If we briefly allow ourselves to be optimistic about 2021, let’s say Democrats control the House, the presidency, and the Senate. Even in the highly unlikely events of Democrats holding sixty or more seats–and could then move past cloture–that would require every Democrat toeing the line (or picking up Republicans). The best case scenario is that the majority of the Democratic caucus is held hostage by a handful of conservative/corporate Democrats. In reality, what this would mean is that any progressive would be heavily watered down, if not outright dead.
While D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood would help (and, more importantly, should be passed on their own merits), it still doesn’t get past the need for an unattainable Senate supermajority. A couple weeks ago, Jon Favreau asked Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand if she would favor abolishing the filibuster. Her response was to defend the filibuster, arguing that good legislation should receive sixty (or more) votes. She’s not alone: every single possible or announced Democrat has either dodged the issue or defended the filibuster (including Sanders). Some have tried the dodge of ‘first we win, then we worry how we pass things’, but, as Martin Longman notes, what that attitude means without abolishing the filibuster is that just about every campaign promise being made is bullshit. Some legislation that affects budgeting might be passed through reconciliation, but only one such bill per year can passed (and much legislation would be ineligible to use this mechanism).
What this tells me is that no Democratic candidate is serious about enacting their program, whatever it might be. Democrats love being in the majority, but they don’t seem to want to wield power on behalf of their constituents. In other words, every candidate is failing at the power primary–will they use the means at their disposal–which includes ending the filibuster*–to pass progressive legislation?
Democrats in 2021 will need to make people’s lives better in meaningful ways. If not, we will have a repeat of 2010 in 2022, since next time we won’t get Trump, we’ll get someone smarter and more disciplined.
There’s lots of good policy being bandied about, but there’s no plan to make it a reality.