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Pick your poison

We keep hearing about how the Republican Party has been "hijacked" by religious fundamentalists. Not only is it no longer the "Rockefeller" party, we're told, but it's no longer even the "Goldwater" party. Hyperbolic, of course, but there is more than a bit of truth to it. My liberal friends (whom are legion) toss that in my face all the time as they marvel that I can still possibly self-identify as a Republican.

The problem is that they typically see only half the equation. Yes, religious conservatives exert an undue influence over the GOP. I get that. Yes, that scares away some moderates and swing voters. I get that too. I've said as much myself.

The big leap, however, which they never quite justify, is their presumption that I should simply vote Democratic as a result. The problem is that a careful examination of the Democrats' base proves at least as unsettling as the Republicans'. Take a look at today's WSJ editorial by Dan Gerstein, former communications director for Joe Lieberman.

It's hard not to listen to the reviews of the Democrats' performance in the Alito hearings and come away thinking that much of our party is living in a parallel universe.

Most of the political establishment has concluded that the Democrats were: (a) ineffectual; (b) egomaniacal; (c) desperately grasping at straws; (d) downright offensive; or (e) some combination of the above. The American people, outside of those living in deep-blue enclaves, either were not paying attention or concluded that Sam Alito seemed like a pretty decent guy who was more than qualified. And if they saw anything about it on TV, they couldn't figure out why those pompous Democratic senators were trying to slam Judge Alito for being racist (and making his wife cry).

Yet the liberal blogosphere is agog at the way the Democrats let Judge Alito off the hook. And they're stupefied as to why the Senate Democrats are signaling that they won't risk triggering a nuclear confrontation with a filibuster. Postings on Daily Kos were typical. First, this comment from Georgia10: "Don't tell me a filibuster isn't warranted when 56% of this nation says Alito SHOULD be blocked if he'll overturn Roe. . . . I keep hearing . . . [t]hat we need 'angry' Dems, we need Dems with courage. We need Dems with courage. Well guess what -- we HAVE angry Dems, we HAVE courageous Dems. Look in the damn mirror, people. WE are the party. WE are the Democrats. We're angry, we spit fire, and our time has come."

Then there was this response from one DHinMI: "Alito is a judicial radical and far from the national mainstream on numerous issues. . . And with his anemic numbers, [Bush] wouldn't be able to count on much support from the country in ramming through the nomination."

There are many problems with this analysis. The most immediate is that even if you accept that the activist base's concerns are valid -- that Judge Alito may in fact be a "judicial radical" -- the Democrats simply didn't prove it. They certainly could not justify their absurd insinuations that he was a closet bigot. Their only sliver of evidence was his peripheral membership in a conservative Princeton alum group that opposed affirmative action and that he never was active in. That was it: no pattern of behavior, no Trent Lott-like public statements, no red flags. Beyond being reprehensible, this line of attack was degrading. It reinforced the leftover perception from pre-Clinton days that our party cries wolf on race when it can't win on the merits, and thereby lowered our credibility one rung more in challenging legitimate incidences of discrimination. Those who suggested to Ted Kennedy et al. that this was a winning play should have their strategists' licenses revoked.

He has a point. As a small-l libertarian, I have some concerns that Sam Alito might prove too deferential to government power. I think those concerns are worth airing and investigating. Still, when I look at the arrogant, offensive preening and buffoonery during the hearings by the likes of Biden and Kennedy, I realize this is a party that has some serious problems of its own, and that there's no home for me there. Good luck attracting swing voters with that kinda crap, guys.

To that point, Gerstein ends his editorial thusly.

Judging from the dreadful tack our party took in the Alito process, it's clear that we haven't yet internalized these political realities -- most likely because our anger at George Bush continues to blind us to them. Many Democrats just don't want to acknowledge that he's president and is going to pick conservative justices -- let alone that the two we got, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are about as good as we could hope for.

This episode shows we don't have any leader in power who will tell our base that we're not going to become a majority party again by telling the majority they're out of the mainstream. We do badly need leaders with courage -- the courage, that is, to push our party (to borrow a phrase) to move on, to accept that we can't win with the same lame ideological arguments in post-9/11 America, and that we must develop an alternative affirmative agenda that shows we can keep the country safer, make the economy stronger, and govern straighter than the ethically challenged Republicans. Then we can worry about picking the nominees instead of fighting them.

Well said. I just wonder whether anyone in his party is listening.


In other words, you're willing to sell your freedom to be left alone down the river because Joe Biden is a blowhard.

Pretty interesting, for a so-called libertarian.

I'm the first one to admit that I'm disgusted with Democratic leadership in Washington. This party no longer represents progressive values, nor does it care about what the voters want. The Democrats are feeding at the same trough as the Republicans. That said, while I don't want to reward their ineffectuality, the spectre of a corporatist/Christofascist theocracy scares me a lot more than Joe Biden's blowhardiness bothers me.

I'd love to see all the war horses thrown out and an entire Congress full of guys like Russ Feingold and Paul Hackett and Jeff Latas -- and that's what the progressive netroots are trying to do. Unfortunately, the party hacks are blocking us every step of the way.

I hope, Barry, that when you have children, you enjoy sending them to schools where they are obligated to pray to Jesus every day and are taught that man walked alongside dinosaurs and the world was created in six days. Because by dancing with the ones that brung you, that's what you're going to get.

That's nonsense, as usual, Jill.

In their current incarnations, both major parties would limit my freedoms. If I'm playing their game, I'm to chose which freedoms I'm willing to cash in to safeguard others. Well sorry, but I'm not playing.

I may be a registered Republican, but I vote almost exclusively Libertarian, my 2004 vote for Bush being the exception which proves the rule. However I chose to identify myself, I will never vote a major-party line. Iím simply unwilling to make the same excuses to justify that as you have made here with the Democrats.

In short, before you fret about the mote in my eye, kindly extract the beam from yours. And save that hysterical crapola about being forced to pray to Jesus for your own site. It is recognized here for the bullsheetrock that it is.

Barry, don't waste your time. I have been to Jill's site and it's the same old tired moonbat talking points that you'd find on Kos or Atrios. Big fucken woop. She hews to the party line as much as they do and is no position to sit in judgement of others on that score, least of all you.

When Clinton listened to people, he was "pandering" and "going whichever way the wind blows" and "leading by focus group". When Democrats do things that might be unpopular, like trying to get Alito to actually answer a direct question, they are "arrogant" and "out of touch" and will lose the swing vote.

Rush Limbaugh couldn't have said it better.

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