Keeping Our Powder Dry
Despite Nancy Keenan's fear of crawling out of her hole, I was on Warren Olney's show today talking about the recent SCOTUS abortion decision. It was a great discussion and I got to debate Ed Kilgore about the wisdom or lack thereof on the part of Democrats who chose not to fight Alito by filibustering his nomination.
On the show, Dr. Jeffrey Rosen of George Washington University actually managed to put forth the argument that this recent decision was good for the pro-choice movement because the wingnuts were in danger of overreaching and would consequently suffered an election backlash, to which I responded that you had to be in a coma for the past six years to believe that the Republicans suffered any consequences for their extreme reactionary social positions. In fact, we've now got the Supreme Court adopting language focused-grouped by fundamentalist purity ball lunatics in South Dakota about women being too emotional to make informed decisions regarding icky procedures like D&E. The goal posts just keep moving to more and more extreme positions and no price is ever paid.
Kilgore noted that public Democratic argument against filibuster at the time Alito was confirmed was essentially "we want to keep our powder dry" and not trigger the nuclear option so it could be saved it for a 5th reactionary vote, but as I recall behind closed doors it was considered a public relations dog for the Democrats and they were angry at the blogs for pushing them into looking "unreasonable." I myself got suckered into the "let's keep our powder dry" argument over the original Gang of 14 formation when it was decided to preserve the filibuster and not use it to block the confirmation of appellate judges so as to save it for a truly horrific Supreme Court nomination. I think we can all agree that worked out well.
Kilgore was also of the opinion that Kennedy affirmed the constitutional right to a first trimester abortion as guaranteed by Roe. To which I said that the offensive and patronizing language used by Kennedy in his decision was not that of a man committed to this principle, and that Roberts had his hand so far up Kennedy's dress that he had in fact become the fifth vote we were trying to keep our powder dry for. Dr. Reva Siegel of Yale University Law School expressed the point much more articulately — we're talking about death by a thousand paper cuts, and the pro-lifers were going to go after Roe by regulating it on every front they possibly could, dismantling it piece by piece rather than trying to overturn it directly at the moment (though that is certainly the ultimate goal). Dr. Suzanne Poppema also voice her consternation that this was just one more attempt by wingnuts to get in between her and her patients with regard to treatment. She didn't expess interest in installing a set of stirrups in the Supreme Court chambers but I probably would've.
I was happy that Kilgore seemed to think that choice was an important issue for candidates to address in '08, but he also seems to think nobody but pro-choice activists care about this. He may be right but it reflects a pervasive attitude on the part of the Democratic party that women's reproductive rights just don't matter, and I do think that the net effect is cumulative and encourages women who might otherwise get politically energized to think there's nothing in the party worth caring about if the party doesn't care about them.
He also thought that many Democratic leaders had refused to talk about it because many Democrats had voted for the bill in the first place. Well, that is a problem, and it would be nice if there was an advocacy organization like oh, say, NARAL out there just as agressive as the NRA would be about gun rights letting them know they better fall in line over something this outrageous. Unfortunately all we have is Nancy Keenan and NARAL. I didn't get to say it on the air today because that wasn't the topic but if I haven't said it enough recently, she really needs to go. Because while nobody was looking, our powder got soaking wet.
Update: Dr. Siegel sent along these two links — one to an article she wrote in the American Prospect, and another to a law review article, both of which discuss why the argument is shifting to "protecting women from themselves." Both well worth reading.