04.11.10 What is Political Capital For?

Your blogger has been out of the loop the past few days, attending a fabulous nonprofit technology conference in Atlanta.  He has returned to DC exhausted and with a bad cold, so he begs his dear readers to forgive a decided lack of fecundity this week.

So the time has come to replace the Supreme Court’s most reliable good guy, John Paul Stevens.  We’re already seeing media conjecture on “safe” choices for Obama.  And I expect that right-wing Dems (and even some you and I might consider centrist) will be urging the president to make his pick based on electoral impact this fall.

I SAY NO!  It is maddening enough to see good, progressive policies get buried in the normal course of events because of a — sometimes fabricated, sometimes real — need to keep the powder dry for a bigger fight, or simply in order to hold on to a precious seat or two.  (Sometimes I even defend this approach — see my post of April 3.)

But not this time.  Control of the Supreme Court is the whole ballgame.  Look at the impact of the Citizens United case (on the bad side) or Roe vs. Wade (on the good).  The court we have is already dangerously rightist, unbalanced by purposeful ideological packing going back to Bork and Thomas.  The Democrats have rolled over each time the GOP has shoved another extremist onto the court (as they roll over nearly any time the right wing whispers “Boo!”)

Political capital must serve a purpose.  It isn’t only about winning to play centrist incrementalism another day.  OBAMA MUST STAND UP AND PICK AN AVOWED LIBERAL, AN AVOWED SUPPORTER OF REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, INDIVIDUAL (vs. corporate) RIGHTS, and SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, among many other issues. There is simply no reason to have Democrats in charge of the presidency and Congress if they are not going to play to win on their terms when the stakes are this high.

It has been very hard for progressives to love this presidency, from the complete sellout on civil liberties to national security, to the worship of bipartisanship over policy results.  Now is the moment of reckoning.

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