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Monday, September 05, 2005

My Own Spin on Roberts - and why I will NOT be protesting

John Roberts: a failure of liberal planning

When O'Connor stepped down from the Supreme Court, I remember thinking to myself, "Now - here is a significant opportunity for the Left to prove we are paying attention. Here is a chance to prove that we are competent, strategic thinkers who can achieve something in the current political climate."

I must confess, with much regret, I was wrong.

Why should what I think matter?

I'll let you be the judge after offering up some experience for your consideration.

I was raised in an upper-middle-class, educated, conservative, Republican suburb of Dayton, Ohio in the 1970s and 1980s. Through my formative years, I was spoon-fed William Safire, George Will, and William F. Buckley Jr. Once I got out on my own, I went on to spend my days in Corporate America where I was, by nature of my job, a shill: a shill to employees, a shill to customers, a shill to the community, a shill to media, and, worst of all, a shill to my beloved conservative upbringing.

I believed in the conservatism upon which I was raised.

I believed in free markets, less government, and individual rights.

I believed in God and Country.

I believed my days spent shilling for large corporations were well spent - that I was offering a valuable free-speech service to entities that deserved to be heard for all the good those entities did their communities.

And, at age 29, I re-evaluated all those beliefs in light of what I saw happening around me. Despite being raised to believe all things conservative to be "good," AND despite all of that conservative "good" growing to fruition in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, I saw the grossest corporate abuses: unvarnished greed, racism, hatred, ego, classism, selfishness, slave-wages, people-as-property, unemployment, poverty, and (worst of all) the profound self-serving nature of the "Good, Hard-Working, Kings of Free-Market Capitalism" who created all the ills I just described.

Real world circumstances forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs.

In re-evaluating my beliefs, I concluded my beliefs were false and, gradually, grew to embrace different views and ideas. By my late 30s, I had grown very, very, very profoundly liberal - but profoundly liberal in a profoundly pragmatic sense.

What does this have to do with Roberts?

I fled a Red State before the 2004 Election. I lived in Ohio at the beginning of 2004 and, despite the cheerleading on the part of the Ohio Democratic Party, my spousal unit and I had seen the Red, Red, Red writing on the wall as early as 2000. We started looking to get out of Ohio in 2000 - but it took three years to find a place that was a proper fit for us.

We moved from Ohio on August 5, 2004 to Rochester, New York. By August 7, 2004 I was on the roster of my local, Blue-State, Move On PAC, local grass-roots Democrat action committee, and the local social-justice community action group. By that fall, I was my street rep to the neighborhood association and have now been involved with two campaigns promoting progressive candidates in my community.

I think this is a good moment to point out I did not want to leave Ohio - my home for 36 years. But I had no choice given HOW Red Ohio has become: the conservative policies Ohio's citizens and elected officials so adored (and so well represented in the Madly-Republican "Heart of Nothing at All") were having a direct, tangible, negative effect on my life. Fighting such a vast, powerful Red Tide seemed about as effective as spitting into a storm: we had to leave. Therefore, once I arrived in my new home, I wanted to ensure that that home remained as blue as possible. I made the only logical choice and immediately got involved in Rochester progressive politics.

Still, what does this have to do with Roberts?

This: who in the hell in their right mind is willing to foster the idea that the current administration will appoint a Supreme Court Chief Justice with the SLIGHTEST hint of progressiveness in past and in policy? What sort of fool could imagine that this administration, given their collective behavior over the last five years, would be any different today? Who in their right mind is still willing to embrace the delusion the current administration has any concern for anyone but their own - and by their own, the most RABID of their own? Who on earth still thinks that protesting in the streets against these people will matter worth a damn, given the Republican Party has The White House, The House, The Senate, and over two-thirds of the States?

When O'Connor stepped down from the Supreme Court, I contacted Ed, My MoveOn PAC leader, and said, "Ed! Ed! This is a GREAT opportunity! We have a chance to pool our resources with other Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives across the nation and take advantage the ONE strength this administration offers us!"

Ed responded, "Okay - tell me more."

I explained how, given this administration, the House, the Senate and the States, the only chance we have is finding a serious Conservative - a True Conservative's Conservative, no less - who has a strong, stable, to-the-very-bone-marrow-and-bloodstream STATE'S RIGHTS RECORD. The State's Rights faction among the conservatives is the only chance we progressives have of succeeding - we must take advantage of it.

Ed paused a moment and thought. I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, "Wow - that is a really good idea! That way, if Roe v. Wade, or Environmental Laws, or Labor and Wage laws are either reinterpreted or overturned, at least the Blue States get the protections they need to remain Blue . . . and, in the long term, the Red States eventually get to reap the rewards of the horror they have sown!"

I know I smiled when I responded, "EXACTLY!!!"

So, we wrote MoveOn.

We were told, "Post your idea on the message board!"

We posted on the message board. The post disappeared.

We wrote MoveOn again and asked if they would please consider what we were proposing. We were again told about the message board, so we tried a different tactic.

We brought the issue up at local discussions.

Nobody wanted to listen.

We bounced our idea around the nation using other people we know. Ironically, the people we know LOVED the idea - but when they tried to promote the idea, they had similar responses across places like Colorado, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and California.

Which leads me to Roberts and why my rant is relevant. What does everything I have shared have to do with Roberts?

There were, in sum, a goodly number of liberals who noticed O'Connor's leaving needed to be met with strategic planning. That goodly number of liberals went to the appropriate people with a plan in-hand asking for help and offering a way-out of this mess . . . only to be turned aside or ignored because someone decided that, with this administration, an all-or-nothing approach was going to work to obtain a progressive Supreme Court nominee.

Well, to those of you who ignored us: I hope you are happy because - this Roberts nomination? This nomination is exactly why we said, "Yo! Hey! Fearless leaders! Consider this option we propose and do something now BEFORE we get screwed!"

Speaking for the lot of us on the Left who embraced the "find a strong Conservative with an airtight, steely-eyed State's Rights background" bandwagon, I want to sincerely thank those who ignored us and sat around with their wee-bits in their hands: you helped make this day possible.

And given I can't speak for those Ed and I approached (and subsequently convinced to approach others) because each person has their own story on that issue, I will say this for myself: you who are screaming for protests and letters to oppose Roberts get no empathy from me, given, once again, you folks failed to plan and subsequently blew it - and blew it big.

I am proud to be a liberal today. And let me add I am no "Moderate Liberal." I'm a Liberal's Liberal: I'd like to revive the ERA Amendment; enforce Separation of Church and State; support full-on gay marriage; want to return to a progressive, tiered tax structure; support federal hate crime legislation . . . .

I am, however, also a pragmatist - and being a pragmatist means understanding (1) when we have a reasonable chance of winning and going for "all" versus (2) when we have a reasonable chance of losing, subsequently defending what we have. Given Ed and I rallied a very large number of people behind this idea in a short period of time, I know we're not the only Very, Very Liberal pragmatists out there.

Where are they in our leadership?

Roberts will likely get confirmed without much difficulty. So will the next Justice. And until the Liberal side starts thinking with an eye to reality, I will be staying at home with my protest sign.


Special thanks to:

Ms. J, for making sure I had no horrible grammar errors!

Ed, for his input and leadership.