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Have We Reached The Tipping Point?

Woke up this morning in a mood for some Ella.  Here she is from 1963 singing “Georgia On My Mind.” 

Political mood can be fickle, especially in a nation where the coverage is so overwhelmingly personality and ego driven these days in the media.  (See this piece on Sally Quinn for starters.)   But the underlying important issues at stake have continued to increase in importance the further away from the rule of law this nation gets. 

You’d never know it if you only paid surface attention to the day to day coverage.  Which is exactly what the Bush Administration and the GOP want to happen.  Digby published an essay from a politically observant friend the other day that was spot on in terms of big picture honing in on what is at stake in the upcoming election.  This was particularly on point:

So far, the GOP race has been the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats. But George Bush must be made into the GOP nominees’ political brother. 2008 will be a “change the course” election and the electorate is clearly not thrilled with Washington DC priorities or institutional arrangements. So, the Democrats need to ride this tide both on the Presidential and Congressional levels.

Digby followed up with this point:

George Bush should be tied so tightly around the Republican candidates’ necks they can hardly breathe. Every quote of support, every vote, every word of worship should be thrown in their faces and there is a ton of it. He is the most unpopular president, for the longest sustained time, of any president in history. He is the modern Herbert Hoover, a man whose name should become an epithet.

Exactly.  What is at stake in the next election cycle is enormous, and that cannot be said enough.  Via Steve Benen writing at C&L, I found this CQ Politics article that deserves more discussion.  Especially on this point:

…That’s because every traditional indicator of election forecasting — from public opinion polls and issue resonance to candidate recruitment and the “over/under” balance of seats in play — suggests that congressional Democrats have just as much going for them in 2008 as they had in 2006, if not more. They now have the power of incumbency to give them added advantages in raising money, attracting top-tier candidates, controlling the legislative agenda and capturing the political zeitgeist.

All this leads Democrats to profess clear confidence that they’ll retain majority control next fall. And not only that, but they may now harbor realistic visions of emerging with 55 to 58 seats in the Senate (pushing them within arm-twisting distance of the 60 votes needed to bust a filibuster) as well more than 240 seats in the House, a cushion that neither party has enjoyed since the end of the last Democratic era in the House, in 1994.

In fact, it’s now dawning on members of both parties that a Democratic sweep — with gains in Congress accompanied by a reclaiming of the White House — is the inescapable “morning line” assumption going into the 2008 campaign season. By early March at the latest, Democrats are likely to have a presumed presidential nominee who will enjoy consensus front-runner status going into the general election campaign. That will give them a titular leader for the first time in seven years and the opportunity to unite behind a single party message throughout the remainder of the year.

Republicans, meanwhile, appear destined for a yearlong internecine battle for the heart and soul of the party. Even if they manage to rally behind a single presidential candidate next spring, it is not at all clear that any of the leading candidates for the nomination can count on the loyal and enthusiastic support of evangelical Christians and other social conservatives who have formed the bedrock of the GOP “base” for more than a quarter-century.

But the media narrative continues to paint the Dems versus GOP influence and power question as a dead heat, nonetheless.  The driving force for me this year, however, can be summed up thusly: the federal bench and local elections.  You think the Bush years have been destructive to American political life? You ain’t seen nothing yet if we continue down the current road.

The damage that will be wrought from a stuffed Supreme Court should another Republican have the opportunity to cram another hardline, activist Federalist Society judge onto the bench would be nothing short of philosophical revolution. We’ve already seen what the Roberts Court can do in a short period of time. And, as the LATimes puts it, time isn’t exactly on our side over the long haul (H/T to reader WB):

Although Stevens has given no hint of retiring and shows no sign of slowing down — in the courtroom, he looks and sounds much as he did 20 years ago — the question of his tenure looms over the court and the 2008 presidential campaign.

If there is a tipping point in the Supreme Court’s future, it is likely to come with his departure. What kind of justice would replace him — and how strong the court’s slim conservative majority would be — may well depend on who is elected president.

There is a LOT at stake in the upcoming election. Including the restoration of the rule of law, and that starts with the ability to strongly impact federal judicial appointments.  It also starts with governorships and state and local elections.

Over the next few months, I’m hoping to bring in a number of issues and some guests to discuss why this is so important for all of us. One only need to look at the recent precedent shattering decisions on pay equity to understand how this can impact day to day life across the board in this country, as those with less power have even less recourse to challenge those who have more.  We have done a number of posts recently about the WGA strike, and why standing up for the writers is important for all of us. A recent article in Atlantic Monthly brings it home in stark terms:

…Lately economists have been using new data to look more closely within the top decile of American incomes. What they’ve found is startling. Here are some results from Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University. Between 1966 and 2001, median wage and salary income increased by just 11 percent, after inflation. Income at the 90th percentile (six minutes from the end of the hour-long parade) increased nearly six times as much—by 58 percent. At the 99th percentile (the last thirty-six seconds), the rise was 121 percent. At the 99.9th percentile (3.6 seconds before the end), it was 236 percent. And at the 99.99th percentile (0.36 seconds, representing the 13,000 highest-paid workers in the American economy), the rise was 617 percent.

That is worth repeating: Over thirty-five years, the rise in wages and salaries in the wide middle of the income distribution was 11 percent. The rise in wages and salaries at the top of the income distribution was 617 percent….

And because there are so many political problems from incumbant retirements and corruption scandals looming on the horizon for the GOP, they are increasingly turning to that 617 percent increase crowd for candidates.  And where have they made those increases?  Well, a whole lot of them are benefitting from the largesse of an ever-ravenous K Street and it’s useful GOP connections.  Or at least, they were until the 2006 elections upset the golden applecart.  George Bush and the GOP have made their choices and priorities crystal clear:  as John Anderson said, it’s all about the benjamins, but only for themselves and their cronies, and the hell with everyone else. 

What we can do is something very simple:  make them own that publicly. 

Every time I get disgusted or angry at the slow pace of change, I contemplate what the world must look like for Justice Stevens who, at age 87 and still as sharp as ever, must see an eyeful of history when he looks out at the mess things have become in the Beltway.  And yet he picks up his briefcase every day and heads out to fight for what his idea of justice has always been, and for a reading of the laws and the precedents which includes, rather than excludes, much of America, not just her chosen few.

When I get to that age, I want to be able to say the same thing about myself — and I want my child to see the inclusive America in her lifetime.  Have we reached a tipping point in American politics?  I sure hope so.  CQ seems to think we have — but it won’t get here without a helluva lot of work.  And there is much to do between now and November 2008.  So I ask you, what issues are motivating your actions this year?  What gets you into the political fray to do the necessary work?  Where do you want to see this nation go from here? 

And, most importantly, what steps are you taking to make that happen?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com