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Why are the Democrats giving Alito a free ride?
Bush's new right-hand man on the Court

January 20, 2006 | Page 3

LIKE SHOWING up to a knife fight without a knife. That's how the Washington Post's Marcia Davis described the Democrats' performance in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week for George Bush's Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

"It was beginning to look as if they'd just been woofing when it came to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.," Davis wrote. "That they'd written a check full of bluster that a lackluster series of questions couldn't cash."

It was a truly pathetic display from the party that promises to defend working people from the right's offensive.

And for a judge who in 1991 wrote in a dissenting opinion that the husband, not the woman, should have the right to the last word in her choice to terminate a pregnancy. Who heard a case concerning police officers strip-searching a mother and her 10-year-old daughter--and ruled for the cops. Who once bragged in a job resumé about his membership in an alumni group that opposed admitting women and minorities to Princeton University--and then forgot about it 20 years later. Who supports the president's right to order wiretaps on U.S. citizens without warrants.

Now that the so-called "grilling" of Alito is over, that appears to be all for the Democratic Party opposition.

Most, if not all, Senate Democrats seemed likely to vote against Alito as Socialist Worker went to press, but none seemed willing to opt for the filibuster that would be needed to actually block the nomination. "I do not see the likelihood of a filibuster," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on CBS's Face the Nation on January 15. "This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."

Back in September, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean told the Washington Post that simply voting against a Supreme Court nominee wasn't enough. "That's not a fight to the death," he said then. "A fight to the death is a filibuster, which is the only way we can reject an unqualified nominee--because the Republicans don't seem to have any qualms about putting unqualified people in all manner of positions all over the government."

So what is the supposed "liberal maverick" Dean calling for today? Signing a lousy petition on the Democratic Party Web site.

The Democrats have an opportunity to stand up and fight on the Alito nomination--made even greater by the Bush administration's popularity plummeting to an all-time low. The Abramoff scandal, the fall of ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the discovery that Bush ordered the wiretapping of U.S. citizens, an occupation in Iraq that grows worse by the week, the betrayal of the poor and Black victims of Hurricane Katrina--all these factors and more are why the Democrats should go on the offensive against Alito.

After all, this is what Democrat Party leaders always talk about every election season--keeping conservatives from packing the Supreme Court. Now that the fight is right in front of their faces, the Democrats aren't doing anything--out of the fear of appearing too "obstructionist." Instead, they appear totally irrelevant and completely spineless.

But even if their inability to act, and disinterest in doing so, means losing on Alito, the Democrats will claim, come election-time, that that they fought the good fight. And the Alito debacle will become another threat thrown at anyone who questions why they should support the Democrats as the "lesser evil."

With Alito almost certain to be confirmed, the stage is now set for a battle over many issues that matter to millions of people--abortion rights, civil liberties, corporate greed and more.

But the Democrats have shown how incapable they are of making these fights. That's why we have to build opposition from below to the pro-war, anti-worker policies imposed by the two-party status quo in Washington.

As activist and historian Howard Zinn wrote recently in the Progressive magazine, "It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice...

"The right of a woman to an abortion did not depend on the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. It was won before that decision, all over the country, by grassroots agitation that forced states to recognize the right. If the American people, who by a great majority favor that right, insist on it, act on it, no Supreme Court decision can take it away."

The Democrats may have given Alito a free ride onto the Supreme Court. But we can stop him and his right-wing agenda if we organize and fight back.

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