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Friday, May 20, 2005
The Un-Democratic Party and Its Imaginary Right Not to Lose

Procedurally, the judicial confirmation debate in the US Senate focuses on the filibuster, the 200-year-old rule that provides for unlimited debate, until that debate is stopped by a successful cloture vote. Cloture requires 60 votes, not a simple majority of 51. It appears that Senate Republicans, if they can grow spines by then, will ask next week for a parliamentary ruling that judicial nominations cannot be filibustered, which will then be put to a vote and, presumably (remember the spinal question), passed by a small margin.

On Tuesday, Patrick Leahy, the Un-Democratic Senator from Vermont, said something that bears further scrutiny. He claimed that such a ruling would "use majority power to override the rights of the minority." It sounds like good rhetoric, but it's a real howler, if you think about it.

What right, real or imagined, could possibly be at stake? Only one that I can see: the Un-Democratic minority's imagined right not to be defeated in a Senate vote. This sensibility is so antithetical to democratic and republican government that Senator Leahy, if he really believes what he said Tuesday, should probably get out of the game altogether.

If he doesn't feel like fishing or golfing every day, the distinguished Senator could take up a new career in the public schools, where he would be right at home. There the prevailing ideology is that inferior students have the right not to be made to feel inferior by the existence of superior students. Curricula and grading systems are gradually being dumbed down to the point that no one can tell the difference. In other words, no one looks like a loser when everyone loses.

If there's a real right at stake in the Senate flap, perhaps it's the right of the people of the United States to have their elected representatives in the Senate actually vote on their duly-elected President's nominees. The Un-Democrats - the self-proclaimed "party of the people" - oppose that right.

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For what it's worth, Thomas Sowell's take on the situation, in "Big-Time Bigotry" is: "The real issue is whether those Senators have the right to deprive all other Senators of the right to vote on these nominees." Well put.

Tony Snow is worth reading on this subject, too.

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