As I watched the final minutes of debate today before the final confirmation vote on Samuel Alito, I listened to some of the arguments presented by Senate minority leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
The thought occurred to me as I listened, “I wonder how many senators actually have their vote swayed by the comments made on the floor of the Senate?” Not being a Washington insider, I can only surmise that most decisions are made in the halls or offices of the legislators rather than in chamber.
What then is the importance of debate? Is it an opportunity for posturing, campaigning or taking shots at the opposing party? If often seems so. Now, I am aware that some of the greatest speeches in our nation’s history have occurred in this chamber, I am not denying the value of debate, it is one of the cornerstones of democracy. But as I listened to Sen. Reid, it seemed that his comments were more of a campaigning nature than they were argumentive.
He repeatedly referred to Justice Alito as one who favored government and big business over the “little guy”. He cited several cases (unfamiliar to most Americans including myself) in which Alito had ruled on the side of corporations and government. Is this always a bad thing? Should one naturally have an advantage in a lawsuit just because he is an individual facing corporate bigwigs or Uncle Sam? Or should the merits of each case be decided in the light of the law that is on the books?
A judge’s responsibility is to interpret the law. He is not to advance a personal agenda. He is not to represent the interests of a particular group of people. Having said that, judges are human, as unbiased as they try to be, their political point of view may often influence the way they interpret the law. Sen. Reid made a statement to this effect, “The American people deserve a justice who will represent their values.” He is right. That is why the American people have elected conservative executive and legislative branches of government. If the Democrats want liberal justices, they need to start winning some elections. It is the height of naivete on their part to lose the majority of elections and still hope to be able to control the governmental process.
Sen. Reid, as well as many other Democrats, repeatedly expressed concerns that to confirm Alito would cause an ideological shift to the right in the Supreme Court. I think their greatest concern is that a court that had been favoring many of their ideals for a number of years now may be leaning the other way. Only time will tell whether or not this is actually true.