Alito and Dog Whistle Politics

If you've kept a keen eye on the right over the last few days you may have noticed that no one on the right seems to be advocating that Alito will be a vote against Roe v. Wade. In fact the only chatter about abortion from the right-wing conservative intelligentsia concern the claim that Alito's vote against choice inCasey v Planned Parenthood was a nuanced position that doesn't reflect on his actual position on Roe. This from many of the same blogs that were up in arms over Miers' speech in the early 90's praising a woman's right to choose. Thus far the only definitive on Roe has come from the fringe of the right-wing fringe, Operation Resuce.

"We are trusting that we are now on the fast-track to derailing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land"

As of this point, there's been silence from the National Right to Life Committee, Focus on the Family has focused on praising Alito and talking about Democratic opposition to Alito, the Christian Coalition has a petition on their website expressing support Alito, no specific comment on a triumph on Roe.

Despite assurances on Griswold, (let's just say it's a sad day in history when a supreme court justice is deemed open because they believe the state can't prosecute a couple for taking contraceptives), there's a mountain of evidence that Alito represents that a strong vote against Roe, and in curtailing reproductive freedom for women.

The point of this post isn't to clarify Alito's views on choice, it's rather to point out an observation that became obvious for me today. You're not hearing a peep from Republicans about overturning Roe, which has been their signature issue on the moral values questionnaire because they're playing a game of "dog whistle politics." They let the pro-choice organizations motivate the conservative base. The religious right provides the wink-wink for their endorsement, and the pro-choice Republicans are reassured by their pro-choice Senators because they receive assurances that contraceptives will still be on the shelf. This is dog whistle politics folks; send a message to a certain constituency without turning off the other constituencies. Next to the dirty tricks it's what makes Karl Rove famous.

Part of the calculus is that the national media, who traveled with Bush for over a year on the campaign trail and heard him exclaim over and over, "Scalia and Thomas", "culture of life," and "Dredd Scott" will return to form and not follow up on how Bush caved in to the religious right to give them the guaranteed vote against Roe. There's good reason to not talk about Roe of course, with an already mixed reception, a discussion about Roe, and Alito's anti-worker rulings, would doom Alito to the bork pile of history.

If you want to get an idea of how well some of the conservative blogs have gotten the message, read the early reaction from some of the same crowd who last week were blabbing about Roe and Miers all last week.

There's more...

Alito Polls Same As Miers

From Gallup:About the same number of Americans rate Alito's selection either excellent or good (43%) as rate it fair or poor (39%). Miers received a similar rating, but Roberts' rating was somewhat more positive: 51% excellent or good, 34% fair or poor. This is almost identical to the original polling on Miers from Gallup, when 44% thought she was an "excellent" or "good" choice, and 39% thought she was a "fair" or "poor" choice.

But Alito's problems do not stop there. the public would be far more against him if they thought he would vote to overturn Roe (which he already has), only right now they don't think he would do that:

The public is evenly divided as to whether Alito probably would or would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Thirty-eight percent believe he would, and an equal percentage think he would not, with the rest offering no opinion.

If it becomes clear Alito would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, Americans would not want the Senate to confirm him, by 53% to 37%.

This would also blow a huge wedge right down the Republican coalition. 35% of Republicans and 60% of Independents would be oppose to confirming Alito if they thought he would overturn Roe. The country is, after all, very pro-choice.

Right now, it would appear that Democrats would not pay any price whatsoever for oppossing Alito, and for using whatever tactic they desired to oppose Alito.

Is "Scalito" a Racial Slur?

A quick check with my Italian-American wife (her maiden name is Martorano) elicited an eye roll and an "ugh." So the answer was a resounding 'no.' The idea that blending the names 'Scalia' and 'Alito' is somehow racist is so unquestionably stupid, I'd earlier decided not to even comment on it. But the more I thought about it, the more it irritated me and the more I felt I had to say something.

No matter what you think about Judges Scalia and Alito, the similarities are unavoidable. Both were born in Trenton, NJ to parents from Italy and grew up to be conservative judges. The 'Scalito' nickname has been floating around legal circles since 1992. Never before has anyone claimed it was racist.

The DNC has been using it in memos in part because the legal establishment and legal media have used in in damn near every profile they've run of Alito in the past decade. It also highlights an important point that the national GOP would never argue -- in fact, it's one they've made themselves -- that ideologically speaking, Alito is a judge in the mold of Scalia. The fact that both men are Italian has very little to do with it, outside of common vowel sounds in their surnames.

In order for 'Scalito' to qualify as a slur, it would have to incorporate an actual ethnic designation, which it obviously doesn't. 'Alitolian' maybe? That's not offensive so much as stupid and hard to pronounce. Honestly, I can't even figure one out. My brain is fortunately not wired that way.

But Rush Limbaugh's brain certainly is wired that way. He offers us a perfect example of a play-on-a-name nickname that absolutely is racist. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Limbaugh took to referring to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as 'Mayor Nayger', which is undeniably racist. It's a combination of 'Nagin' and... I don't really need to spell it out, do I? It's the man's name plus an ethnic slur. Now, that's racist.

So while I know I'll never reach Matt Drudge, I'm really furious that the reasonably intelligent Chris Matthews would pick this garbage up and run with it. Over at dKos, the Italian-American Hunter went berserk on Matthews for calling the 'Scalito' nickname "disgusting" and implying that it is in fact a racial slur based on nothing more than the talking points he got from Drudge (whom Matthews claims to hate, but gets stories from all the time). If I started referring to him as 'Frist Matthews,' would he also think that was an anti-white slur? Or would he recognize that I was making a clever joke about the habit of each to 'expertly' evaluate a situation without any first hand knowledge? Who knows.

