To say that I am disappointed in the performance of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee would be putting it mildly. Reading and listening to the coverage of the hearings, they came across as ego-centric blowhards, harassing a qualified Everyman. They even made his wife cry. What worthless caricatures these Democrats are. Neil’s comment
on a previous post suggests that senators with “lifetime” tenure (he mentioned Ted Kennedy; I will add Ted Stevens for partisan balance) are as troublesome than justices, probably more so. After watching the Democrats in Congress and the party generally over the past five years, it’s hard not to agree with his assessment even if I don’t share his opinion of Alito.
The Alito hearings were, for me, simply another example of the Democrats’ overall problem, to wit: there’s no THERE there (with apologies to Gertrude Stein and Oakland, California). The Democrats are all tactics but no strategy in opposing BushCheney and his corporate minions. The Democrats’ tactic on Alito was to provoke an outrageous statement from him that would reveal him as the radical he is. They lost. Alito was well schooled and too smart for that. He and his handlers learned the lesson of Robert Bork well. Absent Alito’s “confession”, the Democrats had nothing to go on. They certainly did not make the case in the hearings that Alito’s record and opinions would further erode Constitutional checks and balances that would strengthen the president against the other branches of government, creating the executive power that the Framers sought to prevent.
This performance is by no means isolated. Democrats offer no real alternative to BushCheney’s disastrous foreign policies that have mired this nation in an endless war, alienated much of the world and created rather than reduced threats to this nation and its allies. Rather than relentlessly pointing out how these policies have injured America, the Democrats keep waiting for them to fail, for the American people to turn against them. The approach is reactive; it bespeaks a party that really has little to offer. That’s why they don’t appear to be gaining support even as BushCheney’s approval plummets to Nixonian depths.
Tactics are only as good as the strategy they implement. So far Democratic tactics are essentially to nibble at the margins, to oppose specifics here and there without questioning the overall policies. That’s like fighting a war without ever taking on the enemy’s main force. Knocking off a patrol or even winning battles doesn’t do much of the enemy is still able to field a strong force (Remember, the Confederates won most of the early battles in the Civil War. The US won all the battles in Vietnam, according to William Westmoreland. Look what good it did in either case.) So far BushCheney has been able to maintain the initiative with his so far unchallenged “terror-safety” message. Until the Democrats begin pointing out the dangerous fallacies and consequences of these policies, they will remain a (with apologies to Richard Nixon) “a pitiful, helpless giant”, continually floundering, always ineffectual and not much of a “giant” to boot.
Back to Alito for a moment , I think he should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court. His record reflects anything but an open mind, rather he would join the radicals already on the Court, to weaken government protections for individuals against the government that has served Americans well for over two centuries. But after watching the Alito hearings, I don’t know that the Democratic minority is capable of marshaling an effective argument for such a strong action, a weakness that characterizes Democrats in virtually every debate.
Others have made good suggestions for rebuilding the Democratic Party as a real opposition to BushCheney. Examples are here
. I will add that until the Democratic Party actually bases its opposition on a clear set of ideas, it will continue to be irrelevant. I will also add that rebuilding takes time. It took the Republicans almost two decades to regroup and recover from the Goldwater debacle in 1964. Forty years later, they wield absolute control of the federal government. It’s a lesson in message and determination that the Democrats need to remember.Update:
Armando at Daily Kos
makes the argument the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee should have made