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September 21, 2005

When Pro-Choice Republicans Go Bad

Not to reopen the old NARAL debate or anything, but after endorsing Lincoln Chafee to prove they'd stand by Republicans who support choice, watching him gladly shout "aye!" for John Roberts must be a real kick in the pants.

I've said it before, but the basic reason not to endorse Republicans is that, right now, given party discipline and the agenda set by the Republican leadership, there is no such thing as a pro-choice Republican. What they believe is almost as meaningless as what they say. The Republican party is best viewed not as a collection of individuals but as a coherent, unified organism that quiets offending sections and moves in the direction that important constituencies demand. Republican moderates, chimerical creatures that they are, talk a good game and vote right when it doesn't count, but when the chips are down, the only way to distinguish them from Santorum is a Bush/Putin-style soul gaze. Chafee's behavior here should be example #1: In the area that most matters on choice, Chafee just voted for a Chief Justice who will, in all likelihood, work to overturn or radically constrain Roe. As Scott puts it:

It's the same lesson as Pataki vetoing over-the-counter Plan B as the opening salvo in one of the most pathetically futile presidential campaigns in living memory--in the current context, there is functionally no such thing as a pro-choice Republican. There's always some reason for them to roll over for the party leadership, and the pressure required seems to get less and less. This was not always true historically, but it's the case now. I'm not saying pro-choice groups should be mere appendages of the Democratic Party either, but they really need to adapt to this reality.

NARAL should pull their endorsement. Actually, take that one step farther: NARAL should pull their endorsement and work like like hell to defeat Chafee. If it was important for them to prove they'd reward friends, it's orders of magnitude more crucial to show they'll steamroll those who betray them.

Roberts was going to pass with or without Chafee's support. The senator could've taken the moment to make a public, if futile, stand on behalf of choice. He didn't. And if he failed when the stakes were low, how quickly will he cave when the stales are high?

NARAL screwed up. Time to fix it.

September 21, 2005 in Electoral Politics | Permalink

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» Chafee will vote for Judge Roberts. NARAL bummed, confused. from The Passenger
Well, NARAL didn't feel like waiting to better leverage their Rhode Island Senate endorsement (and advocate for their issue, which presumably is what their dues-paying members care about). Now they are reaping what they sowed, which seems like more con... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 21, 2005 5:39:47 PM

» Chafee will vote for Judge Roberts. NARAL bummed, confused. from The Passenger
Well, NARAL didn't feel like waiting to better leverage their Rhode Island Senate endorsement (and advocate for their issue, which presumably is what their dues-paying members care about). Now they are reaping what they sowed, which seems like more con... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 21, 2005 6:00:47 PM

» Sen. Leahy to back Roberts as chief justice from Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he would vote for Ju [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 21, 2005 7:42:04 PM

» athenae chimes in… from Upper Left
…on a point raised by Ezra. With some of the 'vote the person, not the party' types all aflutter because some Republican Senators have gone ahead and supported the Republican nominated for Chief Justice by a Republican president, she makes the obviou... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 24, 2005 9:51:45 PM

» athenae chimes in… from Upper Left
…on a point raised by Ezra. With some of the 'vote the person, not the party' types all aflutter because some Republican Senators have gone ahead and supported the Republican nominated for Chief Justice by a Republican president, she makes the obviou... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 24, 2005 9:53:53 PM

Comments

So did Pat Leahy... But hey, weren't you the one saying Roberts was as good as we're going to get and there was nothing stopping him from getting confirmed anyway?

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Sep 21, 2005 2:31:35 PM

Yeah, I think Ezra's advice should be applied after Chafee votes for the next anti-choice Bush nominee.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Sep 21, 2005 2:35:11 PM

Indeed, and so will quite a few Democrats. But the bottom line is that Leahy votes for Reid as majority leader, and Reid (who'll vote against Roberts despite being personally opposed to choice), and the caucus, would do a hell of a lot more to protect the right to choose and force answers from Roberts than the current, Frist-led Senate.

Beyond that, don't you think that Chafee, having been given a rare, cross-aisle endorsement by NARAL, might owe the group just a little something? Or can he just vote for Frist, Roberts, and keep the entire antichoice Republican machine afloat but be supported because, deep down inside, he doesn't want to abrogate choice? Seems NARAL might want their endorsement to be worth a bit more than that. I'm not saying they should back Leahy, but they sure as shit shouldn't back Chafee.

