Can Supporting Sam Alito Help Elect a Democrat President?

By Joseph E. Farren I can hear my father now; “Joe, when the crowd goes left, you go right.” This was a constant refrain directed toward me throughout childhood, clearly designed ” and successfully so ” to instill a sense of independence in an impressionable young boy. Too bad for the Democratic Party he’s isn„t around today to give that same advice to any one of their young, aspiring leaders. As someone who has spent some time in and around politics, I’m surprised that more Democrats haven„t viewed Sam Alito as a risk worth taking. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I arrive at this position with not only bias, but possibly a lack of proper credentialing. I„m a Republican. I„m from New Jersey. And my mother„s maiden name is Sammartino. But in my view, none of this changes the fact that politics is a game of addition, and the political symbol that is now Sam Alito may just represent some risk-taking Democrat„s modern-day abacus. The Democratic Party„s near-unanimous opposition to Judge Alito„s nomination is obviously rooted in “base” appeasement. The base of the Democratic Party ” much like its Republican counterpart ” is ideologically uncompromising and therefore intensely opposed to Judge Alito„s ascent to the Supreme Court. So, as the common (and safe) political thinking goes, any Democrat who wishes to rise above his or her current office best not clash with the base. But Sam Alito is now far more than just the embodiment of a handful of legal decisions that few Americans pay attention to anyway. Sam Alito is now a political symbol. He„s the over-achieving, yet unassuming son of immigrant educators who was raised in middle class New Jersey, attended public school, graduated from Ivy League institutions, married, had children of his own, and then rose to the pinnacle of his profession. Sam Alito„s life ” minus his exceptional intellectual ability ” is the life of many Americans. His familial upbringing and the value system that defined it is one with which millions of his fellow citizens can readily identify. If we look at recent political history, we find several examples of calculated political risk-taking that rewarded politicians who took the road less traveled. Bill Clinton, admittedly the most capable politician in at least the last 40 years, had Sister Soulja and welfare reform. George W. Bush, not exactly a political slouch himself, successfully parted ways with the Republican base on immigration and entitlement expansion. And in my opinion, Judge Sam Alito represents a worthwhile risk for an aspiring Democrat who wants and needs to move toward national electability. Disagreeing with some of Judge Alito„s decisions yet embracing his life story, character, and rare intellectual ability are not politically exclusive (as is voting for the Iraq war but opposing its financing). Quite the contrary, these deft political maneuvers have the potential to add support and profile when everyone else is saying the same old things to the same old people. 2008, much like 1992 and 2004, will likely be a year when Democrats hungrily search for a committed standard-bearer who has the versatility to peel away votes in what has become known as red-state America. In the next few days I„ll be watching and listening closely, and as a good and loyal Republican will be hoping that no one takes my advice. Mr. Farren, a former Republican Senate staff member in Trenton, is now a public relations professional in Washington, DC.

Can Supporting Sam Alito Help Elect a Democrat President?