What Digby Says: “The Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher”

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Reprinted in full from here, because it’s that good:

I am edified to learn that Dr Bill Frist, cat slayer, and Dr James Dobson, dauchshund beater, are joining hands to kill the independent judiciary. (As I have said before, while it’s true that not all animal abusers become serial killers, it is true that the vast majority of serial killers were once animal abusers. Not that I’m saying that Frist and Dobson are serial killers … let’s just say that they are in some pretty disgusting company.)

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush’s nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

The filibuster is being used against people of faith? Man, these wingnuts are feeling their oats.

Gawd I hope that the liberal media feel it is their duty to cover this telecast in great depth — to show that they are not hostile to religion, of course. This would be a wonderful way for them to prove once and for all that they are fair and balanced and believe that these religious issues should be well covered in the press. I think we need to write to all the networks and demand that they cover this important story. We need to tell them that the people have a right to hear what their leaders are saying.

I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to draw the contrasts between the Democrats and Republicans right now. Their ducky president looks lamer and lamer by the day and both GOP leaders of the congress are overreaching badly with this public soul kissing of the extremist religious right. (Giving them any cover for this wacky morals crusade is just dumb. Don’t go there, please.)

All we need to do is say we are defending the constitution. Most people may know nothing about civics in this country anymore, but they know damned well that disembowling one branch of government is not business as usual. This is a case where the Republicans have not done the spadework and spent years preparing the public with relentless soothing rhetoric meant to give the impression that this is a natural and inevitable political evolution that will disrupt nothing. Instead their rhetoric is uncharacteristically shrill and nervous. They are lurching around now, reacting to their riled up constituency and making mistakes.

They are leading the Senate to a big dramatic showdown and the stakes couldn’t be higher. But we should not flinch. They are the ones in the spotlight, they are the ones who look hysterical, they are the ones who have the stink of desperation all over them, not us. Tone will be important, here. We should make sure that in the debate we are defending the constitution and tradition and we should do it in modest language with common sense rhetoric. The media will cover this and it will be a perfect chance for us to persuade the public through our temperate but unyielding approach that we are operating from principle and committment. The other side is going to work itself into a frenzy. We need to be calm and cool and united.

The media will trivialize the Democrats’ position but we have to remember that this is also the kind of conflict they love so they’ll cover it and give Democrats some time to make their case. We should be preparing right now for that opportunity with a set of strong and persuasive talking points that we stick with throughout the controversy. According to this widely reported recent WSJ poll, people are already nervous. They want the Democrats to act as a backstop for this wild nonsense. And that was before Schiavo. We should be prepared to say over and over again that we feel it is our duty to prevent the Republicans from radically altering our way of governance. Do you suppose that most people agree with this?:

I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them.

That’s the most powerful man in the US House of Representatives saying that, not some no-name preacher from Arkansas.

Luckily it seems the Harry Reid has the smarts and the cojones to realize that this is as much a defining issue for us as is social security and he’s not going to flinch:

Alexander said Democrats "are badly misreading this politically" if they think the public would blame Republicans for a Senate breakdown orchestrated by Democrats. GOP aides say Frist has drawn the same conclusion. Nonetheless, Senate Democrats are vowing a scorched-earth response, noting that a single senator can dramatically slow down the chamber’s work by insisting on time-consuming procedures that are normally bypassed by "unanimous consent."

They also are portraying Frist as a tool of GOP extremists. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), asked this week if the radical right is driving Frist and his lieutenants, replied: "If they decide to do this, which it appears they are going to, the answer is unequivocally — underlined, underscored — yes."

Frist’s political instincts are not very good as he has proven over and over again and it seems to have precipitated this showdown too:

"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don’t see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn’t come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can’t get anything done. I think the guy’s in a real jam."

I think Reid has the argument here and I think we will prevail. Just as newt failed to realize that it was his intemperate over-the-top rhetoric during the government shutdown that turned the people against him, these guys don’t understand that allying themselves with the most extremist wing of the religious right is bound to do the same thing. Bubbles breed hubris and I think these people spend way too much time talking to each other.

Update: Does anyone out there know of any examples of moderate Republican religious types who have publicly come out against these recent extremist moves? I know that the polls indicate that a large number of them disagreed with the Schiavo matter, but I’m not aware of any of the people for whom morals are a voting issue moving away from the GOP because of it. Where I’m seeing the movement is in the libertarian, scientific and professional factions of the party.

For instance, I have not seen any full throated repudiations of the GOP by Republican religious moderates such as this from Bush voter, John Cole. My hunch is that people who vote on "morals" issues aren’t actually moderates so they aren’t disturbed in the least by what they are seeing. Therefore, posturing about the issue won’t get us anywhere. But, who knows? It sure seems to me that the way to win is to go where the votes are up for grabs — which seems to me to be among the people who really don’t want James Dobson and Pat Robertson running the country.