A voice for the voiceless

Oscar Chicas

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Wednesday his intention to vote against the confirmation of John Roberts for chief justice of the Supreme Court. Surely this leaves him, as well as the party he leads, open and vulnerable to attack from the Republicans for being out of touch with mainstream American values and, simply, sore losers.

Of course the Republicans, should they take that road, would be counting on the short attention spans of contemporary Americans and assume they would be swayed by their first impressions, instead of taking a close look and seeing the value of Reid’s stance in the light of inevitability.

Put another way: John Roberts will be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Reid, instead of simply voting for who will win, is voting his conscience. Are we not all asked to follow suit? Vote with your conscience.

The inevitability of Roberts’ confirmation offers Reid and other Democratic leaders the rare liberty of voting their conscience. Especially in the smaller Senate, one vote typically weighs too much to just throw around according to the whims of the soul, but here lies a genuine opportunity for Democrats to be not bitterly partisan, but respectfully partisan. In this moment Democrats have the luxury of being honest to their basic political philosophy without being antagonistic to the fleeting ideal of mainstream America. Not all democrats have to vote against him, as Reid’s colleague Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) demonstrates by voting for him.

But those Democrats who have real, honest disagreements with the nomination don’t have to hide behind a silky veil of congenial bipartisan gesturing. Reid gives his reason for opposing, as will others, but the imperative then is that the action be portrayed accurately to the public. It would pain me to see Democrats once again fall victim to the gloriously efficient Republican Spin Machine, where they would be antagonized as adverse to the needs and wants of mainstream America. Whatever mainstream America means, there has and will always be those who disagree with it. There will also be those who are, through no choice of their own, ignored. If a Democrat or Republican feels compelled to stand with the malcontents and the marginalized, in a moment such as this, why not be a voice for the voiceless?

Taking Reid as an example, his state of Nevada may lean on the conservative side, but certainly there is a notable population of people who have real, honest disagreements with the Roberts nomination.

Reid, as a citizen of the state, has the option of standing with the outsiders, with his fellow constituents who might disagree. Nothing in the oath of a Senator binds him to the majority views of his state. Surely Reid will be voted out if he angers enough people, but that is not inevitable.

Reid, by being honest in this way and not conceding to a false show of bipartisanism might win over more people than he loses.

T’was ever thus: the onus is on Democrats to sell the vote right. Acknowledge Roberts’ competency and the fact that he deserves the seat, but also acknowledge that there still exist those who disagree, and they deserve to be heard. Majority does rule, but the minority still counts for something.

And Republicans can’t expect everyone to agree with them, consequently demonizing anyone who dares to spoil their perfect world.

As Democrats have a real opportunity to stand with the voiceless and for the voiceless, Republicans have a real opportunity to let them be heard without fear of affecting the larger goal of confirmation.

Put another way: both sides can win. Yes, this is that rare idyllic moment in our history where no one has to lose entirely.

Especially since the sudden and saddening loss of Chief Justice Rehnquist, the balance of the court is no longer under debate, for the time being.

It’s a sign of solidarity really. Democratic leaders can stand with the outsiders, not because they don’t care for mainstream America, but because they care for all of America, including the malcontents and the marginalized.

This is where we see Democrats taking after the Jesus they are said to hate. Christ identified himself and his teachings with the outsiders, with the outcast, with the voiceless. Democrats can do it too.