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Barack Obama, Senate Elections and the Supreme Court

If Senate Democrats Won’t Vote for You, Why Should You Vote for Them?

by RENEE PARSONS

As the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections are on the horizon with control of the Senate of special interest, the Democrats are on the ropes with an increasingly unpopular president – one who has squandered a golden opportunity to repair a fractured war-weary country and who no longer has the trust of the American people.

It comes as no surprise that the latest poll has deemed that the once-overly glorified Barack Obama, who has shown few real democratic (small d) bones in his body, is no longer able to lead the country – that is of course assuming he ever truly had the competence, experience or character required in the first place.

And as if that were not the worse bad news for Democrats on the eve of the mid terms, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that the majority of Americans believe Obama to be the worst president since WWII.   Edging out George W. Bush at 28% with Obama at 33%, almost half of those polled now believe the country would have been better off if Mitt Romney had been elected.

While none of this is really new news since the President’s approval rating has been sliding for the ditch since at least 2010 when Congressional Republicans trounced the President’s Democratic party on the heels of having rejected either an extension of Medicare or some sort of public health option, the truth is that Obama has richly earned such repute.

In his usual fashion of pointing the finger elsewhere, the president was reported to respond that Americans are “extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now” as if to suggest that he is entirely undeserving of public disaffection and devoid of any responsibility for his plummeting poll numbers or publicly insupportable policy decisions.

It is noteworthy that in the face of utterly disastrous polls week after week, the president , who has demonstrated less intellectual profundity than postulated in 2008, has exhibited little interest in improving his overall job performance.  We see no effort to rise to the challenge of leadership, to take a weekend at Camp David and reconsider his flawed domestic, economic and foreign policies; instead, he rushes off to a weekend of golf or to another international summit.

So what we are left with is a shallow, self-satisfied president whose adoration of the Versailles lifestyle and his wife’s designer gowns with six foot long regal trains more reminiscent of the royal courts of pre-WWI Europe, is more focused on hammering Vladimir Putin for the inexcusable  sin of stepping in (at Pope Francis’ request) and preventing a bombing campaign in Syria.

The American public, which supported Obama in two presidential campaigns in good faith that he would somehow, sometime step up to the plate, have finally seen through the façade, the shine and glitter to know that this president, who no longer has ‘consent of the governed,’ does not deserve to be president.

It is equally curious that Democratic members of Congress continue to be so utterly passive and silent in the face of widespread national rebuke with not one word of critique as if all is fine within the beltway and the rest of the country can go to hell – especially those Senators whose butts are on the line this November and are prepared to go down the tubes defending a president who deserves no defense, which tells us exactly where their loyalties lie – and it is not with their constituents.

To digress momentarily, this vignette from “Obama: From Promise to Power” by David Mendell published in 2007 before the presidential campaign of 2008, may provide needed insight into Barack Obama’s character.

In 1995, incumbent Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer was set to run for re-election until a Congressional seat opened up thus leaving her seat vacant for an up-and-coming ambitious community organizer.   At her suggestion, Obama set his sights on her State legislative seat until she realized that she had no real shot at winning the Democratic primary for Congress against Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Her supporters met with and asked Obama to step aside so Palmer could retain her seat and, as Mendell relates the story, “Obama had no interest in ditching the effort and he did not equivocate in expressing that sentiment to Palmer’s representatives.”   So to cut to the chase here, not only did Obama refuse to back-off and allow Palmer who had a reputation as a fighting progressive to retain her seat but when she filed reelection petitions, he challenged the legality of her petitions since many of her petition signatures were printed rather than script as required by law.   With time running out, Palmer withdrew from the race and refused to support Obama in the fall election stating that “I’ve discovered that he’s not as progressive as I thought.”

The point of this story is that despite his call in “The Audacity of Hope” (which incidentally avoids any reference to knocking Alice Palmer off the ballot) for “a new kind of politics’ and decrying a ‘cynicism.. nourished by a generation of broken promises,” Barack Obama not only proved the willingness of any hack politician to protect  his own political skin but has deliberately cultivated a sanctimonious image based on his own illusory version of the world.

All this is background for the upcoming election cycle when those standing for re-election would normally seek a sitting president to join them on the campaign trail.

As election day approaches and the Democrats begin to panic with the possible loss of previously held Democratic Senate seats in Iowa, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas and Colorado  (West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota are already counted in the Republican column), it can be expected that  the liberal establishment will wring their hands in dread as they point to the Supreme Court as justification to elect Democratic candidates.   The current lineup of the Senate is 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans with an increase of six Republican seats necessary to give the GOP a squeaker majority of 51 Senate seats.

The rationale, of course, is that if the Republicans control the Senate, only the most politically neanderthal Court nominees will be confirmed and that a Democratic majority is necessary to appoint the best qualified Justices – but that logic is frequently at best a mixed bag.

*   In 1986, Antonin Scalia’s nomination was approved on a 98-0 Senate vote despite Scalia’s well-known right wing views during his tenures in the Nixon and Ford Administrations and as a  US Court of Appeals Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.

*   Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991 on a controversial 52 – 48 vote including 11 Democratic votes in support despite documented charges of repeated sexual harassment.

*   In 2005, John Roberts was confirmed to become Chief Justice with a 78 – 22 vote including 22 Democrats in support.

*  In 2006, Samuel Alito was confirmed on a 58 – 42 vote with 4 Democratic votes.  Alito’s right wing politics were well known as a US Court of Appeals Judge for the Third Circuit and led to an abbreviated Democratic filibuster to block his appointment.  A cloture vote to shut off debate was adopted on a 75-25 with 19 Democrats voting against cloture.

*  President Obama’s two Supreme Count nominations, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, garnered 68 – 31 and 63- 37 votes, respectively.

As is apparent, without Democratic Senate votes of approval, neither Clarence Thomas nor Antonin Scalia would be sitting on the Supreme Court today.   Even though Scalia and Roberts coincidentally achieved approval with more than a 60 filibuster -proof vote, Alito and Thomas were confirmed without reaching the 60 vote requirement as Democrats acquiesced to the use of a parliamentary tactic that allowed the Court’s most conservative judges to be approved.  Considered a legislative form of obstructionism, both of Obama’s nominees were required to meet the 60 vote filibuster threshold.

In other words, if Senate Democrats cannot be relied on to protect democratic (small d) values, since there is a thin (if non-existent) line of difference between the R’s and the Dems on too many crucial issues and if Senate Democrats won’t fight on Supreme Court appointments, what will they fight on?  If Senate Democrats won’t vote for you, why should you vote for them?

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.