2002-10-10 / View From the Middle

View From

The Middle
By Charles Rogers

New Jersey Republicans last week had to resort to the last, uh, resort. They had to go to the Supreme Court of the United States to try to stop that state’s Democrats from replacing Sen. Robert Torricelli’s name on the November 5 ballot. Of course, it didn’t do any good, ’cause the Big Court turned down the plea anyway. The incumbent legislator started to lose votes overwhelmingly because voters apparently became all too aware that he had been soundly admonished by the Senate last summer for taking gifts from a campaign contributor.

Torricelli says he "did no wrong," but he has apologized to his constit-uents for "a few mistakes" he made while in office. (The person accused of giving the Senator bribes is serving a jail sentence, incidentally).

As soon as the Senator felt he couldn’t win against Republican candidate Doug Forrester, wheels in the New Jersey Democratic Party started to turn madly. He would have to drop out of the race and be replaced by some-one of high profile; a Democrat who could jump over the hurdles already in place. Who could they get to replace Torricelli as a candidate? Forrester was clearly making headway and, unless a good replacement could be had, the GOP would win and, thus, the U.S. Senate majority would be turned up-side down, with the GOP holding the upper hand by one vote. The Republi-cans must have been ecstatic as the ma-chinations unfolded!

But wait! Politics being what it is — a game by, for, and about would-be prestidigitators — the Democrats pull-ed a rabbit out of a hat and named Frank Lautenberg, a man who served distinctively in the U.S. Senate for 18 years but retired two years ago, to replace Torricelli as candidate. They tried to get ex-Senator Bill Bradley, but he said he’d had it and did not want the job, thank you.

Forrester and his friends were not too happy about what was going on with those damned Dems, and complained, feeling they had a great case. "This is all well and good," they said, "but you can’t do this. You can’t just take a guy off the ballot because he’s not doing too well in the polls, etc., and replace him with someone you might think will win." Feeling sure they had a case, the Republicans went to the State Supreme Court and pleaded their case on the grounds that the law says you can’t make changes on a ballot when there are less than 51 days until Election Day. At the time, there were only 33 days left, so they felt sure the court would overthrow the edict and keep the now-defunct Torricelli’s name on the ballot, leaving off Lautenberg’s. A vote for Torricelli by that token would be moot and Forrester would walk gently in the back door without hardly a fight.

Wrong! The state court said Lauten-berg’s name could replace Torricelli because, there’s plenty of time to change the names on the ballot and, hey, in a democracy you need to have two viable candidates on the ballot.

Of course, the Republicans were li-vid. How could this happen? If the law is the law, it should stand, they surmised, and rightly so.

In Democrats’ hands the phrase would read: If the law is the law, it’s made to be changed to fit one’s purpose. No matter. The U.S. Supreme Couirt won’t hear it now and Lautenberg’s name is on the ballot.

It is absurd, after all, but politics is politics, they say. Frankly, I don’t know the political makeup of the New Jer-sey Supreme Court, but I’ll bet it’s leaning to a group that could go by the title: TWWABD (Those Who Were Appointed By Democrats). Why else would they smear their own supposedly good name by showing their blatant disregard for fairness.

That’s the word: Fairness. The scales of justice are supposed to rest on the pendulum that will determine equal weight on both sides. What has been good on one side, or at one time (the 51-day edict), should also be good on the other (less than 51 days until the election).

Or does the political pendulum swing only to the Democratic side?

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