Democrats Go Nuclear on Values

Republicans May Spend Political Capital to Blow Up the Senate Filibuster, But Dems Will Implode for Free

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With its thousands of churchgoers in the pews and on the phone to Washington, the Christian right has opened the door for a return to a code of moral values that will suit them better than this plain old secular constitutional thing. Ditching the Senate filibuster and installing Bush's court appointees en masse—the aim of "Justice Sunday," yesterday's mega-media event —may be the least of it.

So far, the Democrats in Congress have held firm against attempts to curb the filibuster, which has often been the Senate minority's only means to stave off the proposals it finds most objectionable. The majority party, whether Republican or Democrat, has always had the ability to suspend the right to tie up debate, but the consequences of throwing out such a key legislative mechanism have been viewed as too dire. After all, you never know when you might need it yourself, or how much quotidian retribution you'd face from aggrieved colleagues across the aisle.

But with this new breed of Republican Party in charge of both chambers of Congress and the White House, the consequences appear to have diminished. And the numbers are simply not on the Democrats' side.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell says the Republicans now have the votes to bring on the “nuclear option.”

”I never announce my whip count,” McConnell told reporters. “But I'm telling you there's no doubt in my mind—and I am a pretty good counter of votes—that we have the votes we need.” A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid questioned McConnell's count.

The news, especially for liberal Democrats, only gets worse. A new study by the Progressive Policy Institute—an arm of the right-centrist Democratic Leadership Council, long dominated by the Clinton wing—warns the party to get serious about recognizing parents' concerns about “irresponsible marketeers of violence and sleaze to young kids.”

The study is another indication Dems have concluded they can't just fight the Republican cultural-issues juggernaut by shifting to a discussion of economic woes, but must deal head on with questions about reproductive freedom and gay rights. Hillary Clinton already has taken the lead by rallying “people of good faith to find common ground” on abortion. She has complimented religious organizations for their abstinence campaigns, arguing that what keeps young women from having sex are their moral and religious convictions.

Recently Howard Dean, the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, and a politician the DLC tried to villify as a far out lefty, also has taken up culture issues in his tours through the Red State South, where he has been quoting the Bible. “We need to kick the money changers out of the temple and restore moral values to America,” he said in a speech last week in Florida.

By the midterm elections of 2006, lefty Dems may well be asking whose party this is.

 
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