Why the Democrats should filibuster Alito

Three reasons the Democrats should filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

by Abby Bar-Lev

Samuel Alito should not be on the Supreme Court. The Democrats have every right and reason to filibuster his appointment. To prove the point, here are three reasons why.

1. There is too much at stake. When I say “too much at stake,” that covers a variety of legal and constitutional issues. Everything surrounding privacy rights from personal medical decisions and reproductive freedom, to wiretapping, to data mining, to the definition of an illegal search and seizure is on the line. A topic prominently discussed at the hearings and one that should be on the minds of all Americans is the extent of presidential power.

The recent discovery that President George W. Bush authorized warrantless domestic wiretapping and is claiming that it is within his “constitutional authority” and indeed telling the American people we should just “trust” him is not only jarring, but brings to mind a flesh-crawling phrase: “police state.” Now more than ever, the American people need an independent judiciary that will not wilt in submission to executive pressure. Judge Alito seems all too willing to protect the president from the necessary constitutional checks on power in a time of war. It was Benjamin Franklin who said those who are willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither liberty nor security.

2. Democrats have political capital. In light of the president’s illegal wiretapping authorization, ethics scandals that are plaguing nearly the entire Republican leadership, low approval ratings of the president, and little light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq, the Democrats have a prodigious window of opportunity to prove themselves. With the 2006 elections around the corner and the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot with every step they take, it is far past time for the Democrats to take a stand. After years of acquiescence and moving their politics to the center of the spectrum, people hardly know who the Democrats are anymore. Now they finally have collected the political capital to prove themselves as the party that stands up for the American people, and if they do not spend it now doing anything they can to prevent a dangerous nominee from reaching the highest court, they may end up broke at election time.

3. The Sandra factor. Let’s discuss the elephant in the room, shall we? Samuel Alito is not a woman. Not only is he not a woman, he is the most typical Supreme Court nominee Bush could find: a white, Catholic, Ivy League-educated man. Ironically, my column about why Bush needs to appoint another woman to the Supreme Court after the Harriett Miers debacle came out on the same day Bush named Alito as his next nominee. I am going to repeat myself: “There is a plethora of brilliant and talented, qualified women all over this country; women who may appease conservatives in their constitutional philosophy but who have witnessed and understand the necessity of the continuing expansion of constitutional rights to women.”

Samuel Alito is so far right, so caught up in the narrow, nonreal world perspective of serving as an appellate court judge for 15 years that he seems to be unaware of many of the harsh realities social minorities in this country face. His record on women’s rights and minority rights is dismal at best. This is, after all, a man that has said, “the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion.” This is a man who upheld the unreasonable strip search of a 10-year-old girl. This is a man who, as the Boston Globe discussed, “advised against including a ban on capital punishment for minors in an agreement by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reminded readers that his records as a judge show “a troubling tendency to tolerate serious errors in capital proceedings,” and that “whatever one may think of the death penalty, Alito’s record should give pause to all Americans committed to basic fairness and due process of law.” Sandra Day O’Connor was certainly not a liberal, but with Alito replacing her swing vote on the Court and unique perspective on issues as a woman, there is much to be considered. His appointment would, after all, cut the number of women on the Supreme Court in half, and that is a very disconcerting thought.

It is true that a filibuster may not stop the Senate from approving Alito’s nomination. A filibuster, though, serves many purposes. This is the Democrats’ chance to take a stand, to be furious, to educate the public and to prove the president does not have a blank check to wrap the Supreme Court around his finger.

Abby Bar-Lev welcomes comments at [email protected].