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Friday, October 28, 2016

WASHINGTON — Those who lament the Senate Democrats’ vote to end filibusters for presidential nominations say the move will escalate partisan warfare and destroy what comity is left in Congress. Some also charge hypocrisy, since Democrats once opposed the very step they took last week.

In fact, seeing the world as it is rather than pining for a world that no longer exists is a precondition for reducing polarization down the road. With their dramatic decision, Senate Democrats have frankly acknowledged that the power struggle over the judiciary has reached a crisis point and that the nature of conservative opposition to President Obama is genuinely without precedent.

What happened on Nuclear Thursday has more to do with the rise of an activist conservative judiciary than with the norms of the Senate. From the moment that five conservative justices issued their ruling in Bush v. Gore, liberals and Democrats realized they were up against forces willing to achieve their purposes by using power at every level of government. When the Bush v. Gore majority insisted that the principles invoked to decide the 2000 election in George W. Bush’s favor could not be used in any other case, they effectively admitted their opportunism. Dec. 12, 2000, led inexorably to Nov. 21, 2013.

Bush v. Gore set in motion what liberals see as a pernicious feedback loop. By giving the presidency to a conservative, the five right-of-center justices guaranteed that for at least four years (and what turned out to be eight), the judiciary would be tilted even further in a conservative direction.

Bush was highly disciplined in naming as many conservative judges as he could. His appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito bolstered the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. The court later rendered such decisions as Citizens United, which tore down barriers to big money in politics, and Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Both, in turn, had the effect of strengthening the electoral hand of conservatives and Republicans.

  • Dominick Vila

    The filibuster, which I consider undemocratic, would have remained in place for years to come had it not been for the unprecedented level of obstructionism that prevails in Washington today. We have to go no further than consider the number of presidential nominations (27) blocked by the minority to understand how dysfunctional our government has become. More presidential nominations have been blocked since President Obama became president than the nominations made by all former U.S. presidents combined!

    • Lovefacts

      I have no problem with filibusters, as long as the Senator actually stands before the Senate and speaks. I do have a problem with saying, I filibuster, thus permanently blocking a vote, which the Republicans have done 80 times since Obama became president. In truth, they have attempted to turn Obama into President Johnson. Because if their behavior, agencies are without leadership and the federal judiciary has over an 11% vacancy. I wonder if the Republicans regret not approving Elizabeth Warren as head of the new Consumer Protection Agency.

      • Dominick Vila

        The GOP would have been better off if Elizabeth Warren was running the CPA. Not only has she been pursuing Wall Street issues that most politicians don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole, she is likely to run for President in 2016, and she is not the type that is intimidated easily. Clinton-Warren 2016

  • sigrid28

    Democrats get the media prize for perfect timing, blocking out Republican gibberish throughout the long Thanksgiving holiday: Harry Reid’s detonation of the “nuclear option” in the Senate coincides with John Kerry’s successful initiation of negotiations with Iran–for the first time in decades–AND with the prospect of negotiations between parties of the Syrian conflict, coming up in January in Geneva. These stunning national and international achievements of the Obama administration should block out the GOP’s spiteful narrative about the failure of the ACA website until it is up and running–representing yet another stellar achievement of the Obama administration. An added satisfaction, these accomplishments came about despite the interference and obstruction of the GOP and its propagandists in the right wing media.

    • elw

      Oh if only we could silence the Republican gibberish, it would be so wonderful.

    • Robert Daidone

      “John Kerry’s successful initiation of negotiations with Iran”. You can’t be serious. The negotiations were supposed to lift sanctions in exchange for Iran ending its move toward nuclear capability. Instead, Obama/Kerry lifted the sanctions and Iran is still moving forward with its nuclear programs. The reason they failed is simple. Those in power in Iran would rather have guns than butter. In other words, they don’t care about their people. The only thing that President Obama and John Kerry accomplished with these “negotiations” is to make us look like fools Neville Chamberlain style.

      • sigrid28

        You neocons aren’t happy unless you’re invoking Hitler or Stalin–or comparing Obama to one or the other of them. Any excuse to wave your guns in the air and plan a big shootout. You got your way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now it’s the ceocons who look like fools, George W. Bush style. And look where that got us. Spare me your failed “logic,” stale talking points, and short memory. When President Obama proposed taking military action in Syria, the American public resoundingly rejected the idea, and they certainly would reject your notion of a war against Iran now. They yearn for a diplomatic solution, and look to leaders who can succeed at that. And about this, THEY really are serious.

  • elw

    I personally think the President’s move to the end the era of over use of cloture motions was brave and the right thing to do. The Right has held the Country hostage with their abuse of the filibuster rules for far too long and it is time to move forward. However, perhaps the era of denial is over for Democrats; I hardly think it will be for Conservatives, until they admit to themselves that elections have consequences and that President Obama is in fact in his position legally and because he actually won both of his elections. We all know that will never happen, they will go to their graves fighting anything anyone less Conservative than them does. Perhaps we should help them along by voting a woman or another minority into the Presidency in 2016, after all how much more can their poor, old, cholesterol filled veins and hearts take? It would be so nice to live in a world not so filled with their endless, predictable, untrue, silly and senseless talking points.

