President Bush made a mistake when he nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination reeked of cronyism, incompetence and political weakness. Thankfully, the canons of executive privilege provided Bush with a mulligan. By nominating Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, Bush drove the green. The nomination not only pleases the conservative community but also puts Senate Democrats in a political rut. The Senate twice confirmed Alito unanimously to federal benches and without ethical citations and reprimands, Democrats will have difficulty convincing Americans he is not qualified.
As hard as Democrats may try, elections matter in this country, and it is time for them to learn they lost. Bush campaigned twice on nominating strict constructionist judges to federal benches and Republican senators share this policy goal. Bush resides in the White House and the Republicans control the Senate – they have an obligation to their constituents to fulfill campaign promises. In the early 1990s, President Clinton resided in the White House and Democrats controlled the Senate. Under those circumstances, Clinton nominated and the Senate confirmed living constitutionalists Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer without a peep from liberal interest groups about “ideological diversity” and “consensus nominees.” Oh, how the debate changes when power is lost! If the Democrats want to debate judicial philosophies, bring it on.
Republicans will take their case to the American people and explain the dangers of judicial activism. They will educate Americans on how a judicial branch stocked with living constitutionalists will gradually eliminate this country’s core values by substituting our founders’ meaning for a penumbra created by the personal policy preferences of judges. They will explain realistic nightmare scenarios where it is alright to be religious just do not be religious in the public square. It is OK to celebrate Christmas, just not to celebrate it in public school. The definition of marriage approved by state citizens or state legislatures is unconstitutional because of a new right found in a 216-year-old document. Challenging Democrats on the proper role of the judiciary will highlight a fundamental disagreement – the courtroom is not an acceptable alternative to ballot boxes and legislative chambers.
During Bush’s first term, Senate Democrats utilized the filibuster to stall confirmation on Bush’s federal judge nominees. The Democrats went to unprecedented lengths to protect the only branch of government they still control. Utilizing this tactic on Alito’s nomination is political suicide. The odds of a filibuster being political suicide increase if Alito emerges from his confirmation hearing in the same regard with which John Roberts emerged from his. Democrats will contend they stand on principle, and the Republicans will label their opposition as obstructionists. America does not take kindly to obstructionism – just ask retired Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
If the Democrats want a more important role in selecting federal judges, I recommend they develop a plan to reclaim the Senate. Develop a campaign strategy and an agenda that will resonate with Americans. Quit blaming Republicans for your electoral losses and start listening to what the American people want instead of what you say they should want. The results could surprise you.
Stiglich is an LSA junior and a member of the Daily editorial board.