In case you missed it, there was an Al Gore sighting last week. During a speech in Washington, the former vice president warned darkly that Republican moves to halt Democratic filibusters of the president’s judicial nominees would amount to a “poison pill” for democracy.
Gore further lambasted the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group that opposes the filibusters, as among the “extremist groups” supposedly threatening the independence of the federal judiciary. Gore, who wrote the overwrought book Earth in the Balance, surely knows something about extremism. He was speaking to activists connected with the MoveOn Political Action Committee. MoveOn’s website, you might recall, accepted an ad during the campaign equating George W. Bush with Hitler. Compared with MoveOn, I suppose even the Rotary Club appears extremist.
FRC President Tony Perkins has been in the liberal gunsights for some time. Perkins, a former legislator from Louisiana, has been indulging in some over-the-top rhetoric as well. Perkins recently said that activist, unaccountable judges pose a greater threat to our democracy than terrorists do. Picking up a Republican attack that surfaced two years ago during the battle over Alabama Attorney General William Pryor’s confirmation hearings to the federal bench, Perkins has said Democrats in the Senate are betraying an animus toward “people of faith.”
Democratic leaders are crying foul, but there’s no doubt they are none too partial to people whose faith leads them to oppose abortion. Keeping abortion safe, legal, and common is the unquestioned cardinal tenet of today’s Democratic Party. That’s why they are fighting tooth and nail to overturn over two centuries of Senate precedent. The Democratic minority wants to use the filibuster to thwart last fall’s elections and exercise a veto on the president’s judicial nominees.
People like Pryor, a Roman Catholic who takes seriously his church’s teaching about the sanctity of human life, are anathema to the high priests of sexual license. Despite Pryor’s stellar record, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer stated, “[H]is beliefs are so well-known, so deeply held, that it is very hard to believe, very hard to believe, they are not going to deeply influence” his performance as a judge.
Similar comments about nominees’ “deeply held” beliefs from pro-choice icons such as Ted Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein understandably sound to Perkins and others on the right like code words to exclude “people of faith.” But it isn’t necessarily so. I would argue that the secular left doesn’t care what your faith is, as long as you support legal abortion. If the Democrats do harbor an anti-faith bias, they camouflage it well. Liberal Democrats are more than willing to co-opt “people of faith”–even evangelicals–as long as they don’t too noisily question the party’s pro-abortion doctrine.
In fact, Democratic leaders skillfully have turned the “people of faith” barb back on the Republicans. Last week’s anti-filibuster “Justice Sunday” event, held at a Baptist church in Louisville, led to spurrious charges that groups such as the FRC are unfairly injecting religion into politics.
Yet these Democrats are a little inconsistent about faith and politics. They never seem to mention the perennial campaigning in black churches by Democratic candidates. And Ken Salazar, a Democratic senator, called Focus on the Family, one of the event’s backers, “the Antichrist of the world.” If that’s not injecting religion into politics, then what is?
This kerfuffle over judicial filibusters ought to teach people on both sides of the abortion debate to tone down the rhetoric and simply say what they mean. Pro-choice Democrats should be honest and say they will block anyone who thinks Roe v. Wade is bad law. The conservatives, including FRC and Focus on the Family, need to drop the “people of faith” line of attack and simply point out the obvious–that Schumer, Kennedy, Feinstein, and Gore have a pro-abortion litmus test–and they’re willing to break Senate tradition to enforce it.
Then let America–including its people of faith–decide.