One of the favorite ploys of the extreme right when they are trying to
take over a country is to try and take over a major party, and while
everyone is watching that, sneak “ringers” inti the opposition party.
That way, when they get far enough along that they can just take over,
they have some support in reserve among politicians fondly imagined to
be checks on their power grabs.
The far right took over the GOP, and along the way, managed to install
quite a few ringers in the Democratic Party. Of the 57 Senators in the
Democratic Party, at least 14 are “DINO”s – Democrats In Name Only.
Mostly from the south and the intermountain west, they can be pretty
well counted upon to break with the party and support the GOP on key
issues whenever they can get away with it.
If Norm Coleman drops his mean-spirited and intractable obstructionism
against election winner Al Franken taking his seat, giving the Dems an
operating majority of 58 Dems and two independents who usually vote with
them, there will still be those GOP ringers. They are there based on the
cynical attitude that the opposition party should be subverted and to
hell what it means for the country.
The far right has lost its grip, and it is one particular social
contagion that will be back under control for another generation or two.
(Societies always go mad and flirt with fascism every 35 years or so).
The angry snarls and snappings at their own vitals as they go should
ensure that they will remain out on the edge of society for another
generation or so now.
But the slimy residue remains, and one of those is Senator Ben Nelson,
D-GOP. While it's perfectly acceptable for a Senator to oppose a Supreme
Court nominee presented by a member of his own party, and indeed
commendable, Nelson couldn't wait for a legitimate reason.
He's threatening to filibuster a nomination that Obama hasn't made yet.
We don't know who Obama is going to name. Even the pundits are hedging
their predictions. We're all as clueless as “Ed” of “Ed, Edd and Eddy” fame.
Appearing on Faux News (of course), Nelson said, “I don't care whether
they're liberal or conservative. I just want to make sure they're not
activist. I don't want an activist on the bench.”
Well, the Republicans -did- warn us that Democrats wanted to filibuster
judicial nominations and that this was a very bad, very unAmerican thing
to do. And sure enough, now we have one. I'm sure the Republicans will
waste no time in condemning him for it. Any minute now...
Nelson is one of those elected officials who bears out Ambrose Beirce's
early 19^th century remark that Congress has adjourned and many villages
are getting their idiots back. The clown didn't even wait to see who
Obama was going to nominate before shooting off his mouth. Hell, even
the REPUBLICANS had enough sense to at least wait that long. Well, most
of them, anyway.
Nelson dragged out the old “activist judge” saw. This one has been
popular with the far right ever since the SC struck down segregation
laws in the south. The conceit is that judges roam the land in
black-robed packs, looking to waylay, hogtie and gang rape any laws that
might contribute to public happiness and good order. They do this
because they're all in the ACLU, and as we all know, the ACLU hates
The notion that activist judges “make law” is a popular one with the
right, but they get fairly upset when you ask them to point to any law
that a court has written. There are none, of course. What a court CAN do
is declare an existing law unconstitutional, and that renders it null
and void, and it's up to the legislative bodies that passed the original
law to decide whether to rewrite the law or scrap it altogether.
Nor are the judges out looking for bad laws. (And with Congress stuffed
with village idiots, there are many, many bad laws). Congress could pass
a law stripping Baptists of the right to vote, and there wouldn't be
anything any judge could do about it until someone filed suit. (There
are fast track options so a law that draconian would reach the Supreme
Court in short order, where the law would be struck down, 5-4). In most
instances, when an upper-level court does strike down a law – and it's
usually the Supreme Court that does so – it comes after years of
appeals, hearings, counter appeals, trials and yet more appeals. If it
reaches the high court, culpability has long been determined, and the
focus has shifted to the law itself, and whether it is just and in
accordance with the Constitution.
Another line the right likes to use is “judges who interpret the law.”
It's a bit hard to apply the law without understanding what the intent
of the law is, but this seems to be what right wingers want. If the law
says Baptists can't vote, then a judge has no business deciding anything
other than whether the guy filling out the voter registration form was a
Baptist or not, and if he was, throwing him in jail for fraud. The law
is the law is the law. Justice is for sissies.
This brings us to “strict interpretation” of the Constitution. The same
people who think that no law can possibly be vague or ambiguous, or that
no case presents anything other than guilt or innocence, believe that
there is no room for interpretation of any phrase in the Constitution.
Never mind that the Supreme Court has put in 210 years trying to unravel
meaning from the Constitution and has only a few definitive answers.
Strict interpretation supposedly means that no public official can do
anything that the Constitution doesn't explicitly mention, which is
absurd on the face of it. I could argue that even though it establishes
a judiciary, the Constitution doesn't explicitly give courts the power
to try people for murder. Strict interpretation would lead me to suggest
that no one could inquire of any candidate for public office what his
religion is, or that no one may own a gun unless a member of a
“Original intent” -- what the framers had in mind when they wrote the
constitution – gets even sillier. The Constitution was a compromise
between groups with very different mindsets, and folks like John Adams
and James Monroe disagreed much more than they agreed. The Original
Intent crowd like to quote from the Federalist papers a lot, but rarely
from the anti-Federalist papers. Among some of the original intents to
be found among the minds that crafted the constitution were requirements
that the military be disbanded when the country was not at war, that
corporations receive charters only for specific, limited goals, and were
to be dechartered upon completion of that goal, or that all real
property was to revert to the state for resale upon the death of the
owner. None of those ideals are particularly near and dear to Republican
hearts, I'm guessing.
When a right winger talks about “activist judges” he just means he
doesn't want a judge who is likely to strike down his stupider ideas.
That would include stupid ideas like pretending creationism is a type of
rival science, or that workers should be banned from unionizing, or that
corporations should have full access to public lands to do whatever the
hell they want.
So, for the sake of the country, let's hope that Obama DOES nominate an
“activist judge”. An activist judge is one who is doing his job
properly, and if he puts that job ahead of his own politics, as David
Souter, a conservative, did, you get exactly the type of judge America
needs on the Supreme Court.
And maybe Rush Limbaugh could lift Nelson's tail and re-sex him. I think
he's in the wrong party.
May 28, 2009