The underlying hilarity of this is that of course the idiot right would think the nickname 'Scalito' is racist. Why is that? Only the idiot right would view Italians as a separate race from other, more WASPy Europeans like themselves.

Alito Links

Progressive Groups Left Wing Blogs
  • Jeralyn at Talk Left: Alito: The Career Prosecutor:A disaster appointment for those who care about the constitutional rights of the accused. I don't want a career prosecutor like Alito on the Supreme Court. I fear he will be a major proponent of the war on drugs, the death penalty and the war against immigrants, while he will rule to restrict habeas rights and Miranda.
  • Kos: The showdown finally arrives:But this is the best possible scenario for Democrats as well. We now have a vehicle upon which to showcase the differences between us and Republicans, between liberalism and conservatism. This is a golden opportunity, and one wisely denied by Bush and Rove with the Robers and Miers nominations.
  • Ed Kilgore discusses Jeffrey Rosen's theory on the court:As some of you may recall, George Washington University professor Jeffrey Rosen penned an article right after the presidential election analyzing possible Bush SCOTUS picks, and separating them into two camps: "Conservative Activists" (bad), and "Principled Conservatives" (not so bad), with the key dividing line being the jurist's willingness to defer to legislative decisions and to respect precedents. John Roberts was listed as a "Principled Conservative." Samuel Alito headed the list of "Conservative Activists."
  • Liberal Oasis writes What's Samuel Alito's trademark? Hostility to equality.

  • Rude Pundit writesBy the way, what is it about the Bush adminstration's Supreme Court nominees' savage anger towards pre-teen girls? We had John Roberts saying that it was jim-fuckin-dandy to treat a 12-year old girl eatin' french fries on the subway in DC like she was Aileen Wuornos giggling over the gutted corpse of a dead john. And now we have Alito allowing cops to, without cause, molest a child
  • Eirc Mueller has the White Hosue talking points on Atilo.

  • Angry Bear writes:The opinion of Bush's newest nomination to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, regarding the abortion issue will undoubtedly receive a flood of attention in coming weeks. But Alito's opinion regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), signed into law in 1993 by Bill Clinton, also seems deserving of close scrutiny - particularly since it highlights one of my greatest frustrations regarding political stereotypes: the notion that conservatives are better defenders of family values than liberals are.
  • Feministing writes:Alito ruled that female public-schoool students who were physically and sexually abused by fellow students in class could not sue the state, because the state has no special duty in caring for them. (D.R. v. Middle Bucks Area Vocational Tech. School) Alito also participated in a panel holding that the Violence Against Women Act allows a court to order HIV/AIDS testing of a sexual assault defendant. (United States v. Ward)
  • Majikthise writes:Of course Alito should be opposed vigorously, but let's not forget the oldest trick in the political book: When you're unpopular at home, start a war! Since Treasongate isn't going away, the Republicans have effectively opened a two-front war--a move that stinks of desperation.
  • Digby:By contrast, Alito is for Bush as Oxycontin is for Limbaugh. Alito is intended to ease the pain of Fitzgerald's indictments and continuing investigation by changing the subject. Bush, Cheney and Rove expect us to play along on their timetable, which requires that the country get distracted quickly from the brief glimpse Fitzgerald provided everyone, even Kristof, of the enormously fetid swamp of crimes and traitorous behavior behind the sealed gates of the Bush White House. No one, except Bush's base, can be anything but disgusted at what was revealed on Friday.

    And Bush's base will rally around Alito no matter what. They have their carefully honed defenses of Alito ready to roll out. But they are not planning on having the country stay focused on Traitorgate. And that is why I'm saying we must.

    I'm NOT saying ignore Alito. What I'm saying is DON'T LET BUSH CHANGE THE SUBJECT.

  • Rox Populi:Is there any law that requires a man to notify his wife before undergoing a vasectomy? Would such a law violate the Constitution? Post more links in the comments.
  • Second Alito Thread

    Sentencing Law and Policy makes this important observation (emphasis mine):As noted in this Friday post, Judge Alito is a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Sentencing Initiative group. That group, under the leadership of former Reagan AG Ed Meese and fromer Clinton Deputy AG Phil Heyman, has been looking at the the post-Blakely and post-Booker world for the last 16 months in an effort to develop "specific, consensus recommendations for revising sentencing laws to comport with the new constitutional rules." As this mission statement further explains, "[t]he committee's work is focused on improvements in federal sentencing laws, especially in light of state experiences."(...)

    I hope Judge Alito continues to serve on the Constitution Project's Sentencing Initiative. His service to date suggests there is no ethical conflict with a sitting judge participating in a policy discussion of sentencing issues even when related legal issues could arise in his court.

    By serving on this project, Alito has made it perfectly clear that he has no problem publicly discussing policy matters that he might rule on as a judge. Thus, the Roberts stealth avoidance strategy shouldn't fly here. Alito should be expected to be as open with the Senate judiciary committee as he is with this project.
    • The press conference with Alito made it look very much as though Stevens and Specter will vote to confirm, just as commenters in the previous thread suggested.

    • Lieberman and Pryor and the Dems least likely to oppose Alito.

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