Monday, February 20, 2017

                                           OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR SCHUMER

I am writing to express my strongly held view that the Democrats should filibuster the nomination of Judge Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.
Normally, as a moderate Democrat, I would not take such an extreme position (except in such obvious cases as Bork-type nominations), but, although Gorsuch is not a Bork, he can be just as dangerous with regard to issues which are important to Democrats, liberals, progressives and to values which are embedded in our national ethos.  There are special circumstances present at this time. 
First, and perhaps foremost, with Donald Trump as President (with Bannon as his eminence grise) and the Republicans in the majority in the House and the Senate, and as a result with all of the extremist kooks (both radical and reactionary) coming out of the woodwork, those values are going to be under constant assault.  The Supreme Court is the last line of defense, and as you know that is a tenuous line as it is.  In short, the situation calls for desperate measures to which one would otherwise perhaps not want to resort.
Second, Trump has no interest in any sort of bi-partisan approach on any issue.  He considers any attempt at cooperation by the Democrats as a sign of weakness of which he can and will take advantage.  Opposing him every step of the way may not achieve many victories, but at least can limit the damage.
Third, Gorsuch is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  His credentials are unquestionable on paper, and he comes across as reasonable person, but he is just another Alito.  When Alito was nominated, progressives had high hopes that he would be open minded, a moderate, mainstream conservative.  In the event, he has been a disaster.  Let's not make that mistake again.  As the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me".
Fourth, and this is a bit more intangible, Democrats must demonstrate that they can be just as irresponsible as Republicans in playing political games.  So far, as in the cases of Judge Garland, raising the debt limit and closing down the government, the Republicans have done just that.  As a Party which stands for stasis and reaction, the Republicans take advantage of the Democrats, who see government as a positive force, by putting a freeze on action.  Democrats need to show that they can and will put a hold on action when it suits their purposes.  Gorsuch's nomination is such a case.  Killing the nomination doesn't do any damage to the country.  Operating with eight Justices, if that is what it ultimately comes to, is not the worst thing in the world for the country, and for the progressive cause, at least in the current configuration, is a positive.  If Gorsuch is defeated, will the next nominee be any better?  Maybe not, but the Republicans will have to think twice about who they nominate.
The nuclear option?  Call McConnell's bluff.  He's clearly uncomfortable with using it.  See if he can hold together his caucus on this issue.  You only need three defections/abstentions.  If he goes for it and succeeds, you get the same result as you would have if you didn't use the filibuster.  Of course, you lose the right to filibuster ( as do the Republicans, and the pendulum will swing back, as they well know), but what good does it do you if you don't use it.  And until you use it, and certainly if you don't use it now, the Republicans will have no fear of pushing the envelope as far as they can.  What are you saving it for?  To oppose future bad legislation?  If it won't work here, it won't work anywhere.  Anyhow, legislation can be overcome when the tide turns.  Supreme Court nominations, particularly this one, will be with us for thirty years or so.

What does this do to Democratic Senators defending their seats in states that went for Trump?  My guess is it isn't going to make any difference.  There will be other issues which, for better or worse, will dominate those races.  Maybe the greatest downside of failing to use the filibuster is that the Democrats will lose the momentum and support for Democratic values which have been building up in the Party and throughout the country since Trump took office.  If this is lost, a bad situation is only going to get worse.  Democrats need an act of defiance, even if it turns out to be only symbolic, and this is the opportunity.  In the current political environment, nice guys finish last.

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