Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

A few lines from Senator Rick "man on dog" Santorum, from the judicial nomination whine-a-thon staged last week:

We'll have our opportunity someday, and we'll make sure there's not another liberal judge ever, ever get on the bench. No more Richard Paez, no more Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never. Because what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let them up the ante. We'll take all those activist judges they've sent up and we'll shoot them down. Is that what they want? ... Because, let me assure you as I live and breathe, that's what will happen.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander." So if you give us only 98% of our judges and block 2%, we'll retaliate in kind and block 100% of your judges. For a Republican, that's just fairness.

During the judicial controversies of the past year, there has never been a single hint of compromise from the Republican side. Bush, who called himself a uniter so many times when campaigning, could have ended this dispute amicably at any time. All he had to do was cut a deal to resubmit a few of the highly qualified Clinton nominees that were blocked in the 90s in exchange for an end to the filibuster of his nominees. Or he could have simply withdrawn the names and submitted less ideological judges. Or comforted himself with the fact that he was getting 97.7% of his nominees approved and shrugged off the remaining 2.3% with a pro forma protest. (On the whole, after all, Bush has probably gotten as much of his agenda through Congress pretty much intact as any President of the past 50 years.) Instead of any of these choices, Bush and the Senate Republicans have fought as divisively as possible, smearing their opponents with accusations of racial and religious bigotry that they knew were lies, rewriting established procedures on the fly to support whatever their current partisan interest was, endlessly and bitterly complaining that they are forced to settle for anything less than exactly what they want.

The problem here is much deeper than a few judicial nominations. Compromise, negotiation, giving up on part of your agenda when you don't have a strong enough electoral mandate to dominate the opposition, are the very essence of democracy. Democracy isn't superior to other forms of government because democratic governments actually govern better; it is manifestly clear and reproven every day that democratic bodies often make relatively poor decisions. Democracy is superior because it provides a forum for resolving political disputes where every every adult citizen who wishes to has played some small part in the process and accepts the procedures, thus is predisposed to accept the outcome, even if contrary to his own wishes and interests. When one party has the sort of Bolshevik contempt for the process that the Republicans have repeatedly displayed in the past few years, it is democracy and not a few nominations that are in danger.

The Republicans have quietly become a truly radical party - I did not use the term Bolshevik above casually - and almost nobody is willing to see it.