Sunday, January 29, 2006


Busting the Filibuster Fantasy

When I heard that the Senate Democrats were actually heeding John Kerry's foolhardy call for a filibuster of the Alito nomination -- now known as the yodel heard round the world -- I felt I should write something on this logic-defying move.

Then my friend Micah Sifry forwarded me a bluntly-worded critique of the filibuster strategy by Matt Stoller at MyDD, one of the nation's leading liberal blogs. Stoller's cogent, cold-eyed analysis aptly summed up my feelings about the folly of this move -- and did so with far more credibility than I ever could, given his unquestionable progressive credentials.

So instead of essentially saying ditto for several graphs, I thought it would be best to just share with you the entirety of Stoller's post.


I'm going to get a lot of flack for this post, but here goes.

A filibuster is an extreme action that requires robust public
support. We do not have this support. It's that simple. I'm all for
keeping Alito off the court, and a filibuster until after the SOTU is
a good idea. But it's very important for the netroots to understand
what's happening here. This last-minute campaign to get Senators to
switch their votes, after it became crystal clear that we do not have
the votes to filibuster, is a classic example of 'get points for
trying' politics. It's a way for Senators to get credit from the
left-wing of the party without having to actually do anything or stop
anything. The reality is that this fight was lost two months ago,
when Senators decided that going on Christmas break was more important
than preparing to defend the constitution, and PFAW and Alliance for
Justice decided that releasing 150 page documents was a good way to
build public pressure against Alito's confirmation.

By all means, call your Senators. Don't stop. Don't let up. But
don't forgive the party leadership and our groups for this travesty.
People for the American Way has been preparing for this fight for
years. And then they didn't show up. The same is true with NARAL,
and the Alliance for Justice. I honestly don't know why they are
funded anymore - that's how bad this failure has been. And Senators -
including DiFi, HRC, Kerry, and Obama - have revealed themselves to be
craven fair weather fans who expect others to do the work of standing
up for Democratic values for them. Think about it for a moment. John
Kerry called for a filibuster from Switzerland two hours after it
became public that there were not enough votes for a filibuster. That
is atrocious. Tinman points out on Breaking Blue the essential point:

If he was serious about it he would have stayed in Washington, held
press conferences, lobbied his colleagues and tried to generate as
much attention as possible. Since it was just a PR stunt, it wasn't
necessary for Kerry to change his travel plans.

Democratic insiders have failed at the art of politics. It's that
simple. Doing politics is not about saying the right thing at the
wrong time, it's about lining up a coalition to push the levers of
social change. This they just don't do. For instance, at no point
has any insider pol or group leader laid out a strategy for victory.
No one defined victory. No one laid out a path to get there. And no
one communicated with various groups, including the netroots, on
helping us be part of a coalition to win. The communications
operation here is just atrocious. The insider groups have young
communications staffers dealing with bloggers who collectively talk to
1 million people a day. These are talented people, but they aren't
setting strategy and they don't have the juice to help us with this

And don't delude yourself, this is intentional. The attitude that
the insiders have towards us is that we are a stupid ATM set up to
feed their ineffectiveness. Witness uberinsider telling us the truth
about where we fit in:

"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for
the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to
win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who
advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to
harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a
captive of the activist left."

They are telling us, broadcasting to us, that they think we're
stupid. They think that having no campaign on Alito can easily be
fixed by posting a diary on Daily Kos urging us to 'fight' a month
after the fight has already been lost. It's craven, it's crass, it's

Even so, with no direction and no communication, we've moved the vote
count on the filibuster to 37 from the high 20s. That's amazing. But
don't forget, they let us down, big time. And we should not forgive
them for this, until Alito is off the court. Because Alito and the
brutal decisions he will hand down is a reminder of the insiders'
desire for direct mail success over preserving the republic.

There's a plan on the filibuster -- have you see it?

What is the RNC afraid of talking about during extended debate?

The answer is in the filibuster plan -- many issues warrant a review right now.
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