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Bringing "mainstream" back into the mainstream

Mark Goldblatt points out how the term "mainstream" has been perverted by certain liberal politicians, and provides some helpful reminders of what it really means.

In the just-ended fight over filibustering judicial nominees, the Senate gave us something new: defining extremism leftward. Judges whose views Democrats would once have regarded as merely conservative are now seen as right-wing extremists -- or, to use the phrase that keeps coming up in the current Senate debate, "out of the mainstream."

But what does the phrase mean? From Democrats' recent public statements, it seems to mean the following: Judges who would uphold a state's ban on gay marriage are out of the mainstream; judges who would rule that parents should be notified before their underage daughter has an abortion are out of the mainstream; judges who would question the wisdom of affirmative action are out of the mainstream.

Yet each of these positions is well within the mainstream of popular opinion -- indeed, each arguably represents the view of a majority of Americans.

What might an actual extremist look like? A judge ruled who not just to uphold a state's ban gay marriage but to re-criminalize acts of sodomy, perhaps. Or one who ruled not just to allow legislative restrictions of abortion, but to ban abortions outright, by judicial fiat. If a judge ruled not just to disregard race in college admissions but to re-establish separate-but-equal schools, that would be out of the mainstream.

None of President Bush's judicial nominees is an extremist -- or even close.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nominated by President Clinton for the Supreme Court in 1993 and confirmed by the Senate 96-3, once proposed the abolition of Mother's and Father's Day in favor of a unisex Parent's Day; she also once called for co-ed prisons and speculated that prostitution and polygamy might be rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Yet none of that put her "out of the mainstream" in the eyes of an overwhelming majority of Republican senators.

The Democrats who were filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees were seeking, in effect, to define extremism leftward. Coming from a minority party, this was pure hubris. Should it ever happen again, Republicans must not compromise. If the so-called "nuclear option" is required to re-orient Senate debate, and also to remind Democrats why they keep losing elections, so be it.