Friday, January 27, 2006

Making Yourself Irrelevant

Open Letter to Senators Feinstein, Landrieu, and Salazar:

I am a democrat, but I do not live in your state. Whereas I cannot vote for you, as I am not a resident of your states, you can (and do) vote on many things that affect citizens like me who do not reside in Louisiana. Justices for the Supreme Court is the one I’m writing to you about tonight, and your decision to vote against a filibuster.

Whereas I support your voting no on Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court, unless you filibuster, your vote against this nomination is worthless. I understand that you have already decided against filibuster and I urge you to change your mind. If not now, when will you filibuster?

I don’t know what deal was struck by the gang of 14, as it is called. I don’t know how the 14 of you decided to define “extraordinary circumstances,” or even if you bothered to define it before you all agreed to be bound together in an agreement. I assume that there was an agreement about that, because as a former mediator, I don’t know how a group of lawyers and lawmakers (Gang of 14) would ever enter into a contract without all of the terms of the contract being precisely defined. Maybe I’m wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time that I gave Democrats in Congress more credit than was their due for not letting themselves (and their constituents) get snookered by the Republicans.

I have become disgusted and disillusioned with the Democrats in Congress. Registered as a democrat and active politically for over 35 years, the Democratic Party that I joined was an honorable, ethical assembly of Americans with deeply held convictions rooted in reason and dedicated to improving the condition of people’s lives. To not buttress one’s convictions using all of the tools on hand is not any act of integrity. For Democrats in the Gang of 14 to vote no on Alito’s confirmation, but choke when they are capable of preventing his confirmation with a filibuster, when they know what Alito on the court means for the future of the country, isn’t a dilemma deserving of respect or understanding.

It’s an act that warrants firing.

If Democrats in the Senate don't filibuster this nomination, I will be leaving the Democratic Party and working to unseat every incumbent Democrat in office. If I performed as poorly on a job as Democrats in Congress have, I'd be out of work. Democrats in Congress seem to believe that losing gains and progress and ground at a slightly reduced rate equates success. Democrats have failed to deliver, and the excuse of "we're the minority, we have no power" is bogus on many levels.

When you are in the minority party, when the other side refuses to include you or work with you or consult with you, YOU MAKE NOISE! You scheme, you plot, you strategize, and you rework every argument that has failed to win over the citizens who voted for the Republicans. You do not rest on your past laurels, waiting for the time when Democrats might be the majority again. You do NOT, as Senator Barbara Boxer has done, go off and explore your talent for writing a book of fiction.

I watched the confirmation hearings and am furious about the Democrats' inept questioning of Alito. The lack of coordination was the least of it. [Didn't Democrats get the message before the Roberts' confirmation hearing that abortion and overturning Roe wasn't the battle cry issue to focus on? Kate Michelman said, at Alito's hearing, what anyone who isn't even paying attention knows about abortion in America - Democrats, by being reasonable, by working with Republicans, conceding to the anti-choice religious right the circumstances when women can't get abortions, brought us to the ironic conundrum that Roe won't be overturned AND women won't be able to get an abortion in America. "You can HAVE an abortion, but you just won't be able to GET an abortion." Whether Alito provides the fifth vote to overturn Roe is irrelevant at this point - for many women of limited means, living in places in the U.S. that have no abortion providers, getting an abortion is impossible NOW.]

By day two of the confirmation hearing it was obvious from watching the Democrats on the committee that none of hearts were in it. Not in the confirmation process, not up for the process of blocking what they know to be a disastrous choice for the highest court in the land. They were either delivering monologues during their time about what they already decided about Alito instead of actually questioning him in front of the cameras so that ordinary Americans who vote for Republicans could have seen Alito really isn't in their own best interests, OR, they were covering the same ground that one of the other Democrats on the committee had covered. By day two, from demeanor and tone, it was obvious that Democrats were just going through the motions and had no intention of trying to block the nomination. Oh, they might vote no, but "it seems certain that this nomination will go through," as "nobody has the stomach for a filibuster."

Senator, I don't think you have any idea how disheartening it is to watch a Republican on the public's air waves, in anticipation of some issue coming before Congress in the coming days, say that the outcome is already determined and see Democrats not even try to counter that meme.

This vote on a justice for the U.S. Supreme Court isn't a matter of an individual senator's conscience, as I've heard senators say these last few days. This vote, like every other one cast by Democrats in Congress should have been, is a matter of the ideals of citizenship in the U.S. and a vision of the future. Democrats have been yielding ground to Republicans for years, and against all warnings and road signs, I find myself in an America that I don't recognize anymore.

We have a President who claims rights not granted him in the Constitution, who admits (hell, he proudly proclaims) that he isn't bound by the law. This is a criminal administration and a fascist nation, with individuals' rights eroded to the point of non-existence. Suspension of habeas corpus, and our Congress abrogates its' own oversight responsibilities on what the Executive is up to. And the Senate is about to put a justice on the Supreme Court who not only doesn't recognize that there are three distinct and equal branches of government, he isn't committed to maintaining the equal power of the branch he's interviewing for.

I realize that it's a chicken and egg dilemma, in Justice Alito's world, if the court rubberstamps the unitary executive theory, who really then is the all-powerful branch? The Executive or the Judiciary that just anointed Him? That's a conundrum for another day, when we can all afford the luxury of such hypothetical arguments when we know them to be (and remain) hypothetical. With the breathtaking change that this administration and Republicans have put this country through, I don't think allusions to the Nuremberg laws, and the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich are off base. Why Democrats in Washington aren't seeing it might be explained by the story of "The Boiled Frog":

If you drop a frog in boiling water, it quickly realizes the danger and hops out, saving its own life.

If, however, you put the frog in cold water and slowly heat it up to boil, the frog's nervous system will not react to the danger and the frog will die.

Senator, you wanted the job, now do the job. Take a stand.

Vote no on Alito AND filibuster.

What are you saving it for? Is there a poll somewhere that says that Democrats should only risk the nuclear option if they receive a specific number of letters supporting a filibuster? Is that how “extraordinary circumstances” got defined by the Gang of 14??

Republicans will trip the nuclear option anyway, when it suits them. Playing Neville Chamberlain to the Republican Reich won’t win Democrats anything. By refusing to use the filibuster, Democrats (and the whole country) lose anyway, but bigger. Capitulating to Republicans won’t get them to treat Democrats as anything but the enemy. Fawning all over Republicans on the floors of Congress have gotten Democrats nowhere. Their compliments and gracious acknowledgments are met with insults, bullying, threats and accusations. Republicans engage in politics as a contact sport, intent on drawing blood, and winning means complete and total annihilation of the opposition. No amount of Democrats ignoring that fact and treating Republicans in a gentlemanly manner is going to snap Republicans out of it. With each cave-in by the Democrats, the Democrats lose supporters. Democrats will never have more supporters than they have today unless they filibuster.

Senator Dianne Feinstein:
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501

Senator Mary Landrieu:
Voice: (202)224-5824
Fax:(202) 224-9735

Senator Ken Salazar:
Phone: (202) 224-5852
Fax: (202) 228-5036

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