After seeing so many comments in the last 12 hours along the lines of "Roberts is the worst nominee imaginable," my mind has sort of become numb.
Look, folks, when people say "elections have consequences" that is not the same thing as saying the Democrats must roll over and accept every outrageous action until 2008. We didn't accept the destruction of Social Security. We didn't accept John Bolton. There are plenty of fights we can win.
But there are good losses too, and this is the concept that many refuse to accept. You can lose in a way that makes people sympathize with the principle you fought for. You can lose in a way that sets the stage to make a compelling case later. If you send a clear message to the American people that "we oppose Roberts because X will happen if he is confirmed," and then X does happen, now you have your campaign issue for 2008, 2012, and beyond. "Elect Democrats so we can roll back X and make sure it never happens again."
Right now, we haven't agreed on what X is. It might be Roe v. Wade, it might be destruction of environmental laws and other protections, it might be a lot of things. I will guarantee you this: if the Dems don't settle on a unified message, if it ends up being the same old shotgun approach that "Roberts will outlaw abortion, birth control, favor corporations over people, destroy the environment, reverse the civil rights movement, etc." it's not going to get us anywhere. We need a straightforward argument that people can understand, and we can use in future elections, not a boundless rant that says Roberts is the spawn of Satan who will destroy everything good about America. Fortunately, we have over a month before the confirmation hearings, time we can use to get the message straight.
I don't get why people don't understand that there can be a "good" loss, or at least a productive loss. How have the Republicans gotten into power? By campaigning against every liberal accomplishment of the last century. They are not afraid to take our victories and turn them into campaign points, and it wins them elections. We need to do the same, unless we believe the Republicans never pass a bad law.
Imagine yourself as a wingnut for a second. What would you think about Roe v. Wade? You'd probably consider it the biggest disaster ever. Oh no, the Supreme Court ruled that there's a constitutional right to murder unborn babies! But rather than saying "that's it, we lose, end of the world" the Republicans built an electoral strategy around it. It wasn't easy, because their position is the minority, but they used it as a rallying cry for their base, they employed a legislative strategy that involves poking around the edges and creating wedge issues, and they gained political ground because of it.
We should be upset any time one of our precious freedoms is lost, or any time one of our hardwon liberal gains is rolled back, but remember, we are not just a bunch of helpless victims, we are the activists here. We can be smart about it and use those defeats to craft a winning strategy for the future, rather than living day by day counting up losses and wins depending on how today's voting went. We are supposed to be the ones driving the Democratic Party towards a winning, progressive agenda; so let's get to work.
I see in Roberts someone who can help Democrats draw clear battle lines for the American public. It'll allow us to define who we are and who they are, and drive home the point that elections do matter, that there really is a difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. This is a huge opportunity, and one I'm confident Democrats in the Senate are taking seriously.
Hearings start in September, so we have the time get our stuff together. Bush could've chosen a moderate in the O'Connor mold, and he could've kept the pretension that the GOP isn't extreme, isn't out to eliminate hard-won rights. He chose otherwise. Let's look at this as an opportunity. Because the only way to stop this sort of thing, in the end, is to win back Congress and the White House.