SHLOCK THE VOTE

DC’s top liberal lobbying group launches a campaign sure to rally the crucial toddler vote. Meet Phil A. Buster.

You’re a lefty lobbyist watching Republicans try to steal the Democrats’ last tool for influencing who gets appointed to federal judgeships: the filibuster.

What do you do?

A) Beat the GOP mercilessly in every media outlet that will listen for its outrageous public threats against judges, including House majority leader Tom DeLay’s promise that judges in the Terri Schiavo case would “answer for their behavior,” and Senator John Cornyn’s speech apparently justifying violence against judges? Or:

B) Spend upward of $15,000 on a website featuring a Schoolhouse Rock–style cartoon about a talking megaphone.

If you’re the well-funded Alliance for Justice, a coalition of the nation’s most powerful liberal advocacy groups, you guarantee the least return and greatest missed opportunity for your money by choosing option B and launching savephil.com, an online voyage into the absurd sure to excite the crucial toddler vote.

The Phil in need of saving is a cartoon megaphone named Phil A. Buster. (Get it?) SavePhil begins with our blue-sneakered hero letting us in on the pun behind his name, then introducing his two friends Checks and Balanz. Checks is a maroon check mark with no apparent physical attributes other than two hands, two feet, a pair of eyes, and what appears to be a massive hard-on. Checks’s counterpart, Balanz, is supposed to be the cartoonification of the scales of justice, but older viewers will recognize her as Carol Burnett’s Scarlett O’Hara (curtain-rod epaulets and all) crossed with a flirtatious candy striper with massive eyelashes, swollen red lips, pointy high heels, and long white gloves (in case Checks needs a prostate exam?).

Phil, Checks, and Balanz take us for an idiot’s tour of Washington, D.C., explaining what a filibuster is in such condescending language that even a child (who’d never sit through this abomination) would take offense. Suddenly the Capitol dome flies open and out pops the evil “One Party Rule-bot,” a tin man–esque Frankenstein bearing a—one assumes intentional—resemblance to Majority leader Bill Frist. The Frist-bot then chases our heroes around the screen. After an ethnically diverse parade of cartoons shows us how to write an e-mail, and the Frist-bot is defeated, the clip ends with no apparent call to action—just a page of text that suggests, in the last line, almost as an afterthought, that you might want to click through to another page to “Help Save Phil.”

Savephil.com would be merely annoying if the stakes weren’t so high and the groups involved so important. The Alliance for Justice is a coalition that includes the Children’s Defense Fund, the Consumers Union, Earthjustice, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL, the National Education Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Planned Parenthood, and the Sierra Club Foundation. This isn’t just a coalition, it’s the coalition leading the fight to counter the GOP’s attack on the judiciary. When the biggest lefty show in town makes a pitiful cartoon character like Phil the centerpiece of its counteroffensive, that’s scary. Even scarier? They’re now raising money to put him on TV.

Now consider the other guys. The Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and other Republican surrogates recently held Justice Sunday a TV simulcast of right-wing theocrats railing against godless Democrats and their evil “anti-Christian” filibuster. Justice Sunday was reportedly beamed into 61 million homes and churches across America on April 24.

It wasn’t always like this. Nearly 20 years ago Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, was instrumental in, well, borking Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The woman had balls. Where is she now? And Aron isn’t the only one. Far too many of the progressive nonprofits—from women’s groups to gays, from gun-control advocates to enviros—have long since lost the will and ability to fight. The result is a rapid series of Republican victories at the ballot box and the legislature that now threatens our personal liberties, the rule of law, and our entire form of government.

The battle has grown too dangerous, the costs of defeat too high, to continue relying on people who lack the savvy necessary to fight the new culture war effectively. We’ve taken enough casualties already. It’s time to do the humane thing and pull their feeding tube (I’m talking to you, Soros). But first let’s kill Phil.