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May 24, 2005

See the Forest, Accept This Compromise

-- by Dave Johnson

The judges are trees. The filibuster battle was so much bigger than the judges. Don't get so caught up in the minutia that you don't see the bigger picture of what was going on. See the forest. The forest is that the "nuclear option" fight was about The Party solidifying absolute control over the levers of power, and for now they lost that. (Regular readers know that "The Party" is my term for the "conservative movement" that now controls the Republican Party, along with all of its tentacles of propaganda and control: think tanks, Fox News, Limbaugh, etc. I use it the way we used to talk about the Soviet Communist Party.)

The Right had been working toward this for a long time. Rush Limbaugh talked about this on his radio show today:

"This is about what we've all been fighting for since the 1960s, or maybe in some cases the fifties: To get to the point here where we've done what we're supposed to do. We've worked hard and we've won elections, and we've won elections by persuading people to agree with us, and we've campaigned on specific things, and said, "This is what we believe in." We've defined ourselves as conservatives and we've won and we've won big, and now we've won the Senate and the House and the White House -- and now all that's being undermined ... It is maddeningly frustrated, and to put this all in perspective, you know, a lot of people have been interested in this stuff for two years, five years, ten, 15, 20. Others have been toiling away in the basement for 40.

[. . .] Folks, let me make a point. ... I've said it on previous occasions in different ways but I've gotta say this. And one of the reasons, aside from just, you know, the battles in 40, 50 years, and working hard to get where we are and winning elections. There were reasons behind that. There are reasons everybody has been working hard. There are reasons why we've tried to get the power necessary to appoint judges and so forth ... You get to do that and the rights of the minority go by the wayside in those circumstances." [emphasis added]

This wasn't just about a few judges, this was about something far more important and dangerous. These people are dead serious, and they were grabbing for absolute power. This compromise blocks that power grab - at least for now.

If you are a Seeing the Forest regular, you know that I think these people are taking this country in a very, very dangerous direction. I mean, what other directions are there after launching aggressive warfare, justified by lies and authorized through trickery, lies and intimidation, against countries that were not threats to us? When facing this kind of threat you do anything to turn back that tide. The way I feel, this was like the vote in Germany in the 30's that gave the Nazis absolute power, except last night we bought some time.

Something I wrote in February keeps coming back to me. It was titled, Inches and Rope to Right-Wingers?

[a commenter] said what I was going to say far better and in many fewer words:
Ernst Thalmann thought the same thing.

He died in Buchenwald.

Take these people seriously, and fight them at every opportunity. Don't give them an inch. Don't "give them enough rope." I really don't like to think about right-wingers with ropes -- because more likely than not they will hang YOU.

Watch your backs.

More recently I wrote about the Right's attempt to establish a theocracy. Please take a look at They mean it. (There are links in the original.)
These people mean it. America is an experiment. Democracy is an experiment. American democracy has not been around very long, and we have never been so perilously close to losing it. All the checks and balances have been removed by allies of these people. They mean it. The leader of the Senate is saying that Democrats hate "people of faith." They mean it. Time magazine puts on their cover a person who calls for murdering us. They mean it. A Supreme Court Justice declares that rulers should be chosen by God, not the people. They mean it. The Vice President is the keynote speaker at a conference where other speakers called for "a new McCarthyism" to bring "terror" to intellectuals, saying "let's oppress them [liberals]," and that "the entire Harvard faculty" are "traitors." They mean it. They mean it.

Watch your backs. I mean it.

Indeed.

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 24, 2005 5:30 PM

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Comments

Dems folded as usual. If they had a brain in their collective head, they'd let the republicans kill the filibuster. Look, if the repugs keep winning election after election, both executive and legislative, we're dead anyway. So why not have the machinery in place to change things VERY FAST AND VERY FAR and have it there because the repugs put it there? If decent people ever again in this fucked country are in a position to put together a majority in either house of congress, it's be nice if they could actually reverse the damage and move the country forward FAST. Wouldn't it?

Posted by: richard at May 24, 2005 5:47 PM

I'm coming around to Dave's point of view. The fact that six Republicans defied Frist and Dobson is big; they drew a line in the sand. I've been waiting for something like that for three years or more; I've asked several times whether the moderate Republicans and sane conservatives even exist at all.

The far right has been playing the game and waiting for their payoff for more then twenty years now. They've been getting increasingly impatient, and they believed that their time had come. The Social Security thing was another very bold ultra-right attempt to win the whole game all at once, and it looks like it will fail too.

Despite my expressed pessimism, I do believe the Democrats have been performing better during the last year than at any time in recent memory. I've just thought it was too little, too late. Maybe not.

This could be the high water mark of the far right revolution. 30% of the population controls the ruling party, and the ruling party controls the government, and increasingly the media. If they lose control of the Republicans, then the 30% is just a 30% minority again.

If that's true, we'll still be playing catchup, but we'll be past the worst.

Posted by: John Emerson at May 24, 2005 5:59 PM

"The fact that six Republicans defied Frist and Dobson is big; they drew a line in the sand."

This is so very far from over. Frist is bringing up the cloture vote on Meyers at the end of the week, after Dems have given in on Rogers & Owen.
What exactly was the deal? What are the exact mechanics? What was promised? If the seven Republicans have only promised not to vote for cloture, that only means the Repubs can't stop a filibuster. Which means Frist can start one, and simply keep the Senate in open session, debating 24/7 for a couple weeks until the moderates fold.

