Jonah Goldberg

A second and related annoying assumption is that arguments are bad. Whether you think the Democrats were right or the Republicans were, their disagreement over judicial nominations was healthy. It informed the public about extent of judicial power today. For the first time in a generation (at least), Democrats were speaking eloquently about the glories of constitutional tradition and the need for the Senate to curb government activism. I may disagree with the substance of many of their points, but this was a grand teaching moment for the public and both parties. But nooooo, once again, the assumption was that arguments are a danger to the republic.

I'm sorry, but the Senate is a debating society. Its job is to debate and then vote on the strength of the arguments presented. Comity and collegiality are fine, but they are supposed to elevate the arguments, not obviate them.

Besides, it is far more dangerous when democracies choose not to have arguments. This is because political arguments represent conflicts of legitimate interests and legitimate perspectives. Intellectually shabby compromises by their very nature don't settle the disagreements, they merely postpone and exacerbate them.

For example, for more than a decade there's been a growing consensus that the Supreme Court's compromise on Roe vs. Wade made things worse in this country. It robbed the people of their right to settle this question democratically in their own communities. In response, the pro-life and pro-choice movements were born, and our politics have been the worse for it. Indeed, that's the great irony here. This filibuster fight itself is the bastard of Roe vs. Wade. If the Supreme Court hadn't declared that the courts were going to decide abortion and issues like it, then judicial nominations wouldn't be nearly so high-stakes for both sides.

That would have meant forcing the Senate to do what it was meant to do: have a big argument. But that's too much to hope for if it had to come at the expense of buying gas grills and soft ice cream machines for every one of Sen. Byrd's constituents.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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