If the consequences for the Constitution weren’t so dire, the recent antics of the nation’s Democrats would be downright funny.
Whether it’s obstruction by filibuster of the president’s judicial nominees, or obstruction by flight of redistricting in Texas, these Democrats seem to have regressed to infancy. Temper tantrums, however, are annoying whether deployed as a toddler tactic or as a political scheme, and both mothers and voters have a tendency to take a dim view.
In Washington, D.C., Democrats have become the poster children for hypocrisy on judicial nominations and filibusters. A veritable treasure trove of quotations from Democrats in past years shows clearly that it’s politics, not principle, that rules the Democratic party.
For example, on January 5, 1995, Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) said: “I may not agree with everything that Republicans are proposing, but they are in the majority and they ought to have the right to have us vote on the merits of what they propose. But I do not believe that I as a member of the minority ought to have the right to absolutely stop something because I think it is wrong — that is rule by minority.”
Apparently Senator Harkin’s memory is good, just short. He has consistently voted to maintain the filibusters against President Bush’s amazingly qualified judicial nominees.
The Democrats’ behavior seems to have originated in their continual obsession with the 2000 presidential election. After their attempts to change the rules failed in the court system, a serious case of sour grapes seems to have infected the Democrat party.
As the once-venerable New York Times opined in 1995, “Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which Senators held passionate convictions, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, dooming any measure that cannot command the 60 required votes.”
So who are today’s sore losers? How about Nan Aron from the Alliance for Justice, who said: “Well, I would certainly acknowledge that there is a group of law professors around the country that do believe this president, because he did not win the election, does not have the authority to select Supreme Court justices, and I think that view holds among many.”
Or this gem from Abner Mikva: “First, this president does not have the mandate of a national plurality. While the court did resolve the dispute about Florida’s electoral votes, giving President Bush an electoral college majority, it could not alter the popular vote.”
Echoes of Aron and Mikva ring in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s latest snit in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 6 at which he said: “The 2000 election was very close. The Senate is very closely divided as well, and it’s no surprise that we are divided over the appointment of judges. President Bush has no mandate from the American people to stack the courts with judges who share his ideological agenda, and the Senate has no obligation to acquiesce in that agenda.”
It’s a short trip from a false premise to a skewed result, Senator Kennedy. Or as my wise grandfather used to say, “It isn’t what folks know that gets them into trouble, it’s what folks know that just ain’t so.” Our president has actively sought strict constructionists for the bench. As federal judges, they would apply the law as they found it, rather than injecting personal ideology into the equation — the way some of the Left’s favorite activist judges do.
In Texas, Democrats in the legislature tried another tactic. Lacking the votes to stop, delay, or defeat the redistricting measure, they left the state. That’s right — they fled the jurisdiction of Texas entirely, so that a quorum could not be called and the redistricting bill would die on the vine due to time limitations.
Just pause for a moment and let the image sink in: Texas Rangers being called out to chase down duly sworn-in legislators and haul them back into the capital to do their jobs.
One legislator actually compared the group’s flight from duty to the bravery shown at the Alamo. That legislator needs to get back to Austin and vote on the public-education bill that’s set to expire, because accurate courses in Texas are evidently in short supply.
Hundreds of brave souls died at the Alamo because they stood their ground and fought. They knew they were going to die; they stayed and fought anyway. They didn’t run away to Oklahoma.
What the Democrats in both Washington and Texas have shown is that when their minority status doesn’t suit them, they’ll do anything to obstruct the will of the majority — regardless of what damage is done to the constitutional process.
Senate Republicans inside the Beltway and the Republicans in the Texas legislature need to draw a line in the sand and clearly articulate the damage being done to our Constitution, to the voters, and to the legislative bodies as institutions. This must be done over and over again until the message is successfully delivered through all the media noise.
Of course, if that fails, a time-out might work.
— Kay Daly is spokesperson for the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary and a recent recipient of the American Conservative Union’s Ronald Reagan award.