to retain checks and balances, etc.? Because I very much doubt they do—they have been bombarded with propaganda and are tired of hearing about controversy in the news.
I will remind people that there was a list of conservative judges suggested by the Dems for purposes of cooperative appointment. In other words, they have acknowledged Bush’s right to appoint a conservative judge. But Bush has refused to reach across the aisle repeatedly, and continues to cater to his base, the religious right. For those of you who may not have noticed, the religious right IS extreme, and just the fact that people like Pat Robertson has a smile on his face when Alito’s name is mentioned tells it all.
That depends. I think they won't filibuster, but it could still be a legitimate strategy even if it generated some short term negatives.
If you had an extreme segment of the left that could impose the same party discipline DeLay was able to impose for so long, getting the other party to gut the filibuster rule right before your party took over the majority would be worth it. People will forget the Alito nomination fight, but killing filibusters is forever.
In the real world, it won't happen. Moderate Dems won't support a filibuster. It's not to their advantage to risk having things pulled too far to the left when the natural state of things is already somewhere near where they want to be.
Additionally, the Democratic Party tends to be a noisy, raucous place and every once in a while, the extreme left manages to get one of theirs nominated for president, even if they lose the general election (at least relatively speaking, unless you think a person has to be Communist to be extreme left). Having some voice, there's not as big a pay-off for extreme measures.
The religious right has tended to be teased by Republican candidates, then ignored once the candidate's elected, which is why any option is viable for them.
Filibuster. I want to see the nuclear option play out.
Yes, let's do it.
Yes, let's. Anyone want to take bets on whether the Dems will reclaim the House? Even so, the GOP still controls the White House until 2008? Anyone want to take bets on whether the Dems secure a veto-proof majority in either House? Both?
Not planning to be around after 2008?
If the Dems do pull off a filibuster (which they won't...there's too many senators in bright-red states that won't take the risk), I doubt the Republicans will go nuclear. My reason : I don't think Trent Lott would watch idly as Bill Frist's pet project wins the Republicans a big one. There's just too much bad blood between those two.
In other words, the public don't know what they're talking about. They're delibertaly turning a blind eye to the truth. You few intellegent people, you elite group, you alone understand what is really going on. Since the people are to stupid to be trusted I guess we should abandon democracy: the majority can't possibly understand enough to run a country. No, we're all just dumb, ignorant idiots. We should let you guys do whatever you want since we obviously don't have the mental capabilities you do.
Also, in regard to the right being extremist and corupting the courts, tilting it far out of the mainstream, I ask you one question. What of Briar, Ginsburg, Souter and the other liberal judges? I suppose you say that they're all in the mainstream, and it's only the conservitives that are extreme. After all, who could ever imagine an extreme liberal? Why, they don't exist, since they are all smart, fair-minded, intellegent people. No, its only those horrible religious people who can ever be extreme!
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