There are different kinds of filibusters:

  • There are filibusters organized well ahead of time by one party in lock-step message discipline.  
  • There are filibusters that are the work of one lone Senator with an issue or a cause.  
  • There are filibusters that are attempted simply for "show"...doomed to fail...and intended more to make a political point or to rally the base than to actually succeed.

We don't have the first, we won't likely get the second, and I am not alone in having real problems with the third. There is another category emerging now: a movement filibuster driven by principle.

  • If we are going to filibuster, we should be serious.  
  • If we are going to filibuster, we should intend to succeed.
  • If we are going to filibuster, we need to look down the road at possible consequences inside and outside our party and take responsibility for them.
  • If we are going to make a stand, we need to clearly stake out our ground of complaint and stick to it.
  • If we are going to take the serious step of mounting a filibuster in the era of the nuclear option, then we should do so in a way that no American will have any doubt of where we stand or why we have taken this serious measure. We should make it clear to the nation that we filibuster knowing what the GOP might do.

In this context, we have a heavy responsibility to communicate in simple and effective terms to the American public. If we fail in that, and we often have, then we fail that public and we fail our party.  

On politics and principle, then, I join the call for a disciplined filibuster of Samuel Alito's nomination focused on his opposition to Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose.

I throw my small voice in support of: a Filibuster for Choice.

Let me be clear:

Choice is it. This can't be about anything else.  We need to be utterly disciplined.

There is no other issue that will cut through to the American public.  There are no other grounds for a filibuster that we can explain in such simple terms and which justify the serious step of undertaking a filibuster inside and outside our party.

Of the possible courses of action for the Democratic Senate right now, only a sustained, disciplined filibuster of Samuel Alito on the principle of Choice carries any political danger to George Bush and the GOP.  On everything else, we lose.

My message to the netroots and the Senators, then, is that everything else must be pushed to the side.  Not because it is not valid, but because everything else in ineffective.

The time to be crystal clear is now.

Samuel Alito does not support a woman's right to choose in any meaningful way.  He refuses to call Roe v. Wade settled law.  

We oppose him.

If we succeed, all future presidents will know that a nominee who is unwilling to call Roe v. Wade settled law is unacceptable to this nation and unacceptable to the Democratic Party.

I want to be clear:  This can't be about George Bush.  This can't even be about Samuel Alito. This can't be about the big bad GOP. Or CAP.  Or Vanguard. Or the unitary executive. Or Harriet Miers. Or Dr. Dobson.  

The time for all of that is over. That's all mumbo jumbo now.

The only way a Democratic filibuster of Samuel Alito has any meaning, the only way we will have real political impact and effectiveness, the only hope we have of making it succeed, is if we make it about a woman's right to choose, and ONLY about a woman's right to choose.

We are a Pro-Choice party.

There's been some flirting with other formulations. The flirting has got to stop. This filibuster must be that moment.

Our position is straightforward. We support Roe v. Wade; if you are a Democrat, you have to meet that standard.

Taking a stand for that standard will have consequences.

There's been a lot of talks about a "filibuster" being a free ride, a win-win. That's fantasy speak. There is no free ride, folks. There is no free lunch.

If we filibuster Alito on Choice, it will have consequences inside and outside our party.

For the Democrats, it will have consequences in places like North and South Dakota and Nebraska and Pennsylvania and Iowa. To those who've been preaching a free lunch here, I say,

You're full of it.

Some Democrats will lose elections, some will bolt our party, there will be ugly primary battles. Pretending otherwise is not reality-based, and forgive me for saying so, but we've still got a lot of that in our party.

If we support a principled Filibuster for Choice, we need to look those consequences for our party in the eye and take responsibility for them. Anything less is irresponsible and undermines the seriousness of this effort.

On the other hand, if we mount a disciplined filibuster of Samuel Alito based on Roe v Wade and Choice, then, pardon my french:

The shit will hit the fan for the GOP.

George Bush and Karl Rove are sitting comfortably in DC laughing their asses off right now because, once again, they have dared us to call them out on this one issue, Choice, and we've been unfocused...we've betrayed our people and our principles.

If our Senators mount a disciplined, focused Filibuster for Choice: the GOP will stop laughing.

The GOP does not want to invoke the nuclear option on choice. They do not. They would happily invoke the nuclear option against a Democratic Senate they could brand as "obstructionist." The GOP, however, really does not want to face what would happen if the Alito nomination became: an up or down vote on Roe v Wade.

The folks doing the bean counting at the RNC really do not want to see what happens if the Democrats call the president's bluff on this one issue: Choice. Now, that political consequence is not reason alone to mount this filibuster, in my view, but it adds politics to our principle.

Choice is the lone principle that, politically, can withstand the threat of the nuclear option.

To those who've argued that our party needs to stand up. I say here that I agree. But I would note that we need to stand up in a way that is responsible and communicates effectively who we are and why we have taken this serious step. Unity of message, at the end of the day, is the only politically effective way to oppose the GOP.

In closing, I would like to go back to something I mentioned at the beginning of this diary. There is a kind of filibuster that is not serious...that is not disciplined...that is more about a "laundry list" of grievances..that is more about playing politics. I don't support that.

In fact, I'd put it this way.

For our Senators to take a stand on Alito and make it come off like the anti-war protests so many folks complain about...where we mention every issue under the sun and dilute our message to the point of laughability...would be disastrous.

It would be disastrous for Choice, disastrous for our Party, and disastrous for its implications of "what's to come" in the fall of 2006. In failing to be clear and disciplined in undertaking such a grave matter, we would hand the GOP an easy reason to oppose us. The Democrats need to do more than "just take a stand" in the abstract, we need more than a laundry list of concerns that do not communicate in the media and on TV; we need to take a stand for something clear and significant in simple terms that the public understands and let the chips fall where they may.

So, that is my message to our Senators and the netroots. If we are going to filibuster, it has to be that simple and that direct. It has to be that clear. That is what I'm throwing my small voice in favor of:

A Filibuster for Choice.


I've come up with a formulation in response to what seems to be a reluctance on the part of many to come out strongly for "Choice". I call it "the Roberts Test".

You can read the full break down of it here.

The basic point is to use John Robets own words as the new standard for Supreme Court nominees. ie. Accepting Roe v Wade as "settled law" is now the standard that gets applied to everyone.

Everybody should be able to get behind "the Roberts Test". After all, he is the Chief Justice and an unquestioned conservative.

Originally posted to kid oakland on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 10:29 AM PST.

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