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In case you hadn't noticed the United States is in the middle of full-blown constitutional crisis. We have a president and vice-president with designs on disabling every check and balance intended by our founders, and who are currently attempting to install the deciding vote to enable that on the Supreme Court. The character you display in the next few days will determine the course of your political career for the rest of your life. Ponder deep what you are made of, for you will be tested and marked in the process by your courage (or your lack of it) in the minds of your constituents in the most indelible way.
The Chinese word for crisis is a combination of the character for danger and the character for opportunity. The danger is all too real. The president has already brazenly declared that he considers himself unbound by any law that the people may pass through you, their Congress. Even the laws he signs himself he signs with qualifying statements reserving the right to ignore those laws. And Samuel Alito himself is one of the primary architects of the so-called "unitary executive" initiative, just a fancy new name for dictatorship. There is no doubt in your mind that Alito WOULD decisively turn the Supreme Court to the dark side for at least a generation.
The opportunity for you is that by your display of leadership you can become a frontrunner for the nomination for president of the United States in every election to come. Historically, virtually all elected presidents were first either members of Congress, governors or top military generals, with senators heavily represented. And there is a growing and overwhelming majority in America today who are crying out for leadership. They are pleading for it. They elected you on the promise you would provide the leadership to protect them and their hard won rights. There will be eternal gratitude for those who display this leadership, and no possible redemption for those who do not.
We have heard some senators of late complain that they have no power, perhaps pointing to the way the current congressional majority has bullied members of the house. But there is one power that you still retain if only you will exercise it, the power of a filibuster. It is not enough to vote "No" on Alito or to express your "strong opposition." You have the unilateral power to stop him and stop him cold. Some have looked for the support of undependable moderates on the other side. You don't need them. This is your fight, and your responsibility. TAKE THAT RESPONSIBILITY.
For those who have ambitions to be president, there is a time for leaders to lead. This is one of those leadership moments, perhaps the most defining one you will ever experience. On the one hand you have people like Karl Rove who took time off from waiting for his own indictment long enough to spew some pejoratives at anyone who would dare challenge their Stepford nominee. Are you afraid that someone on the other side might call you an unflattering name if you take a stand now? On the other hand you have a majority of your citizens who cannot understand why their voices are not being heard by their elected representative when they tell you they will accept nothing less than a filibuster against Alito. For they fear that is the only thing that will save them. And their fears in this are most certainly well founded.
The people are especially annoyed at talk about a "fair" up or down vote. The constitution provides that it can only be amended by a super majority. Is that by definition "unfair?" So it is with the tradition of the filibuster rule, established so that a slim majority cannot simply ignore the concerns of the rest of the people. And irrespective of the current division of members of the Senate, with the president's approval rating back down to 36% he is hardly in a position to argue any kind of sweeping mandate.
Perhaps there were those who triangulated their vote on the original Iraq resolution thinking that was the safest move to preserve their presidential hopes. Wiser voices pleaded with them to not surrender their Congressional authority. Now those with too much power already are trying to bully you into abdicating your power yet again and the stakes are even larger. On the line is the faith of every generation at least since the New Deal. By your vote on an Alito filibuster you will either honor or break that faith for all time. No other vote matters.
The American people are waiting for you to say these words.
I SUPPORT A FILIBUSTER OF THE ALITO NOMINATION AND I WILL LEAD THAT FIGHT
The worst case scenario is that the other side will reap the wrath of the American people if they try to pull some nuclear option stunt. For the American people do have a sense of fairness, and if one side tries to change the rules to win one cheap victory, they will be punished in the next election. And if by their own misfortune they succeed in disrespecting and killing the filibuster tradition, neither will they have that procedure when you take back control of Congress in 2006. There is no shame in fighting whether you prevail or not. The only shame is in not fighting at all.