by Chris Bowers, Mon May 23, 2005 at 07:56:04 PM EDT
Some will say that this moves us closer to theocracy than ever. Of course they will be right. Then again, every day of the 109th Congress brings us closer to theocracy, and this one is no different than the rest. Further, keep in mind that theocracy is what the Republican grassroots want, and the Republican grassroots are pissed off at this deal. If we weaken the energy of the Republican grassroots, we also slow our slide toward theocracy. So while this certainly moves us closer to theocracy in the short term, in the long term it might help us begin a reversal.
Some will say that this reinforces the narrative that Democrats have no backbone and don't stand for anything. On this point I must disagree. Over the past few years, the pattern that has emerged in Congress that helped reinforce this narrative has been a minority of Democrats splitting with their own party and voting with a unified Republican caucus. This is what happened on the tax cuts, the war vote, the bankruptcy bill--you name it. However, this time a minority of Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted with a unified Democratic caucus. This reverses the tables, and if anything makes Republicans look unprincipled, lacking backbone and direction, and rife with disunity. We were the unified caucus. They were split.
Some will say that Republicans will try to remove the filibuster again in a future Congress, especially at a time when they have a larger majority. Well, duh. No victory is ever large enough to permanently remove a issue from the table. No matter how many times Democrats have saved Social Security over the past seven decades, Republicans have consistently attempted to destroy it again a few years later. They will again this time as well. Further, worries that our opposition was not strong enough to stop the filibuster from being destroyed in the event that we are in an even smaller minority are misplaced. Obviously, working to prevent us from being in an even smaller minority is the first concern there.
And I am sure that many others on our side won't like it for different reasons. For example, my brother / roommate said to me tonight that this in no way guarantees that we can stop a terrible Supreme Court nominee. He might be right, but we will have to see. Josh Marshall wonders how long the agreement can really hold, considering that Democrats will almost certainly begin filibustering at least a few crappy nominees over the remaining session of Congress. I share this concern, as it is something we must continue to keep an eye on. Overall, however, at least from this vantage point, I must agree with DHinMI: this is definitely a partial victory.. Frist is extremely weakened, and as a result so is the Republican caucus in the Senate. By contrast, Republican defectors have been greatly strengthened, thus strengthening the Democratic caucus as an oppositional force. Further, the Republican grassroots are de-energized, and will be for some time. Still further, we blocked a majority of the bad nominees, and kept at least some hope alive of defeating terrible Supreme Court nominees. Even more of the ugly side of the Republican base has been revealed to the public. Republicans looked like they were ignoring issues of real importance. We managed to say "abuse of power" over the airwaves several thousand times. The Congressional polling situation is starting to look better and better. And on and on.
The more I think about it, I agree with the overwhelming majority of MyDDers--there is no way that this is not more of a victory than a defeat. That could change as time goes on, and the benefits I perceive now disappear while these terrible nominees remain on the bench (and other terrible nominees are nominated and approved). For now however, we can be proud. We can hold our heads high and tell our friends and family that we won. They can't do that.
Update: Senator Feingold offers a dissenting view:This is not a good deal for the U.S. Senate or for the American people. Democrats should have stood together firmly against the bullying tactics of the Republican leadership abusing their power as they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Confirming unacceptable judicial nominations is simply a green light for the Bush administration to send more nominees who lack the judicial temperament or record to serve in these lifetime positions. I value the many traditions of the Senate, including the tradition of bipartisanship to forge consensus. I do not, however, value threatening to disregard an important Senate tradition, like occasional unlimited debate, when necessary. I respect all my colleagues very much who thought to end this playground squabble over judges, but I am disappointed in this deal. I disagree, but I know not everyone here will.