Monday, February 6, 2006

"Advice and Consent" Left to Unelected Statisticians

I never thought we had a strong chance of keeping Alito off the Court; either we would lose the filibuster due to the defections of poor strategists and cowards, or Frist would rule judicial filibusters unconstitutional. Either way, Alito would have been confirmed.

But I did want an un-clotured filibuster anyway, in part because the political and electoral fallout over the Republican exercise of the "nuclear option" would have been so severe that the Republican rank-and-file would not have tolerated another non-consensus candidate in the future. In other words, the filibuster battle one week ago wasn't over Alito, it was over the even worse neocon that Bush will appoint -- knowing there will be no real Democratic resistance and therefore no adverse consequences to his party -- if another vacancy arises.

Put differently: the filibuster fight wasn't over O'Connor's replacement; it was over Stephens'. And our Democratic leaders utterly failed to comprehend that simple strategic reality.

Only two of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic Presidents: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens. Ginsburg will turn 73 on March 15, 2006. Stevens will turn 86 on April 20, 2006.

The failure of Democratic leadership last week means that the survival of nearly a century's worth of Progressive legal precedent depends largely, not on the political or even the judicial process, but on the biology of aging. Our nation's fate is largely in the hands of mortality tables. Which made me look up the numbers:

According to the Health Care Financing Administration, a 73 year old female has a life expectancy of 13.3 additional years. An 86 year old male has a life expectancy of 4.89 additional years. As of Stevens' next birthday, President Bush will have 2.85 more years left in office -- a 2.04-year leeway. On average. With huge variability.

The fact that Stevens' statistical life expectancy is greater than 2.85 makes me breathe a tiny little bit easier, but damn our leaders for delegating the Senate's "advise and consent" function to a bunch of insurance actuaries.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"And our Democratic leaders utterly failed to comprehend that simple strategic reality."

You don't say? Perhaps you could enlighten us.
What exactly is it that your Democrat leaders have NOT utterly failed to comprehend?

That pursuant to the rules of the Senate (and common sense), the majority rules?

That when you lose elections by choosing candidates like Gore and Kerry you lose the presidency and the right to designate who sits on the Supreme Court?

That there is no such thing as a designated "moderate" seat on the Supreme Court?

That by ineffectually attempting to smear an obviously good man and eminently qualified candidate it is only yourself that you make look bad?

Did they utterly fail to understand all these things? I think so. And this week, your democratic leadership is going to go on TV strutting and preening and demonstrating that they uttlerly fail to understand national security and constiutional law. Of course, they'll get spanked again. Eventually, someone will propose that we all just march right back into that chamber and vote on whether or not we think the President of the United States and Commander in Chief ought to be probhibited from authorizing warrantless interception of enemy communications transmitted into and out of the country during wartime. Please, please, please let us have a vote on this one. Then you can work to unseat all the Vichy Dems who vote aganst that proposal. I'd say that will be all but two or three of the actual Dems in Congress.

Thersites D. Scott said...

Anonymous:

Here's the rule here: if you will post links to an email address (even an anonymous one like g-mail) and a website or blog (so we can see your fully-developed views and have a chance to respond to them on your turf, as you're doing on ours), then I will consider leaving critical comments like this on this site.

But I have no patience for completely anonymous posts, which display that particular cowardice and dishonesty so often seen among conservative trolls.

Rather than delete you, I'm glad to give you 48 hours to post a valid email and blog address. Otherwise, I'll assume you aren't actually interested in constructive or serious discourse, and delete your posts. I think that's more than fair.

Katherine said...

Good point, Thersites. A large percentage of this country mistakenly believes that the Supreme Court is above politics, above voting. Instead, it's the result of an uber-vote, the people we vote for in turn voting for someone else.

Failure to educate the public about the true, long-lasting and far-reaching consequences of their votes will only perpetuate this problem. Too many Americans think that their candidate "seems like a nice guy" or whatnot, without realizing how exactly s/he fits into the overall machine of government.

Anonymous said...

Nope, sorry, won't expose my life, propety and fortune to your unprincipled allies for the mere privilege of challenging the inanities you publish in this out of the way mostly ignored blog. Your problem with me is not my anonynimity, but your own untenable positions. Censor away, mighty Thersites. This is your fiefdom and I am but a lowly serf.

Thersites D. Scott said...

Anonymous:
See my comment upstairs.

Thersites D. Scott said...

Thanks, Katherine!