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Daydream Believing: Rehnquist Edition


Matt is, of course, completely right here:

Why would that be? Let’s say Bush puts up Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. In response, all 7 Democrats commit to voting no. In addition, the nominally pro-choice Republicans — Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chaffee, and Arlen Specter — all commit to voting no. Then Owen and Brown will be confirmed 51-49. If Democrats try and filibuster, Bill Frist will deploy the nuclear option and Owen and Brown will be confirmed 51-49.

Realistically, of course, there’s zero chance of all four moderates bucking their party on this, as zero percent of them opposed Owen or Brown for Circuit Court nominations and, in general, moderate Republicans have blocked Bush’s initiatives about zero percent of the time since his inauguration. What’s more, vulnerable Democrats like Pryor, Nebraska Nelson, Lincoln, Landrieux, and maybe even Florida Nelson will face a lot of pressure to defect and some of them probably will. I’m not counseling Democrats to roll over, but liberals ought to be realistic here — if Bush wants two rightwingers, it’s two rightwingers Bush will get. This is basically a battle the Democrats lost last November — you can’t block bad stuff if you don’t have the votes, and Democrats don’t have the votes.

This idea that having two nominees will allow Bush to appoint one consensus candidate –with the corollary assumption that the meaningless filibuster deal actually has some sort of substantive content–is based on an anachronism, touted by pundits who just don’t understand how politics have changed. (It reminds me of nothing so much as pundits who desperately try to develop a brokered convention scenario every four years.) And this is exactly why: stopping a nominee requires a)that the small cadre of spineless moderate Republicans hold out against enormous pressure, and b)not a single one of the larger cadre of conservative Dems rolls. If you believe this is possible, well, I’ve just gotten two beautiful parcels, rolling land in the Glengarry Farms. I’ll only be in town for a couple of days–why, I suppose I could swing by tonight!

One additional thing to add is that I do think it’s desirable for the Dems to force the GOP to go nuclear, which would lead to the ultimate death of the filibuster. But that’s about the most that one can hope for. I’m sure there will still be people–just like Naderites in 2000–speaking wistfully about Eisenhower appointing Brennan and Bush I appointing Souter, but politics has passed such people by just as surely as with David Broder or Joe Klein.

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