The Federalist Society, that cadre of conservative lawyers and judges whom the Washington Post describe as having “gone from rebel outsiders to Washington insiders,” held their national convention here in D.C. this past weekend. A veritable cornucopia of conservative heavyweights paraded through the grand ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel, each seemingly set on rousing the spirits of an audience still reeling from Election Day’s “thumpin'.”
Vice President Dick Cheney, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Justice Samuel Alito, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Solicitor General Paul Clement were just a few of the speakers during the three-day event, and countless federal judges served as panel moderators or looked on from the audience. The message of this Who’s Who of conservative luminaries was resoundingly clear: the election results changed nothing as far as judicial selection goes. Speaker after speaker rose to the podium in an attempt to reassure the society’s members that the president and Senate Republicans plan to stay the course, by nominating and pushing for confirmation of Federalist Society-mold, ultraconservative judges.
The whole affair had a twilight zone feel to it. Don’t these guys (and we do mean guys, since the gender ratio of attendants was heartily skewed in that direction) comprehend that the new reality of a Democratic Congress marks the end of the current practice of rubberstamping out-of-the-mainstream nominees?
Perhaps in their five stages of post-election grief, this Federalist rendezvous with “denial” is merely a stop along the way in their journey toward “acceptance” of the fact that the Senate and the American public are demanding bipartisanship in judicial selection. Like it or not, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) was right when he said the election results “dramatically changed everything,” when it comes to the judicial confirmation process.