Figuring what’s important

Matt thinks Democrats Don’t Need More Time For Questioning and cites statistics from the Alito nomination hearings. The breakdown provides an interesting measure of what is considered important in the current political debate.

Abortion: 101
Executive Power: 94
Judicial Philosophy/Role of Courts: 71
Concerned Alumni of Princeton: 49
Vanguard/Ethics: 49
Commerce Clause, Federalism, Congressional Power: 42
Other: 28
Race: 23
National Security/Wiretapping: 20
Religion: 16
Habeas/Death Penalty: 15
Criminal Procedure/4th Ammendment: 11
Plaintiffs’ and Consumers’ Rights: 8
Gener: 7
Reapportionment: 6
Disability: 6

TOTAL: 546

Abortion is the long standing issue. Executive power is also an ancient issue that has been resurrected in an effort to smear and impugn by a minority party that cannot get the votes it wants. The role of the courts is the highest in this list that has a recent trend of change. The Concerned Alumni issue sets a boundary between issues of major significance and those where the debate has devolved into political gamesmanship.

The fact that less than 50% of the questions were on the three most significant issues and better than 18% were about manufactured attempts to generate scandal is a measure of just how much reasoned debate has succumbed to power politics.

The issue at hand is third in the list. It is the question that boils down to whether or not a reasonable person can anticipate the outcome of court rulings. When the courts are plagued by split decisions, either the law is not clear or the court is finding ambiguity that doesn’t really exist. This is the realm of legislation by the judiciary.

The importance of this is seen in that it is related to issues 2, 3, 6, and 12 comprising 40% of the questions asked. The issue is how the citizen is protected and represented by the three branches of government. The fact that it is so popular in the Alito hearings is testimony to significant discomforts about how the balance between these entities has been changing in recent times. In this light, even the most popular topic, abortion, can be seen not as a matter of health and welfare but rather of the balance between the citizen and the government and between a state and the federal government.

It is a matter of definition and the identity of self as a part of a greater society. Lofty philosophy meets the street and the issues are hashed out and beat to submission for a real expression that defines the country.

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