Filibuster Friday

Don't trust 'em! Much of what you will hear or read in the mainstream media would have you believe Samuel “Scalito” Alito’s confirmation to sit on the US Supreme Court is a done deal. Not quite yet, gang.

Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have taken the bold step of pushing for a filibuster to forestall what could be a disaster for anyone who believes in justice for all. The problem is that many Democrats don’t have the stones to take the risk. And yes, filibuster is a risky proposition, particularly when Republicans boast that they have the votes to stop the stonewalling action in its tracks or that they will invoke a “nuclear option” to punish those who dare to oppose them.

Pragmatic(?) senators, among them West Virginia’s Robert Byrd (who says he will vote in favor of Alito’s confirmation) and California’s Dianne Feinstein (voting no to Bushie’s Supreme Court pick), so far refuse to support a filibuster. As you can imagine, this is leading to rancorous division within Senate Democrats. But the fact remains: The Democrats are supposed to be the opposition party. Why not stand together to oppose the lifetime appointment of a judge who can’t be counted on to protect the rights of all Americans?

MoveOn.org, a group much closer to the mainstream than I, has taken up the pro-filibuster call:

Filibustering the Alito nomination isn’t just the right policy for the country, it’s good politics for progressives. Voters want leaders with the courage to fight for their true convictions. Democrats have said they oppose Alito’s extreme views on unchecked presidential power and limited rights for the rest of us—now it’s time to show they mean it.

As John Edwards put it when he declared his support for the filibuster:

In an era when the president of the United States declares himself to be above the law, it is more important than ever to have a Supreme Court that fulfills its duty as the ultimate guardian of our rights; yet Samuel Alito’s nomination puts those very rights in danger…together we can deliver one united message: it’s time for Democrats to stand up for what we believe in. We will not shy away from important fights like this because the cost is far, far too great.

Yesterday, the New York Times came out with a blistering a editorial calling for a filibuster, called “Senators in Need of a Spine,” Here are some highlights:

It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle…

…It is indefensible for…any senator who has promised constituents to protect a woman’s right to an abortion to turn around and hand Judge Alito a potent vote to undermine or even end it…The judge’s record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else…

…A filibuster is a radical tool. It’s easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

If George Bush is able to replace Sandra Day O’Connor with Samuel Alito, it may become his most damaging legacy: a Supreme Court that frees the president to spy, detain and torture at will, and leaves Congress powerless to protect workers, women, the environment, and to combat discrimination.

Robert Parry at Consortiumnews.com offers another terrific summation of why any legal efforts to keep Alito off of the bench are vital:

If confirmed, Alito would join at least three other right-wing justices – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – who believe that George W. Bush should possess near total control of the U.S. government during the ill-defined War on Terror. If Anthony Kennedy, another Republican, joins them, they would wield a majority.

Alito’s theory of the “unitary executive” holds that Bush can cite his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief to ignore laws he doesn’t like, spy on citizens without warrants, imprison citizens without charges, authorize torture, order assassinations, and invade other countries at his own discretion.

…The “unitary executive” can assert authoritarian – even dictatorial – powers for the indefinite future.

Under this government envisioned by Alito and Bush, Americans would no longer have freedoms based on the Constitution and the law, but on Bush’s tolerance and charity. Americans would, in essence, become Bush’s subjects dependent on his good graces, rather than citizens possessing inalienable rights. He would be a modern-day king.

A king, indeed, is a human with (real or imagined) absolute power, and thus, is dangerous. Founder and former president John Adams warned about this in 1772, when he wrote, “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” Dubya Bush wants us to trust him, to trust his warrantless wiretaps, his reactionary judicial picks. Samuel Alito wants us to trust him to protect the rights of GLBT people and pigmentational minorities and to leave Roe v. Wade alone. I don’t trust Bush or Alito; millions don’t. What’s worse is that we can’t.

The same holds true for the houses of Congress. In 1815, in a letter Adams wrote to fellow founder and former president Thomas Jefferson, “The fundamental article of my political creed is that depotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an ogliarchical junto, and a single emperor.” Meaning, Congress can not and should not be trusted either.

These overpaid, oft-coddled pols sitting in the Senate work for us. We must make them know that there will be repercussions if they desert their constituents. Just voting no is not enough; in this case, “no” on filibuster means “yes” to Alito and “yes” to working against justice and equality for all Americans.

With that in mind, the following is an action plan for today and the weekend. It comes from NoCrony.com:

We accomplished our overnight objective from the last alert. Senators Kerry and Kennedy were inspired to step up to the plate to lead a filibuster of the Alito nomination, and we applaud them for their leadership.
A cloture vote has been forced for Monday, January 30 at 4 PM, on an
Alito filibuster, which the mainstream media had written off as a
possibility.

NOW, here’s what we do next:

  1. We of course rally every voice we can to speak out [to] our senators demanding that they support a filibuster against the Alito unitary executive agenda. But since many are telling their senators that they will no longer vote for them if they do not support the people’s filibuster, we
    must ALSO

  2. Immediately field primary election challengers against those senators up for election this year who will not protect our Supreme Court from a reactionary takeover. We must pressure those who have already stated [that] they will perversely vote for Alito, Byrd (WV) and Nelson (NE), and also Landrieu (LA) and Feinstein (CA), who may vote “No” but have stated they still oppose a filibuster.

…The bottom line is that any senator who betrays the interests of the people by not supporting this filibuster must NEVER hold public office as a Democrat again. If the will of the people is not heard at the cloture vote, it WILL be heard in every election from now on. To this cause we dedicate our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The most important and critical thing we must do is generate as many phone calls as possible. Personal phone calls are the highest impact way to make your opinion known. We have been told that calls and faxes to the senators’ LOCAL district offices are given the highest weight. … You should try the local numbers first, leave messages there and then ALSO try them in Washington where you can call any senator toll free at 888-355-3588, 888-818-6641 or 800-426-8073. We need get as much done on this today, a day we are calling Filibuster Friday II, while they will definitely be in their offices. And then we need to keep it going all weekend long, as long as there is a senator’s answering machine connected anywhere.

Now that we know how close we are to winning it will be much easier to
inspire everyone else you know to also speak out. Remind them that the
mainstream media lied by trying to tell us there wouldn’t even be a
filibuster. If they don’t think we can prevail they have seriously
misunderestimated the power of the people again.

After you’ve made all your calls and sent all your faxes, you should
sign the petition.

NoCrony.com has lots of information for those interested in running for various Senate seats. Do check it out. One idea there that resonates with me is this:

We the people are not kidding. Our senators WILL courageously fight for our rights or we will be done with them. There can be no redemption for failure to stand up against fundamentally altering the balance of our Supreme Court. This applies not just to senators up for reelection this year. The people will remember. Even if they got every other vote correct, we can and must do better, lest we risk having them betray us in the future at a critical time again.

That has been part of my guiding philosophy for a long time. If a politician does not do everything he or she can to protect every citizen’s equality under law and to stand for justice for all, even if taking that stand is unpopular or personally or politically dangerous, that person is not qualified to serve. Period. It’s about integrity. It’s about doing the right thing rather than acting for the sake of expedience or appeasement.

Demand that the opposition party act like one. Insist that it protects our liberties from the insidious threat John Adams warned us about more than 200 years ago. Contact senators and tell them to stand againt Scalito and to stand for a filibuster. (You’ll find a means to look up senators’ local contact info in the Activism section in the far-right column of this page.) And remind lawmakers that doing otherwise will result in nasty repercussions for them.

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