A complaint occasionally heard in some undergraduate circles is
that students are apathetic about politics and are not sufficiently
engaged in national and global issues. To some extent, I believe
the filibuster outside of Frist Campus Center addresses that concern.
I must commend the organizers and participants for their spirit
and organizational skill. They did a very effective job of drawing
attention to an issue.
What concerns me, however, is the issue they chose to discuss
and message they articulated in doing so. The filibuster outside
the Frist Campus Center was largely an exercise in negativism and
When Hardball reported on the filibuster, many of the
people who supported it chanted “FILIBUSTER” over and
over again. That’s certainly a strange word to chant, given
that it refers to time-consuming talk to obstruct the proceedings
of the Senate.
Other things heard at the filibuster include rants about Halliburton,
a subject that has nothing to do with the Senate or the filibuster.
It is simply an old standby for the Bush administration’s
The people leading the filibuster have made it clear what they
are against – almost anything the Bush administration is for.
Their antipathy for the president and his associates is clear. I
think they could do a lot more for their own cause and for the intellectual
discourse on campus if they told us what they were for. Likewise,
Democrats in Washington should spend more time articulating their
beliefs, rather than obstructing and filibustering.
Last fall, a large number of students campaigned for the two major
presidential candidates. Judging from what was said at the filibuster,
at least one side is still fighting that election.
The 2004 election is over. President Bush was re-elected and hast
the responsibility to appoint judges to the federal bench. A Senate
was elected that has the responsibility to give advice and consent
with respect to judicial nominees. A majority of the Senate that
was elected supports the nominees in question.
In response to these outcomes, a minority of senators has broken
with Senate precedent and filibustered judicial nominations. Never
before have nominees with the support of a majority of senators
By filibustering these nominees, a minority of senators has prevented
the Senate from carrying out its Constitutional duties. The Constitution
clearly states that the standard for confirming judicial nominees
is a simple majority.
This issue is about fairness. Are these nominees going to be given
the up-or-down vote that nominees have been given for centuries?
The seven people whose nominations have been filibustered deserve
an up-or-down vote.
The nominees in question are excellent candidates for the positions
to which they have been appointed. The ABA has rated all of them
as qualified or well-qualified. Seventy-six percent of Californians
voted to keep Janice Rogers Brown, one of the nominees, on the California
Supreme Court. Another nominee, Priscilla Owen, has twice been elected
to the Texas Supreme Court by an overwhelming margin.
This issue is also about justice for litigants in this country.
Vacancies at the appellate level have led to long delays in resolving
disputes. Too often, justice delayed is justice denied. The Judicial
Conference of the United States has classified a number of the vacancies
that are unfilled due to the filibusters as judicial emergencies.
Sen. Bill Frist ’74’s proposal to restore Senate precedent
and end these filibusters is the right thing for the people concerned;
it is the right thing for the judiciary; and it is the right thing
for the country. It would also leave the legislative filibuster
The American people want progress, not obstruction. Obstruction
is what Washington Democrats are engaged in, and obstruction is
what the organizers of the filibuster at Princeton have endorsed.
The American people do not want the partisanship on display in
Washington. Nor should we want the partisanship that was on display
at the filibuster outside of Frist.
Although this filibuster can be construed as a sign of a vigorous
intellectual environment on campus, it falls short. Rather than
read poetry in defense of a new interpretation of Senate Rule XXII,
let’s have a serious discussion of the issues that matter
to Americans all across the country – issues like national
security and economic policy.
As much as the prospect of a change in Senate rules may excite
left-wing interest groups like the Center for American Progress
and their campus affiliates, the issue has not captured the imagination
of most Americans. This is not the time for gridlock and partisanship.
It is time to restore the long-standing precedent of the Senate,
end the filibusters, and act on the issues Americans sent their
representatives to Washington to consider.
Likewise, now that the Frist filibuster is winding down, I’m
hopeful that the organizers and their supporters will put down their
microphone, fold up their tent, and have a real debate.
Dylan Hogarty ’06 is president of the Princeton chapter
of College Republicans.