  • Bryan Blake

    It would also be interesting to know how many of those faux filibusters were used by Senators from the Old South – probably the majority. How many filibusters were implemented pre and post Civil War by senators of the Old South. Once again probably the majority. OBSTRUCTIONISM by southern senators has always existed as their chief defense against what they perceived to be “attacks on their freedoms”. Freedoms such as: OWNING other human beings; working poor white people at wages that made them all but indentured servants; denying women their basic human rights; denying economic parity and freedom to anyone but themselves and their political masters; the right to hold most of the wealth while the 98% suckle crowded hind teats. At least former Senator Alan Simpson showed some of that infamous conservative compassionism and gave us at 330,000,000 more to feed at. Of course the Tea Party is busy at trying to deny those in need any place for nourishment – even in a pig pen.

    The problem with the filibuster was it is a political relic. Then modern conservatism is not conservatism at all. It is a return to that vicious and inhumane political philosophy of the Old South. Nixon fully embraced it in his southern strategy and the potted plant has now entwined much of our political landscape despite the overwhelming support for progressive policies.

    Senator Reid and President Obama now have the filibuster out of the way for judicial nominations – but do they have the political will and courage for the next step? I believe there are 96 unfilled seats in the federal judiciary. Will the President present the Senate with nominees for all 96 seats and ensure progress for WE THE PEOPLE? Conservatives spent 30 years and untold billions of dollars in their overt revolution culminating in Citizens United which changed the basic foundation of our government from a democracy to a plutocracy/oligarchy/corporatocracy.

    This perverted and diseased filled conservatism we now face is not only sick and twisted it is “a cancer” upon our Constitution, our Founding Principles, our Nation and most of all upon WE THE PEOPLE!

    If I were a praying man I would pray that Democrats find their courage and political will. 2014 and 2016 are not to be considered. It is the next 222 years that are at stake. To allow the perversion of our government and the erosion of the rights of WE THE PEOPLE over the last 30 years to stand guarantees the end of our Constitutional form of government and the institution of a form of government exactly like the form the Founders rebelled against!

    • sigrid28

      Great post helping us come to terms with our desperate situation.

    • Robert Daidone

      “OBSTRUCTIONISM by southern senators has always existed as their chief
      defense against what they perceived to be “attacks on their freedoms”.
      Freedoms such as: OWNING other human beings” Yes, but these are not the only bad Democrats. There were also northern Democrats who called themselves “Peace Democrats” who fought against President Lincoln and the Republicans to undermine the North’s war effort. And it’s been downhill for both parties since then. Today the Tea Party is our only hope to restore freedom and the hope of our founding fathers.

      • Bryan Blake

        Thank you for your response to my post. As you pointed out the flow of history is never symmetrical nor without outliers and anomalies. Most of the Founders did not want political parties to be established, but they began to congeal even before the Constitution was ratified. The Federalist and Antifederalist came together, at least as groups of loose association, to support and oppose the proposed Constitution. That is the point that democracy met the reality of ideology – the very thing that vexes us today!

        Today I would be a Federalist and according to your post you would probably be an Antifederalist. I believe in a strong federal government as the only solution of the problems of an evolving and complex society and economy such as ours. I reject out of hand the modern Federalist Society and the perversion of the Constitution it advocates.

        I know that we have lost important freedoms over the past 30 years – but not to those you probably believe we have. I respect your right to advocate that the Constitution proscribes a limited or right wind Libertarian form of government. The delegates to the convention specifically rejected our experiment with the most Libertarian government ever tried. It FAILED THEN and if were tried again it would ONCE AGAIN FAIL!

        I respect your right to your political point of view. I just cannot accept that the Tea Party is the solution. My hope is that the Democratic Party will begin to reflect the spirit of FDR once again. That the 1% will be put in their place and money will be taken out of politics.

  • RobertCHastings

    Just for a mental exercise, let us examine whatever legitimate sources are available for a simple analysis of judicial appointments that have languished over the past fifty years or so due to threats from the opposition of filibuster. I have not done this; but, if memory serves me right, such appointments were greater during the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than during that of George W, and W DID NOT have a friendly Congress during all eight years of his administration. During Clinton’s years in the White House, his nemesis was Jesse Helms, while Obama’s is Mitch McConnell. During the Bush administration, NO Democratic senator took the point on denying thepresident the right to make his appointments.

    • JSquercia

      Rachael Maddow had a GREAT segment on this topic . What was NOT widely covered were the efforts by the GOP to reduce the number of Judges on the DC 5th Circuit Court (considered by most to second only to the Supreme Court in importance) . Senator Grassley introduced bill to permanently reduce the number of Judges on the court to its current number of 8 thus eliminating the ability of the President to change the Composition of the court . this the opposite tactic of FDR’s attempting to pack the Supreme court . It is in line with Mitch McConnell saying that the court didn’t need that number of Judges . Of course should the GOP win the Presidency I am sure the court would miraculously be in need of more judges (perhaps even more than the present 3 vacancies)

      • RobertCHastings

        Excellent post. Thank you.

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    The Democrats should have used the Nuke Option long ago.

    Now, the People of this country had better wake up to the reality that Republican are Public Enemy #1 and needs to be dealt with as such.

    When Republican signed a pledge to basically commit Treason against our government, that’s when our government should have put them all on trial for Treason.

    But, somehow I have the feeling the Democrats will fall apart as they usually do. It’s just a matter of time. It’s in the Democratic Party’s History that the Democratic Party can not act as a unified force and with a unified voice for very long.