Sunday, September 18, 2005

Voting Against Roberts II

The Washington Post editorial today cautions the Democrats against opposing Roberts. Despite worrying about Roberts' record of protecting civil liberties and his "suspicion" of affirmative action programs, they recognize that Roberts is the best possible candidate the Democrats could expect Bush to appoint. And as a pragmatic matter, if they vote against Roberts, Bush will just completely ignore their positions and appoint whomever he wants.

Not surprisingly the NY Times takes a completely different tact. A man of Roberts' health and age will serve for a long time, and it's imperative that he meet "the very heavy burden of proving" that he has the qualities to be a good CJ. What qualities are those? That he be a "guardian of... rights," something he alluded to by recognizing a right of privacy. But he hasn't given us enough to prove he'll be the staunch protector of gay rights and abortion sufficient to be CJ. He's too much of a mystery and should be opposed.

The liberal blogger Atrios disagrees with the WaPost because he feels that voting against Roberts evidences disapproval and the opposition party should not be a rubber stamp. Voting against Roberts will not stop his confirmation, so why not show disapproval?

The WaPost is taking the most sensible path. As I've noted in the past, Roberts is no more conservative than Rehnquist. So opposing him is pointless, unless Democratic Senators want the Republicans to oppose any nominee who happens to be even remotely liberal. One day, at some point, the Democrats will control the Executive branch, and if they play this game now (a game with no tangible benefit since they cannot stop Roberts confirmation short of filibuster), it will come back to haunt them.

Atrios completely misses the point. Yes, the Democrats' votes would only be symbolic and can have no real utility. But in the future, they might control the White House and not the Senate. The Republicans in retaliation could stop the confirmation without filibustering. That's not in anyone's best interest. We do not want to see the confirmation process become completely politicized.

Moreover, the Democrats only have a certain number of "No" votes. They cannot oppose every candidate. Roberts is a good candidate and will not change the balance on the Court. Why waste their vote? One might argue they vote against as much as they like. But the average American (the one who knows something about the judiciary), will not support constant obstruction, even if practically there's no actual obstruction. There has to be some consensus building in the Senate.

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