Thursday, May 26, 2005

Faith-Based Dealing

There are still reverberations from the filibuster compromise being felt in the blogosphere and editorial columns throughout the nation. Consider them to be aftershocks as the folks at places like TAPPED (here and here) and Salon.com examine the deal. Some insiders on both sides are having second thoughts as they wonder what will happen when the real test — a Supreme Court nomination — comes up, and there are already some test runs being made at a filibuster over the nomination of John Bolton.

There’s no way to really predict the long-term effects — Washington and the U.S. Senate are reliably unpredictable when it comes to human nature and politics. The one thing that can be certain is that accusations will start flying soon, if they haven’t already, that the other side has broken the deal and that someone will be “outraged” at the behavior of the other side. Liberals and conservatives will accuse each other of bad faith and exploiting “extraordinary circumstances,” and both will come up with reasons why the deal should be nullified. I may be prejudiced, but I’m willing to bet that it will be the Republicans who will be the ones leading the charge to abandon it. Why? Because they have everything to gain from exploiting their culture of victimhood and portraying themselves as the losers because they didn’t get everything they demanded. They will go on the offensive, accusing the Democrats and the SCLM of trying to engineer a coup d’etat, and true to form, the Democrats will have to play defense.

I can imagine the campaign literature and commercials already: “Tell your senator to preserve the Constitution and stop the liberals from holding up the president’s appointments!” Or, “Do you want Hillary Clinton telling us who should be the next Supreme Court Chief Justice?” Or, “Stop the Democrats from demanding that gay people have the very same rights that normal people have!” The campaign of 2006, which should be a referendum on the coagulation of absolute power the Republicans are seeking and the shenanigans of Tom DeLay, will now become the Democrats saying “Look how the Republicans can’t be trusted to honor a deal and work with us!” All that will do is paint them as gullible chumps who fell for something that is one step above “Hey, your shoe’s untied!” The electorate will not respect a party that campaigns on their opponent’s ability to outmaneuver them, no matter how shameless it is. They will have to run on their strengths as being the true moral leaders — the party that can be trusted to honor their word and look out for the rights of the minority, even as they try to regain the majority. Rather than make it a debate about trust or who really got the best deal, it should come down to a discussion of which party is best suited to work with the power they’ve been granted by the people, not with how they can consolidate their grasp and act as if they’ve been elected for life.

The problem with this or any compromise is that no matter how ironclad it appears to be in print, there will be someone who will find the chink in the armor. After all, this is a document that was crafted by a group of lawyers, and you just know there has to be something that someone trained in the adversarial arts will find and exploit. The American public will just have to take it on faith that somehow the senators will live up to their words and ideals. That’s not much to go on, but then again, this country was founded on an ideal, and that’s all we’ve got.