The Right Coast

January 30, 2006
Its About Winning Elections, Stupid
By Mike Rappaport

The liberals are starting to get it. Its about winning elections. Jack Balkin writes:

If you don't like what the Supreme Court is doing today, you or your parents shouldn't have voted for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. And if you want more moderate Republican appointees to the federal courts, you or your parents should have returned more Democrats to the Senate. Sure there can be variations at the margin, but you have to look at the larger structural features that have help shape the current situation. When you have a Republican President and 55 Republican votes in the Senate, you should pretty much expect appointments like John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Republicans didn't get this for a while either, and some still don't. Robert Bork lost for many reasons but the most important was the Republicans did not have the Senate. In individual cases, sometimes you get lucky (Bush with Thomas) and sometimes unlucky (Bush with Souter) but overall the average of Thomas and Souter is not that far from what you would expect George H. W. Bush to produce with a Democrat Senate.

While Balkin gets this, it is too easy for him simply to say that independents or Democrats should not have voted for the Republicans. Democrats also have to ask about the political costs of their policies. To paraphrase Balkin, if you don't like what the Supreme Court is doing today, you or your parents should have thought twice about taking positions that seem irresponsible to the American people -- like appearing soft on crime, soft on terror, and soft on welfare. Of course, one might prefer to be pure and on the losing side, but then it is hard to complain about the results of how government policy turns out.

No one who feels strongly about political issues wants to compromise -- I certainly don't -- but compromise is what is often required. Whatever else one says about Bill Clinton, he understood that (at least after the wake up call of the Republican Revolution produced by Hillarycare).