Friday, April 29, 2005

Take My Poll ... Please!

     Much ado has been made out of the Washington Post-ABCNews poll, especially on the question of judicial nominees. Right wing scream-o-crats are whining that the wording is unfair and biased towards Democrats. Take a look at the actual wording:
34. The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

------Right------------Wrong------Right in some cases,No
NETStrg.Smwt.NETStrg.Smwtwrong in others (vol.)op.

36. Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?

SupportOpposeNo opin.
4/24/052666      8

     Is this really so controversial? Question 34 says the Democrats blocked Bush's nominees. 47% of all respondees agreed with the Dems and of the people who had an opinion, 55% said Democrats were right. Keep in mind that only 35% of respondents identified with Democrats and only 20% said they were liberal. Question 35 is even more lopsided. I agree that the question doesn't mention the word "filibuster", but I would argue that a large proportion of the country (liberal and conservative alike) don't know exactly what a filibuster is. And while the wording about Republicans and Bush may have skewed the results to a more partisan crown, 66% of respondents disagreed! That means that at least a decent number of Republicans polled voted against the words "Republican" and "Bush" in this question. As a Democrat, yes I see how I'd be inclined to give an automatic no before thinking too deepy about the question. But on the flip side, Republicans would be just as inclined to give an automatic yes. Is it poorly worded, maybe. Biased towards the left? Just another pipe dream invented by the whining class.


Ben said...

But when asked "Do you feel that Bush's judicial nominees deserve an up or down vote as specified in the Constitution?" 80% said yes. To me, that wording should be the default, and the ones you showed are definitely twisting words around to get a prefered result.

Scott said...

OK - so what I gather is that people would rather not see Democrats filibuster nominations, but that they also oppose changing the rules to force them to do so. Basically, they disapprove of everyone's actions. I can accept that. I still don't see how it's an unfair question.

The Indigent Blogger said...

The Constitution clearly empowers the President to appoint the nominees of his choosing pending Senate confirmation. The Senate is obliged to either confirm or reject the President's nominees. Doing nothing is not an option. In my opinion, the Senate rule allowing a filibuster to prevent a Presidential nominee from being confirmed or rejected is unconstitutional.

This isn't about Replicans being right or Democrats being right. This is a case of two power hungry political parties creating rules that allow them to circumvent their constitutional obligations to the people of the United States. The motivation for changing those rules may not be all that pure, but it is the correct thing to do.

Ben said...

Scott made the point that the majority shouldn't always win just becuse they are the majority, because that would be a tyranny of the majority. He's right, but in this case the problem is that it's basically one way or the other, and it's no more fair to have a tyranny of the minority, either. As it is, with filibusters rampant, the minority automatically wins. I like the concept of the filibuster, but I don't think it should be allowed to be used to go against something explicitly spelled out in the Constitution.

Sylvana said...

The Republicans use filibustering too when it is in their advantage. It always seems to come out as some sort of Democrat invention that is only exercised by the Democrats- but it isn't. I feel that if these people that we picked to represent us in Congress feel so strongly about keeping certain individuals out that they would resort to filibustering- then they must not be very good candidates. And if the Republicans felt more strongly about the candidate they would hold their ground and stay until that person couldn't talk anymore.

The Indigent Blogger said...

Sylvana, there is no "stay until they can't talk anymore". A filibuster is simply a refusal to limit debate and proceed to a vote.

There are some telling signs that you may be misreading the motives behind the filibuster. If all of the Democrats in the Senate feel so strongly about these extremist judicial nominees, then why would Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid offer to allow two of the judicial nominees through for a vote?

Having said all that, we will see whether every Democrat in the Senate really believes ALL of these judicial nominees are radical extremists when it comes time to for an up or down vote. I'd be willing to wager that some Democrats vote for confirmation on most of them.

Ben said...

Sylvana, the modern filibuster has nothing to do with debate at all. A senator will threaten a filibuster, the Senate leaders figure out if they can get a cloture vote to pass, and if they can't, they move on to other business and come back to the business that the filibuster was threatened on later. Usually when the terms have been changed so that one Senator is happy. Virtually no filibusters actually amount to any sort of debate anymore.