As for my opinion on Roberts, he is the best we're going to get. Which is exactly why we need to unify and defeat Republican senators to take back the chamber. He's the best we're going to get because folks like Chafee vote for Frist (and because Bush is in office), not because he's the only candidate the country's legal community has to offer. If Democrats controlled the Senate or the presidency, I'm quite sure we'd get better.

Posted by: Ezra | Sep 21, 2005 2:48:09 PM

there is no such thing as a pro-choice Republican. (italics in original)

There is no such thing as a moderate Republican, anymore.

There is no such thing as a economic-conservative Republican, anymore.

There is no such thing as a national defense Republican, anymore.

All that is left is TheoCons, NeoCons, and PaleoCons (oft called wingnuts).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Sep 21, 2005 2:52:00 PM

Ezra -- So it sounds like we're just right back to the old debate (i.e., about majority leaders), and Roberts' confirmation didn't change anything after all. If NARAL wants symbolic-but-futile stands in exchange for an endorsement, well, that's theirs to demand, but I wouldn't think they were extra-wrong for shrugging it off.

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Sep 21, 2005 2:59:50 PM

And, on my side of the debate, they're extra, extra wrong, but so it goes ;).

Posted by: Ezra | Sep 21, 2005 3:04:01 PM

But the question is--what is NARAL getting, exactly? Do you think Chafee is *more* likely to go against his party's leadership of the nomination is in doubt?

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Sep 21, 2005 3:04:28 PM

First off all, I strongly doubt that Roberts will overturn Roe v. Wade. If I were Bush (or Rove depending on who you think runs things) and I was insterested in a continueing Republican majority, the first thing I would want to do is ensure that Roe v. Wade was never overturned.

Beyond that though, many, even many pro-choice Liberals that I have talked to think that Roe v. Wade was a poor legal decision and has hurt, rather than helped the pro-choice movement. Fundamentally, the abortion question is a issue that is probably better settled by the legislatures than by the judiciary.

Lastly though, is and should abortion be the single lens that we view the Supreme Court through? If you agree with a judge on pretty much everything else, should you vote against him on abortion? If you disagree with a judge about pretty much everything else, should you vote for him (or her) is you agree with them on abortion?

Abortion is a very small part of what a Supreme Court judge will be doing, and I don't think should be the sole lens we look at.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 21, 2005 4:10:21 PM

Dave, abortion is *the* issue for Democrats. I have heard nothing else since O'Conner's announcement.

abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 21, 2005 4:45:59 PM

Brad, I don't think NARAL should be endorsing any senator who votes to confirm Roberts, not after their very public ad campaign against him. They took a strong stand against him -- as they should -- so what's the point of endorsing anyone who won't stand with them on their top issues? They can't very well say, "John Roberts is a dangerous rightwing extremist who has no problem aligning himself with groups like Operation Rescue" and then say, "Oh, this guy who voted for Roberts? We think he's just peachy."

It is, of course, especially bad if NARAL endorses someone who both voted for Roberts and is a member of the party that nominated him in the first place, for all the reasons Ezra enumerated.

Posted by: Thad | Sep 21, 2005 5:10:41 PM

Fred: So you haven't heard Ezra's numerous posts of "forget abortion, Roberts is all about helping Big Business"?

I mean if all you really do is read the comments and trolls without even looking at the Original Posts, you really should be banned.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Sep 21, 2005 5:13:00 PM

Dave: "First off all, I strongly doubt that Roberts will overturn Roe v. Wade. If I were Bush (or Rove depending on who you think runs things) and I was insterested in a continueing Republican majority, the first thing I would want to do is ensure that Roe v. Wade was never overturned."

Because Republicans are total idiots apparently, or what? Yes if I were Top Evil Republican Adviser I'd like that abortion stays on the books so they can run against it every year without ever having it leave the stage as an issue. It's really fortunate that way that Bush didn't have to nominate justices before 2004. But that doesn't mean now that he CAN change Roe v Wade, he can secretly forget to and then keep running on it.

I honestly don't know about what Roberts will do, or what's in the Republicans best interests. If Roberts (and O'Connor's replacement) votes to uphold Roe before 2006, the backlash will be huge. If they manage to strike Roe down, well pure chaos will be unleashed in a form that is probably not as friendly to conservatives as the current atmosphere. For Republicans, it is bad either way.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Sep 21, 2005 5:16:44 PM

Forget NARAL (they will probably decide based on O'Connor's replacement I guess), what's on Chaffee's mind? Why did he even vote for Roberts? Is Republican pressure that strong just to keep the appearance of party unity when it doesn't even matter?

