Monday, May 23, 2005

Of Chess and Politics: Nominations

It is theorized that in chess, it is possible for the player with the first move (white) to always win or at least draw (Dimand and Dimand). While no computer has yet proved this conjecture, this is the tendency in Grandmaster play. The player with the initiative (tempo) can often use this initiative to gain positional or material advantage eventually leading to a situation where no matter what the opponent does, his next move will lead invariably to his doom (zugzwang). The very fact that he must move becomes his greatest liability. Thus it is often with politics.

In the latest Senate agreement, the majority party triumphs through forcing the opponent into a position where he must filibuster or confirm the fact that a nominee’s background, temperament, or politics is not “extraordinary” (out of the mainstream of what is acceptable). In a move of political jujitsu, three strong, pro-life nominees will be confirmed as mainstream by the minority party in the Senate, to wit, Judges Pryor, Rogers, and Owens. It is now more difficult to make a prima fascia case to the public that religious conservative jurists are “extreme” or “extraordinary”.

These justices then become a standard by which later nominees might be judged to warrant the “extraordinary” measure of the judicial filibuster. Every new confirmed nominee from henceforth only raises the bar on what is an extraordinary circumstance as opposed to what is merely politically adverse. The strength of the majority party game is in its ability to pick the order of nominees for presentation for confirmation. The majority now can use its tempo to greater advantage in a game that is quickly becoming more and more determinant.

On the other hand, the minority party is forced to react to the nominations by the limited commitment of whether or not to filibuster. Should they filibuster, others will have the opportunity to judge for themselves if an extraordinary case truly exists. This was and is always the political reality of the situation: the voters are deciding who is extreme and/or ineffectual. Should the filibuster be attempted (a cloture vote rejected), a good case will need to be made that the situation is truly extraordinary. If not, the “nuclear option” can be implemented under the same aforementioned agreement.

Unlike exercise for the muscles, this prerogative to filibuster weakens the case for a future filibuster with repeated use—it no longer appears to be conducted as an “extraordinary” measure and so the nuclear option gains strength. The minority party must bear the risk of losing their weapon and is forced to err on the safe side, i.e. to allow the majority party to repeatedly raise the bar on their future use of this political tool. Effectively, the minority party is in a situation now where their disadvantage in tempo has gained a position whereby zugzwang may be achieved.

The dark queen of the abortion lobby can no longer hold sway over her king. For the viability of the Democratic Party, the queen herself must now face the test. There are no more minor pieces left to sacrifice.