As if controlling Congress, the Senate, the White House and the majority of governorships weren’t enough power for the Republicans, they are now trying to eliminate the only tool that prevents them from stacking the courts with extremist judges: the filibuster. This procedural tactic allows 40 senators to perpetuate unlimited debate and prevent a vote from taking place. Republicans now want to eliminate this tactic in order to push through 10 of President Bush’s far-right judicial nominees – one of whom believes that minors with abusive parents should still be subject to parental notification laws if they obtain an abortion.
The Republican’s take-no-prisoners campaign will stop at nothing to trample opposition and distort the truth to fit their agenda. They took their fight to the pulpit this weekend when James Dobson, apparently the GOP’s new unofficial spokesman, organized and broadcast a “Justice Sunday” event to churches and homes across America. This Democrat-bashing fiasco included a speech from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who accused Democratic senators of being “against people of faith” by denying an up-or-down vote to 10 out of Bush’s 200-plus judicial nominees, who all happen to be religious. It doesn’t matter that Republicans used procedural tactics to prevent several of Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote; Democrats are suddenly the equivalent of Pontius Pilate for using the exact same checks and balances that Republicans enjoyed when they were in the minority.
This unfathomable power grab seems to be part of the whole “put up or shut up” mentality that has plagued our country since the Bush dynasty returned to power in 2001. Anyone who even questioned the legitimacy of an election in a state governed by the candidate’s brother and supervised by one of his campaign co-chairs was a “sore loser,” a “Gore partisan” or a “conspiracy theorist.” Forget the thousands of people illegally removed from voter registration lists. Forget about the ballots later found in police cars and church basements. Forget about the Bush camp’s eerie pre-election confidence that he would carry Florida. Their message was, simply put: Bush won fair and square, regardless of what the exit polls said, so just deal with it.
The events of 9/11 only perpetuated this quasi-fascist mentality. Anybody who protested the Iraq invasion, based on intelligence that was later found to be “dead wrong,” was an America-hating terrorist sympathizer. The State of the Union message was essentially, “You’re either with us or you’re against us.” Basically, put up or shut up. Let the Bush regime kill first, then blame Clinton later. Dissent is not and will not be tolerated.
Similarly, the voices of millions of Americans represented by the Democratic senators are being silenced. Never mind the fact that the roughly 800,000 South Dakotans represented by John Thune (R-S.D.) have the same representation as the nearly 36 million represented by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Now that Republicans are back in power, they change the rules at will. Don’t want the House Ethics Committee to investigate Tom DeLay? Change the rules. Don’t like the filibuster so much now that you have a Republican president? Eliminate it.
More than 200 years of Senate tradition is at stake here. The right to choose is at stake. Democracy is at stake. Whether the Republicans like it or not, the filibuster was intended to prevent either party from abusing power. Perhaps James Dobson was correct in his Justice Sunday speech when he proclaimed, “The future of democracy… depends on this issue.”
But, hey, what do I know. After all, I’m just a Gore partisan.
Brigid Kirlin is a junior global studies major.