Shrug, a year from now I think Langevin will be dust, people will have calmed down, and NARAL will act more rationally. I think they were just really upset at Langevin and Casey at the moment in time.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Sep 21, 2005 5:21:22 PM

Tony,

The chances that a case will be brought that would let the judges vote against Roe v. Wade in the next four years, let alone 2 years is very very slim.

More likley is something like the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. The court could affirm it, but that wouldn't affect Roe v. Wade at all.

I did find it interesting to see Democratic Senators arguing for the Court to respect them on not overturn laws based on the Commerce clause, and at the same time pretty much demanding that the Court not have deference to legislative bodies when it comes to abortion.

While I think that sometimes a court should defer to congress, and other times it needs to defend our fundamental rights from congress, the idea that this should be based on pet issues rather than fundamental legal doctrine seems strange.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 21, 2005 5:38:41 PM

The more Democrats vote for Roberts, the more cover Chafee has for consistently supporting conservative judicial nominees. After all, if Dems like Pat Leahy voted to confirm Roberts, too, how bad could he be?

According to that Projo article, Jack Reed is saying he's not sure if he'll vote against Roberts. This ambiguity is foolish: as a matter of simple politics, Reed ought to be trying to draw distinctions between Chafee and the Democrats for Rhode Islanders: Chafee will vote to confirm judges that don't represent your interests, while Democrats will make sure justices on the highest court protect your rights. To their credit, Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse - the Dems running against Chafee - have come out against Roberts, but they still don't have anywhere near the name recognition that Reed has in RI.

It's outrageous that Chafee should be able to screw over Rhode Island's pro-choicers and still get pro-choice credibility; by voting for Roberts, Democrats give him as much pro-choice cover as NARAL does.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Sep 21, 2005 6:20:56 PM

I think they were just really upset at Langevin and Casey at the moment in time.

But Tony, NARAL endorsed Chafee after Langevin had already dropped out of the race.

I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but almost nobody seems to remember this (to my mind) crucial point. NARAL forced the anti-choice Langevin out of the race -- which is good, bully for them, yay NARAL for forcing him out -- but then, after they'd already played hardball and won, they went ahead and endorsed Chafee anyway. That is why people who normally support NARAL, like me, are upset with them here. I want NARAL to be effective, I want them to play hardball, but lately they just can't get their act together.

If it had been Chafee vs. Langevin, I would have absolutely no problem with NARAL endorsing Chafee. But Langevin dropped out before NARAL endorsed anyone, and now NARAL looks extremely foolish by prematurely endorsing Chafee against two pro-choice Dems, both of whom are strongly opposed to Roberts.

Posted by: Thad | Sep 21, 2005 6:46:50 PM

I also agree with Iron Lungfish -- nominally pro-choice, liberal Dems like Leahy voting for Roberts doesn't help. But it's not like Leahy faces a GOP opponent who would have voted against Roberts, nor is he a member of the party that nominated Roberts in the first place -- those are the distinctions Brad is failing to make here.

Posted by: Thad | Sep 21, 2005 6:51:10 PM

Rehnquist was an anti-Roe vote, Roberts will probably be as well (although I could see him more as a Kennedy-style "support restrictions, but don't go all the way to overturning" kind of justice, too). I just don't see why this is a huge deal. The thing to watch for is who is nominated to replace O'Connor.

Posted by: John | Sep 21, 2005 8:19:17 PM

But Tony, NARAL endorsed Chafee after Langevin had already dropped out of the race.

This is true, and what's more, by all accounts, it was NARAL's pressure that got Langevin to drop out of the race in the first place. They'd already accomplished what they needed to accomplish, and what's more, Matt Brown was already in the race and Whitehouse was on the way by the time they endorsed Chafee. They knew about Chafee's stance on nominations, they knew he was under considerable pressure from the right, they knew there was a better-than-even chance he'd end up facing a right-wing challenger like Laffey who'll push him to make some token conservative moves. What was the point, other than a spiteful way to snub the Democrats?

