Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor's retirement is an opportunity to define the Democratic Party.

Sandra Day O'Connor is out. Absent a miracle, Bush will replace her with a lunatic. Given that defeat is more or less certain - even if the scale of defeat is not - what should the Democrats do?

They should fight like hell. And they should use that fight to define who they are. Bush's nominee will undoubtedly please the anti-worker, anti-consumer wing of the Republican Party; at the Huffington Post, David Sirota notes that

a group of sweaty, cigar-smoking executives and lobbyists are right now sitting around a mahogany conference table somewhere on K Street rubbing their greasy palms together and plotting how to make sure that just the right corporate hack will replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

And the nominee will probably please the anti-equality, anti-privacy wing, too; as John at AMERICABlog notes, their favorite loser, Bork, has launched an attack on O'Connor: "the right wing needs to discredit O'Connor so they can convince America we need someone even farther to the right."

So, in a sense, the nominee should be the perfect enemy: an unknown, undefined candidate; a candidate who believes that corporations need more liberty, but everyday Americans need less; a candidate that every Democrat can oppose, and in doing so, define themselves by contrast: pro-worker, pro-consumer, pro-equality, pro-privacy.

The contrast is critical. According to Democratic Pollster Stan Greenberg, the public believes that the Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view" and not without reason. (In some ways, I think the well-intentioned effort to find a tolerable conservative underscores this view.) If Democrats are to prevail over Republicans in 2006 and beyond, they must change that view. Why not use this high-profile, high-concept fight to show America what Democrats stand for?

If they do, Democrats not be able to "Bork" the nominee, but they can "Thomas" him: render his confirmation an outrage, then use the outrage to win in 2006, much as dozens of women candidates used the outrage over the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to win election to Congress in 1992.

Put simply, the Democrats may not be able to win this fight, but they can render it a pyrrhic victory for Republicans: a Republican Supreme Court Justice now, a "Year of the Democrat" tomorrow.