John Roberts and the Dems' Missed Political Opportunity
Reposted and expanded from an earlier post on Roberts.
When Sandra Day O'Connor retired, an increasingly unpopular President Bush faced a difficult choice. He could pick an extremist judge to please his base, and risk losing the confirmation battle, or he could pick a moderate judge who would be easily confirmed but who might anger the virulently anti-abortion base. He chose John Roberts, a "solid conservative" but generally a man who fits more in the second category; he's not an extremist, he wasn't chosen for his loyalty, he's a potential David Souter type, though probably more of a principled conservative minimalist.
I was thrilled with the nomination, as I suspect were most moderate Dems. But NARAL and similar pro-choice activist groups have decided to fight Roberts based on inferences about his views on abortion and other social issues. I don't really blame them; they exist to fight against any erosion of abortion rights. But Democratic congressman are fools for not embracing Roberts, a well-qualified minimalist who may not even vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Since Roberts will easily be confirmed no matter what, the Democrats should have tried to gain political advantage and weaken the Republicans, rather than adopt the weak skepticism and general silence that has characterized their response to Roberts thus far.
Instead, the Dems should have embraced Roberts loudly, killed him with kindness. He's a moderate! We think he'll uphold Roe v. Wade! He reminds us of Souter! He did pro bono work for gay rights groups! This gay-loving, pro-choice Harvard man is alright!
Despite the Republican Machine's best efforts, the sight of the entire Democratic party loudly celebrating about Bush's Souter-esque candidate would have damaged Bush and his party among their virulently pro-life base, who have repeatedly won the country for the Republican Party and have yet to realize that the faux-religious and secretly pro-choice Republican leadership has no intention of paying them back. If the Democrats really want to win elections, there's no better point to make to the American people. And embracing Roberts would help make this point. The alternative is to once again let Bush somehow weasel out of a seemingly impossible political situation with another victory. And this seems to be exactly what the energetic organizations on the left are prepared to do by fighting the good but 100% futile fight against the qualified, Souter-licious Roberts.
Roe v. Wade is not at stake here, only partial-birth abortion, which is both extremely rare and wildly unpopular in America. If the Democrats would rather take a principled and suicidal stand against Roberts just to prove that they support aborting a fetus when it's practically viable, then maybe they deserve to keep losing every major election. If they want to win, they should start hugging Roberts now, before Rehnquist's death sucks all the news coverage away from Roberts' inevitable confirmation. [Editor's note: Luckily perhaps, the nomination of Roberts for chief justice will prevent this from happening].
I do not claim to this is the "right" thing to do. I'm discussing how to win and ultimately do the right things for America. Framebot exists to give controversial but correct advice about winning elections. Your comments, supportive or angry, are always welcome.