It made no sense and gained them nothing. It's not like they can just take their endorsement back, because that just tarnishes the value of an endorsement (what's the point if the endorser can just take it back?). They're stuck with Chafee now, and he can vote however he wants up until election day. It has to fall to Democrats to define him as anti-choice - but that requires Democrats to act as an organized party, and they've a piss-poor record in that department.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Sep 21, 2005 8:43:15 PM

Thad: because they're still upset, about him, and Casey, and lots of general "maybe we should ditch pro-choice rhetoric". By calm down I didn't mean for Langevin to go away, I meant for him to be forgotten.

Also, I must repeat the OP point: it doesn't matter whether Democrats say Roberts is acceptable (by their votes), what matters is NARAL saying Roberts is unacceptable, which they have (to a silly degree, many think).

Sigh, one of the reasons playing constitutional politics with abortion has been so problematic is because it leaves Democrats no room to negotiate. NARAL and like-minded feminists hear pundits and Senators say "it should be up to the legislature" and just think they want to sell them out altogether. But really the problem is there's almost no way for Democrats to propose a compromise on abortion (trimesters, funding, etc) without first just putting extremist justices on the court.

It's interesting that you think there won't be a case before the court in two years time. I'd think as soon as O'Connor announced, the True Belivers in the party would be setting up trial-cases, quick laws in state legislatures, and as you mentioned a partial birth ban. I honestly don't know. My only point is that while it may be to the GOP advantage to not have abortion overturned (which has explained their partial birth bills for the past 10 years as I wrote here), that doesn't mean they can pass up the obvious opportunity and hope no one notices.

Posted by: Tony | Sep 21, 2005 9:32:24 PM

Brad, I don't think NARAL should be endorsing any senator who votes to confirm Roberts, not after their very public ad campaign against him. They took a strong stand against him -- as they should -- so what's the point of endorsing anyone who won't stand with them on their top issues? They can't very well say, "John Roberts is a dangerous rightwing extremist who has no problem aligning himself with groups like Operation Rescue" and then say, "Oh, this guy who voted for Roberts? We think he's just peachy."

I think this is exactly right.

And I don't think they should endorse Leahy either though. Not that they should get involved in his election(when is Leahy up for re-election anyway?), because his opponent won't be better. they should just stay out of it. Cause Leahy will probably get re-elected regardless of what NARAL does. But Chafee, at this point, they're obliged to try to make an example of, and maybe a few others, whether it means getting involved in some primaries or what. If you're not playing hardball, you're not playing politics.

Posted by: Jedmunds | Sep 21, 2005 9:37:59 PM

Fred: So you haven't heard Ezra's numerous posts of "forget abortion, Roberts is all about helping Big Business"?

Ezra is just doing the 'dance'. There is little evidence for his assertions. As for you, try to keep your fat head in place....K?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 22, 2005 9:05:34 AM

It's really interesting that not a single woman (until now) has commented on this thread. (Unless Iron Lungfish is a woman, in which case, apologies, ILF.)

It's really weird - of all the Roe discussions I've seen going on at blogs lately, they quite often seem to be either all men or all women.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Sep 22, 2005 10:32:32 AM

If you are this upset at a Republican (actually RINO) voting to confirm a conservative judge, what do you think about Leahy? Or the 15 or 20 Dems who are going to vote to confirm him?

There are prominant pro-abortion Republicans, they are allowed to speak at Republican conventions, etc. I didn't see any pro-life Dems speaking at the Democratic convention. Harry Reid says he is pro-life but I am sure he would vote to uphold the side of Roe if a proposed law on abortion came in front of him. He was a bone the Dems threw to the sane faction of the Democratic party when they realized the country is moving to the right.

Maybe Chafee is just sick of liberal judicial activism and maybe he realizes a right to an abortion is not in the constitution.

Someone earlier mention voting for or against someone based on one issue(that is not national security). I like to smoke pot, but I sure as hell wouldn't vote to put this country's national security, economic security, or religious expression rights in the hands of the Democrats just cuz they are more sympathetic to the dope smoking population.

Which party is more tolerant of dissenting views?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Sep 22, 2005 11:36:50 AM

Abortion is a very small part of what a Supreme Court judge will be doing, and I don't think should be the sole lens we look at.

There are other reasons for Dems to vote against Roberts and they've all been pointed out in this blog before. Such things as worker protections, wages, yada yada. Naturally this post is on a subset of the issues, one that has to do with NARAL and Chaffee in particular.

Posted by: Adrock | Sep 22, 2005 1:25:23 PM

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