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Web Letters | The Nation

Borking Kagan is a dumb idea!

When I first read this article, I thought maybe I'd gone to National Review or some conservative website by mistake, as "borking" Kagan is what conservatives would like to do. Conservatives are trying desperately to get more ammunition concerning Kagan's "liberal" views so they can use this ammo to convince the few moderate Republican senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to join them in a filibuster of the nomination.

After checking my browser's address bar to make sure I was not spoofed or redirected to a fake Nation website, I then paused to reflect how The Nation promoted Ralph Nader's third-party candidacy in 2000, and as a result handed George W. Bush and Dick Cheney the keys to the White House. Nader's voters certainly would have backed Gore over Bush, and would have made the difference in this very close race. While I agree with the general progressive ideal of more democratic choices and more parties, pushing this ideal in a close presidential race that would split the progressive vote just didn't make a lot of sense.

Why do some progressives like The Nation's editors slavishly hold on to progressive ideals at the wrong time—at a time when it does substantial damage to the progressive movement? The progressive ideal of wanting to know more about the philosophy and viewpoints of Supreme Court nominees is certainly worthy of pursuing, but why now? Did the editors even consider that Glenn Greenwald—who admits that he does not know Kagan personally and admits that he is more of a civil libertarian than an across-the-board progressive—could be dead wrong concerning his belief that Kagan is not sufficiently progressive? And why does everyone who actually knows Kagan personally—including Obama—believe she is a true progressive? Given this backdrop, the editors of The Nation should have exercised caution and some deference to those who actually know Kagan.

Given the small margin for error in the Senate, with the perpetual threat of a Republican filibuster, the editors of The Nation should realize that outing Kagan may expose more of her progressive views and that this could kill her nomination by turning off the handful or less of moderate Republican senators. The probable effect of killing Kagan's nomination on Obama's selection of the next nominee is that this nominee—whomever they happen to be—will be to the right of Kagan, not the left. So like with Ralph Nader in 2000, The Nation's editors' promoting certain progressive ideals at the wrong time may actually help the right wing by shifting the Supreme Court to the right.

Promoting diversity of parties should occur when it helps the progressive movement, like right now with the emergence of the conservative tea party that splits the conservative vote and gets more extreme right-wing candidates nominated that can easily be knocked off in a general election. Promoting more transparency and greater public knowledge of Supreme Court nominees' philosophy and viewpoints (i.e., "borking") should occur when conservative nominees are up for confirmation like Roberts and Alito, not when progressive ones are up for nomination who need to be positioned as more centrist to get necessary Republican votes to defeat a filibuster. Otherwise, like in 2000, The Nation is shooting the progressive movement in the foot by moving this country to the right, and this is clearly not in the best interest of our common cause and desire for a new era in progressive politics in this country.

Metteyya Brahmana

Santa Cruz, CA

May 19 2010 - 10:26am