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IT ONLY HURTS
WHEN YOU BREATHE
By David Podvin
Roe v. Wade is the revolutionary declaration that defies history to assert women are not brood mares. Although the issue is misrepresented as being exclusively about abortion, the real point of contention has always been female autonomy. Distaff independence is a frighteningly subversive concept so religious traditionalists have waged a terrorist campaign that has effectively negated Roe in most of America. Now, federally guaranteed reproductive freedom will be officially confiscated, the victim of Republican malevolence and Democratic indifference. Soon, other protections for the traditionally oppressed will experience a similar fate courtesy of the Roberts Court.
In keeping with America’s continuing political narrative, the confirmation of Samuel Alito resembled a reactionary chainsaw ripping through liberal chickenshit. Russ Feingold foreshadowed the outcome when the Wisconsin Democrat revealed that his caucus had decided to de-emphasize social issues. Democratic senators knew that polls showed the Alito nomination would become unpopular if the judge’s anti-Roe views were emphasized, but their priority was to avoid antagonizing fundamentalist voters whom they perceive as having given the GOP its majority. The champions of the underdog took a dive, and so the Supreme Court is now controlled by Federalist Society members who despise the liberal rank and file.
Harry Reid’s confirmation strategy was to deceive progressive voters by presenting a near-unanimous partisan front against Alito, but only after the judge was certain to be confirmed. The Minority Leader’s scheme publicly unraveled when John Kerry launched a halfhearted filibuster that forced would-be Democratic Machiavellis to reveal their true support for Alito. Prior to Kerry’s interference Reid was successfully projecting the image of a basically united Democratic resistance to the nominee, illusory though that image was.
Reid’s disingenuous little ploy was sabotaged by one of the few human beings who is even more conniving than Hapless Harry. When Kerry called for the parliamentary maneuver to save the Supreme Court, he did so while schmoozing at a Swiss gathering of the monied elite. Instead of holding a Capitol Hill press conference, the senator posted his filibuster announcement on a blog. This cruel hoax deceived some frantic liberals into lobbying their senators even as the Republicans laughingly dismissed Kerry’s transparent publicity stunt.
The callous conduct of Reid and Kerry reflects the Democratic establishment’s infinite disdain for its constituency. In recent years, such contemptuous displays have occurred with increasing frequency. Today, those Senate Democrats who actually respect their supporters comprise one of the world’s most endangered species.
On the votes that involved the very biggest of issues - the Iraq War and the Supreme Court – eight Senate Democrats aligned with the liberal base: Barbara Boxer, Mark Dayton, Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski, Jack Reed, Paul Sarbanes, and Debbie Stabenow. These are the only senators who voted against invading Iraq and against the Roberts nomination and against invoking cloture on the Alito filibuster, three matters of paramount importance to progressives. By contrast, every Republican senator except one hewed the right wing line.
That is the true math of the United States Senate, the actual lay of the land. It is not fifty-five Republicans versus forty-four Democrats. It is fifty-four dependable GOP senators against eight principled Democratic senators. There are also one independent, one occasionally disobedient Republican, one Democrat who was recently appointed, and thirty-five mercenaries who find it expedient to run as Democrats. Given this reality, there is no reason to believe that the outcome of the votes referenced above would have been different had the Democrats controlled the Senate. After all, it was a Democratic Senate that confirmed Clarence Thomas.
Due to the self-styled realists who have dominated its hierarchy, the Democratic Party has been eroding since the Sixties. There have been occasional rallies, but the trend is most decidedly down, and even when the party controlled government the results were meager. The last time the Democrats were in charge was 1993-1994, when their major accomplishment was deficit reduction. Reducing the federal deficit is a pleasantly modest achievement for fiscal conservatives, but liberals are supposed to advance the cause of social justice. The two most recent Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, chose not to try. As a result, their administrations were merely lulls in America’s dramatic rightward shift.
The relentless treachery of establishment Democrats makes it tempting to become an independent. Sadly, forsaking the party is impractical because no other organization has the potential to stem the right wing tide. And while most Democratic politicians deserve to be abandoned, the liberal base does not. Rank and file Democrats are the Americans who care about bettering humanity. The moral imperative to protect these good people dictates waging a steep uphill fight against the corrupt party power structure.
While this is not the time to quit it also not the time to be delusional. The party’s perpetual cheerleaders have already issued their pep talks, the ones that implore fellow Democrats who are understandably despondent to “be proud that at least our heroes tried to filibuster” and to “fight harder than ever for our great party!” Yet is highly inappropriate to be perky in the face of tragedy, and it is always inappropriate to be estranged from reality. Any rational person realizes that surrendering the high court to reactionaries is an act of betrayal that merits profound bitterness.
It also merits retribution. The retributive process begins in Connecticut, where liberal Ned Lamont is preparing a primary challenge to the Republicans’ very own comfort woman, Joe Lieberman. Lieberman voted for the Iraq War and to confirm Roberts. He is also one of the Senate Democrats who voted for Alito (on the decisive cloture vote) and against Alito (on the anticlimactic confirmation vote). This cunning maneuver was designed to bewilder liberals with fancy footwork. However, the tactic merely reinforced the obvious, which is that Lieberman believes average Democrats are easily deceived. If the party is to be resurrected, the senator and his fellow travelers must be proven wrong.
Rather than wallowing in victimization, liberal activists should now take Fredo for a boat ride. Through his constant backstabbing of Democratic voters, Lieberman has forfeited the right to represent them. More than any Democrat since the execrable Zell Miller, he has slandered the party’s mainstream to promote the conservative agenda. In the process, Lieberman has become the darling of the right wing. He is the poster child for Rush Limbaugh’s vision of what a Democrat should be.
Ned Lamont is pledging to be a faithful member of Howard Dean’s Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Maybe Lamont will become a champion for liberalism, or maybe he will become the latest in a long line of disappointments. The relevant consideration is that Senate Democrats will remain disloyal until they are intimidated into fidelity, and the Lamont candidacy provides the opportunity to intimidate them.
Conservatives have long dreamed of recreating the gloriously feudal Shining City On A Hill that existed before the New Deal ruined everything. Enabled by Senate Democrats, the fascists finally control the federal judiciary that provides the means to make their malicious dream come true. More than ever, the liberal constituency needs a vigilant party to combat right wing predation. That vigilance will begin as soon as Democratic voters tolerate nothing less.
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