The filibuster has been used to block a vote on a judicial nominee just once before (yes, it was the Republicans who did it, no one ever said the Dems are the only ones to use the filibuster), and that was for Abe Fortas, and the GOP had actual evidence of serious ethical lapses on his part. The Democrats today, on the other hand, have yet to come up with a single valid reason not to nominate these judges. None of them are considered religious extremists, or particularly far right. They seem to have two things in common: They were nominated by Bush, and they are strict constructionists, which means they try to interpret the Constitution exactly as it's written, and not twist the words in to what they want it to mean, which is what the so-called "activist" judges are guilty of.

sideshow bob said...

Speaking of the 2000 primary (in North Carolina, I believe), here is a question asked by a poll taken by the Bush campaign:

"Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate child?"

Of course, he didn't father an illegitimate child, but he did adopt a child of a different race. To your average uninformed voted who pieces their opinion together from various sound-bites and one-liners, it wouldn't take much to put 2 and 2 together and assume that he had an illegitimate child when they see him and his wife with a child of a different color.
People whose views aren't supported by polls will always bitch about the wording, but the face value of polls are usually nowhere near as important as the things you can learn by dissecting them, as Scott did, by noticing that 66% chose against the words "Republican" and "Bush" and "Judical nominees". Of course, some may have voted 'oppose' because the question is poorly worded and specified Republicans, but some may have voted 'support' for the same reason, so you can still gleen some potentially valid info from it.
I realize it takes two to push poll; one to push and one to be an uninformed pushee, and I realize this goes one in both major parties. That said, I think the team that drafted Karl Rove has got no right to bitch about the wording of polls.

Mike said...

As a rule I usually don't put much stock in polls. But, since you asked, with question 34 I think it's interesting how they stated 35 nominees have been confirmed while 10 haven't. I think it suggests the democrats have been very reasonable and the republicans have been extremely successful in getting their nominees through.
Like I said in one of my earlier posts, when people don't understand the question they go along with the answer they think the questioner is looking for. In the case of #36, it's clear the questioner wants the questionee to pass judgement on the Republicans. I think what makes the question loaded is the word "easier". Also, but mentioning "Republicans" and "Bush" they are instantly polarizing the person being questioned. If I were going to word #36 I would just say "Should the Senate Minority party be given the power to filibuster judicial nominees?" That would be a fair question.

Ben said...

I read a fantastic idea that solves many problem. Get rid of this two track system they ahve, and make it so if you want to filibuster, you actually have to filibuster. Then blocking a nomination like this would do two things: It would creat a personal cost where whoever is doing it really has to be there speaking for however long (and in many cases, the Senator would actually have to be in Washington doing his/her job, something not many seem to like to do), and two, there would be a political cost, because the public would see that someone is holding up the Senate from doing anything, so you'd have to have a darn good reason to filibuster. I think it would take a lot of the partisan politics out of filibustering so that it would be used mostly when someone has a SERIOUS issue with a bill or nomination.

I saw a columnist writing about Janice Brown and why she should not be confirmed. The reasoning is that 1. She expects parents to have responsibility for their children, and 2. Judge Brown actually tries to interpret the Constitution as it is written, and agress with most Constitutional scholars that many of the New Deal programs are UN-Constitutional. While that might be seen as an extreme right-wing view, it's also true.

Mike said...

You're absolutely right, Ben. Last week I changed my position to the republicans should not change the rules of the Senate and should instead make the Democrats take the floor and hold it. Then they could broadcast it 24 hours a day on FOXNews and C-SPAN so the people could see the democrats holding up the Senate instead of tackling issues like Social Security and the War on Terror. Let them pay the political price like Newt did.

ORF said...

SS Bob,
That poll was SOUTH Carolina!! SOUTH, SOUTH, SOUTH!! NOT NORTH!!

That was the same primary that Ralph Reed more or less ran for Bush and the future prez also went to speak at Bob Jones University during his tour of the state.

There was a great NYer article last fall about the entire primary. If I can find a link to in online, I'll post it on my site. (since I can't figure out how to post links in comments yet...)

Ben said...

I love how the Democrats have all this rhetoric about ending the filibuster would take away from democratic debate, but when offered a compromise of 100 hours of debate on each candidate by the GOP, they rejected it. So it's not about debate, it's simply about blocking Bush from appointing any conservative minorities to juducial positions. Mainly they seem to fear erosion of their false (and cynical, and racist) credo as "the party of the minority."