Consider the narrative
line for Samuel Alito's life. It's perfect. He comes from a white
ethnic community that valued family, tradition, patriotism and
the Democratic Party. By the time he arrived at Princeton, an
outsider in a high-status student body where Catholics were still
rare, the cultural revolution was under way and the most strident
of the '60s people were acting like swine ("very privileged
people behaving irresponsibly," as he politely put it). He
found their values alien.
David Brooks wrote last week in The New York Times: "The
liberals had 'Question Authority' bumper stickers; the ethnics
had been taught in school to respect authority. ... Alito wanted
to learn; the richer liberals wanted to strike. He wanted to join
ROTC; the liberal Princetonians expelled it from campus."
The values gap was
opening wide, and Alito was on track to leave the Democratic Party.
Or more accurately, the party was about to leave him and millions
of future "Reagan Democrats." In the summer after Alito
graduated, the McGovern revolution transformed the Democratic
On the theory that
the old New Deal coalition was dying, the party made a fateful
and conscious decision to come down on the side of the anti-traditionalists,
abandoning the white ethnics, union members, southerners, Catholics
and, as it later turned out, a huge percentage of married and
Protestant voters. To replace the Roosevelt coalition, the party
turned to young people, the peace movement, educated suburbanites,
feminists and blacks. The deep cultural fissure that resulted
did indeed show up at the Alito hearing, still powerful after
more than 30 years.
As Brooks noted, Ted
Kennedy took the party's conventional post-'60s stance against
law enforcement, accusing the government of "Gestapo-like"
tactics in counterterrorism programs. Republican Lindsey Graham
expressed alarm at the threat of terror. Democrats Patrick Leahy
and Russell Feingold sounded alarmed by counterterrorism.
We had some racial
rhetoric, as well. Since the '60s, white ethnics have usually
been denounced as crude and racist by the Democratic elites. This
showed up in the rumor that Alito had made up a story about his
father combating racism. The story was true. The rumor was false.
Kennedy sounded the note of racism too, charging (falsely) that
Alito had never written a decision on behalf of an African-American.
He has written at least seven decisions supporting racial bias
claims by blacks.
strategy, if you can call it that, was essentially an effort to
tar Alito as a bigot, a liar and a ideologue. The press laid the
groundwork for the ideological charge. Stuart Taylor, a heavyweight
legal columnist for National Journal, complained in December
that "the systematic slanting -- conscious or unconscious"
of news reports had fueled a campaign by liberal groups and senators
to caricature Alito as a ideologue, when an analysis of his record
shows that he is "wedded to no ideological agenda other than
restraint in the exercise of judicial power."
Every now and then,
Democratic senators strayed away from their apparent commitment
to full-time Borking. Reliance on other countries' judges came
up. The Democrats appeared surprised that Alito opposed tailoring
U.S. court decisions to those reached in foreign courts. U.S.
elites chafe under the old-fashioned rule that federal judges
should look to the Constitution for guidance rather than to elites
in Britain, France or Canada.
Democrats also made
clear that justices should rule in accordance with the size of
plaintiffs -- "little guys" are always in the right,
whereas big guys, particularly if they are corporate guys, are
always wrong and frequently evil. As John Roberts said during
his hearings, when the Constitution supports the little guy, I'll
come down on the little guy's side. When it supports the big guy,
I'll come down on the big guy's side. To sizeists, this is a revolutionary
The Democrats spent
a great deal of time fretting about abortion, even after Alito
made clear that he had already said what he wanted to say. The
technical term for the Democratic effort here is "fund-raising."
Powerful pro-abortion groups like NARAL, NOW and People for the
American Way channel a great deal of money to Democrats, who are
thus heavily inclined to sing for their future suppers.
This is the case even
when there is no apparent reason to keep badgering someone like
Alito. After each lost election, Democrats talk about the need
to reach out to moderates on values issues. But the first order
of business is getting re-elected, which means reflecting the
anger of those with a stranglehold on money.
In the end, the attempts
to tar and provoke Alito came to nothing. The biggest news was
that the Democrats made Mrs. Alito cry, a clear violation of the
party's sensitivity rules. He will be confirmed.
2005 John Leo
by Universal Press Syndicate