Democrats' Pyrrhic victory?

The filibuster deal has been praised as a victory for all -- but it's kind of tough to have a big happy bunch of winners without any losers, especially when it comes to the business of Washington.

Published May 24, 2005 6:51PM (EDT)

The morning-after debate over who emerges a winner on the filibuster deal has been about as dissonant as the days of wheeling and dealing that led up to the 11th-hour agreement. We'd like to believe that everybody is a winner here -- that, as John McCain said late Wednesday, "the Senate won, and the country won." But it's kind of tough to have a big happy bunch of winners without any losers, especially when it comes to the business of Washington.

"We won't know who did better in this until all of this plays out over the next weeks and months," says TPM's Josh Marshall today. "But I think this was a decent resolution, given the range of options on offer. A working majority in the senate wouldn't consent to Bill Frist's Dobsonian radicalism. This potentially introduces a third force into the operation of the senate. And this will send the Dobsonites into a feeding frenzy of intra-party cannibalism."

While the reining in of the radical right (for the moment, at least) may be worth something, Marshall also took note of the other end of a "strong range of opinions" flooding his inbox today as to whether the Democrats did well or not by the deal. "I don't disagree with many of the points made by people who think this was a terrible compromise," he says. "Some of the most extreme judges go through. The nuclear option is by no means put to bed. It's just put off at the discretion of the seven Republicans who were party to this deal."

Indeed, as far as discretion goes, it's really anybody's guess as to how "extraordinary circumstances" will be defined for future use of the judicial filibuster -- though it seems to set the bar high for doing battle with the Bush White House over the next nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court. In the meantime, with Democrats positioning themselves to rely upon a magnificent seven in the Republican center, three distinguished members of this not-so-magnificent seven are now poised to take the bench -- just one notch below the highest court in the land. One of them equated civil rights for same-sex couples with necrophilia and bestiality. Another dubbed FDR's New Deal a triumph of America's "own socialist revolution." Another is tight with Karl Rove and has a record of strident opposition to reproductive rights, workers' rights, civil rights, consumers' rights and environmental protections.

Looks more and more like a win-win deal to us ... for one side of the aisle, at least.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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