Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Spoiling For A Fight

So John Roberts is the nominee, and now the circus begins. I don't know as much about the man as I'd like (although I saw him speak here a few months ago and was very impressed), but I'm disappointed by the knee-jerk reactions of liberal groups. The Kossacks are predictably upset, MoveOn has already started a mail-in campaign to reject him. I got an email for Human Rights Campaign to tell me that Roberts' nomination puts our rights in "grave danger." Much of the criticism apparently focuses on things Roberts did as an attorney in private practice and in the Solicitor General's office. I'm pretty sure Deputy Solicitor Generals don't make policy, and it seems to me that I once knew an attorney who defended a large corporation in a mass toxic tort case, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't a corporate shill.

The question that keeps coming to me is: who would you rather have? Who do these people expect will be nominated if Roberts is rejected? Roberts is obviously a very smart and talented man, and he doesn't strike me as an ideologue. Yes, he is a conservative, but this is a Republican administration. Was anyone expecting a liberal? Is this just a fight for the sake of fighting?

I have been very excited by the rise of a populist liberal movement on the internet, and to some extent I still am. But lately I'm beginning to wonder if it is possible for a populist movement to be sustained without devolving into partisan extremism. I can hardly read Kos anymore without wanting to throw things at my computer. It seems everything is a conspiracy, and everyone is out to get them. I don't begrudge far-left die-hards their right to have an online community, but is there any liberal community left that isn't dedicated to this level of pointless partisan bickering? Maybe there's one out there that I just haven't discovered yet. But it seems that the liberal populist movement is increasingly mirroring the conservative populist movement, and that both seem to be subject to a strong drift towards partisan extremism. It may be that this is an inevitable result of Sunstinian group-reinforcement.

I guess I should note that I haven't gone establishment. I'm still as anti-establishment as the next guy. But my problem with the establishment has never been that it isn't liberal enough; it's that it's too fake, too staged, too deeply engaged in politicking without enough consideration for the policy that is supposed to result from politics. It seems to me that this is exactly the problem that comes from the knee-jerk response against John Roberts. I don't see any consideration of what comes from winning (i.e. how would the next nominee be better than Roberts), there's just a strong desire to beat the other side. It's not a results-based response, it's purely political. It signals an approach that will never be interested compromise or in building common ground across political boundaries. That's disappointing. It's important to fight when there's need for it (say, plans for an ill-advised war), but that doesn't mean you have to fight all the time about everything.

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