There’s a famous line from the TV show M*A*S*H in which Frank Burns says something like, “I think it is okay if we are all have different opinions just as long as we think alike.” This is the conservative movement. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the give-and-take that makes us different from conservatives. We’ve actively argued over withdrawal versus escalation in Afghanistan. We have actively argued over the size of the stimulus and how to use the funding. Many of us wanted to help homeowners that were underwater and others thought a huge investment in infrastructure was the best use of our money. We fought over health-care reform. We agreed that we did not get an opportunity to talk honestly about single-payer, but what about the public option? Some of us wanted to actively oppose any health-care bill without a public option. Others thought that something was better than nothing.
So today, President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Let the fighting begin. Discussion is healthy. We didn’t have this type of discussion over Sonia Sotomayor because she was such a perfect nominee. Solicitor General Kagan has never been a judge. We don’t know her opinions on the important progressive questions of the day — what does she feel about executive power? Does the president have the power to label an American citizen an enemy combatant and hold that person without trial indefinitely? What is her feeling on Roe versus Wade? What about illegal wiretaps? We do not have any significant record of her thoughts on these or other important matters that are going to come before the Supreme Court. Glenn Greenwald, progressive blogger, has argued against the unknown. He believes that she’s a terrible nominee because there are so many unknowns. Others have argued that Barack Obama really has not led us too far off the path. Let’s see how she answers questions in the Senate hearings and then pass judgment. Who’s right?
Personally, the former Dean of Harvard Law School doesn’t do much for me. I was looking for the President to nominate someone who is so liberal that it would shake up the Senate. I really would like somebody on the Supreme Court to balance out the craziness of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. I wanted to see Senator Jeff Sessions grab his heart like Fred Sanford because the Supreme Court nominee was that liberal. Of course, this is my twisted pipedream. In reality, I know that it is in Barack Obama’s DNA to compromise. He will avoid confrontation if possible. Therefore, I knew that he was going to nominate someone who is fairly middle-of-the-road. Kagan is in the middle. (I was looking toward Judge Sears or Wood.)
Let’s continue the discussion. I don’t have any more insight into Elena Kagan than anyone else. I like the discussion. I think it is healthy. I know it is healthy. It shows the diversity of our progressive movement. I continue to look forward to our discussions on financial reform and immigration reform. Damn it, this is what democracy is about. It isn’t about a few guys in the back room deciding what the talking points for the whole movement should be. It’s about throwing ideas back and forth. It is about us being open-minded enough to begin to coalesce around a single idea or concept and then push our politicians in the right direction.