A while ago, I discussed what I called the ‘power primary‘:
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…
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?
Since then a couple of candidates have broached the topic, including Senator Warren. That said, Governor Jay Inslee, who might not even make the third debate cut, has been the one who, during the debates, stated the problem clearly (boldface mine):
“We are all going to work like the dickens to get more Democrats elected to the Senate. If we get a majority in the US Senate because of the position of these senators, not a damn thing is going to get done,” Inslee said. “And I’ll tell you why, with all their good intentions — and I know they’re sincere and passionate — but because they embraced the filibuster, Mitch McConnell is going to run the US Senate even if we take a majority.”
Inslee’s point underscored a stark reality for Democrats: Even if they beat President Donald Trump and take back the White House in 2020, they will still need to keep the House and retake the Senate to pass any policy. And even if they do take back the Senate by a bare majority — a stretch given the current Senate map — current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus would likely use the filibuster to try to obstruct a Democratic agenda.
In other words, either Democrats need to win back the White House and a supermajority in the Senate, or eliminate the filibuster. Otherwise, McConnell will ensure their big ideas are toast.
It bears repeating: 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. As bad as Trump is, President Tom Cotton would be far worse.