And they will fold.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at May 24, 2005 6:31 PM

I don't think the moderate Republicans can fold. Not after they have publicly given their word to preserve the filibuster.

If the moderates were to give up the filibuster their influence within their own party would be dead. With the filibuster their party has to listen to them, without Frist can afford to disregard them.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at May 24, 2005 7:03 PM

"I don't think the moderate Republicans can fold."

Frist still has this weapon in his his arsenal. He can keep debate going. Imagine the drama as we head into the 132nd consecutive hour of debate on Meyers, the moonbats and freepers are glued to their tv's, the bloggers are taking speed, Senator Byrd is receiving oxygen on the Senate Floor..."How long can they keep this up" cries Chris Matthews. The "Memorial Weekend Filibuster" would be a show for history.

Why wait? The "deal" is fresh in everybody's minds. The potential rewards from breaking the seven are just incredible in terms of firing up the base and demoralizing the Democrats. Would the seven go through this again to keep Janice Brown off of SCOTUS? And again? The humiliation of the Democrats would be so complete that I suspect a setup.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at May 24, 2005 7:31 PM

I hope you're wrong, Bob, but I've thought the same thing.

I believe, though, that they know that it would be suicidal for them to back out. They're all cagey enough to knwo that the enemies they've just made will kill them as soon as possible, regardless. (Figuratively, I mean. Probably).

That's my whole reason for accepting Dave's positive spin on this. 6 Republican Senators have shown themselves willing to make themselves the enemies of the neo-Confederate Armageddonist Taliban. And if this sticks, there are probably half-a-dozen more quaking in the bushes who will have, in the future, the guts to defy the Taliban too.

But...........

Posted by: John Emerson at May 24, 2005 8:37 PM

John -

I think it is significant that the House voted today in defiance of the "conservative movement" on stem cells.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at May 24, 2005 8:50 PM

I've got my fingers crossed. IF MAYBE the moderate Republicans have gotten fed up with intimidation, MAYBE they'll have the guts to demand a stop to at least some of the more nutty crap. Let's see if they can actually override the veto of the stem cell research bill. MAYBE there's a genuine rebellion taking shape at last. MAYBE enough of the moderates care about the welfare of the country to make a difference.

It's really like a playground battle, where the Good Kids finally stand up against the bullies. It could happen, but I'm not counting on it yet.

Posted by: MJ at May 25, 2005 6:30 AM

The compromise is a strategic win for the Democrats, because the alternative woulda been far, far worse. And no, it would not be better to have the same all-encompassing power that the Republicans are trying to gather to themselves right now. It would be just as odious, even if it would allow "us" to undo the damage "they" did.

I've not doubt that there are more Republicans in the bushes waiting for a sign that they can buck Bush and the extremists. The stem cell vote was another sign. Frist, who lost the filibuster battle and therefore one of the extremists key battles, is likely to try to keep it off the Senate floor -- because he knows it will pass and very possibly with a veto-proof majority. While the House didn't get the veto-proof passage, it very well could if it is emboldened by the Senate and its own success at winning to begin with. And, note, the House trumped Tom DeLay.

And now George Voinovich (who I dearly wish had voted "no" on John Bolton instead of letting the nomination go out with no recommendation) has now sent a letter urging a no vote. That makes it 54-46 now. Who else might not be inclined to kiss Frist's butt on this one now that he's been proven fallible?

Posted by: newswriter at May 25, 2005 6:53 AM

Appeasement. This is still the term to consider. This moment in the sun is being purchased, and one ought to consider the price. Dave has said, look at the Big Picture, look at the Forest; he says this is more than an issue of the three judges. Both Dave and John ask us to look at the bright side; and I respect both men, tremendously. Is the Compromise an overall good? I have to confess that it is wrong (and it may at times be a sin) to trample or discourage hope. And having said that,-- if there is a moderate revolt against extremism,-- I will be enthusiastic. I will celebrate it.

But let's look at some cold, hard facts. This compromise is, indeed, about more than the three judges. It is about all the judges who will be nominated, from now untill the end of this extremist nightmare. The filibuster exists in theory, or in this practical moment, to keep judges whom the minority may insist are extreme, from sitting on the bench. Look at what has happened; see what has really happened.

The euphoria around this compromise tempts us to believe that a "moderate revolt" is putting the handcuffs on Frist and limiting the scope of the fundamenalist-tilted leadership. Senator McCain says we will know an "extraordinary circumstance" when we see it; we will know what justifies a filibuster and what does not. And the evidence remains that nominees Owens, Brown, and Pryor do not rise to that level. Nor will anyone who might resemble them trigger a filibuster. Indeed, it's not strictly about these three judges; it's about all the judges yet to come.

Once again, the political center has dematerialized; and as it blinks back into view--behold--it has moved further to the right. The gate swings wide open for all who follow in the footsteps of Owens, Brown, and Pryor. The senators, Democrats and Republicans, have not taken the keys away from Frist or Cheney. They have taken the keys to the filibuster, and thrown them in the lake.

Posted by: Copeland at May 25, 2005 11:48 AM

A tip of the hat to Bob Mcmanus. I got carried away right at the end of my post.

A correction: The keys have been thrown in the lake only as far as the Democrats are concerned. But as was pointed out in Bob's post, the keys to the filibuster are right in Frist's pocket, where Frist intends them to remain

Posted by: Copeland at May 25, 2005 12:24 PM

" there are reasons..." Well what are they Rush? What is the real agenda, or do you dare say it now?

Posted by: emeldir at May 25, 2005 9:49 PM

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