As I was listening to Chris Hayes talk about the need to force the hand of our elected leaders to get them back in the business of blasting a tunnel through the mountain, rather than building longer paths around it, I found myself somewhat skeptical. Here's why:
If the 2010 midterms go extremely well, Democrats might end up with as many Senate seats as they had at the peak of the Great Society. And that will likely be the high water mark for Democrats for quite some time. Yes, some of those Dixiecrats were incredibly conservative, but that was also an age during which liberal Republicans existed. Therefore I'm fairly certain that LBJ actually had better conditions for passing his agenda than Obama does today.
The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that America's politics will only shift to the left once Republicans shift to the left. The best way to do that, in the short term, is to keep defeating elected Republicans. But at some point, someone will have to get in the business of creating a DLC for the right: an apparatus geared towards electing a significant chunk of truly moderate Republicans and dragging the party kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The "Great Reform" act is quite simple ... whatever arcane rules the Senate decides upon, it must allow a bill passed by the House to be brought to the floor without amendment or debate for an up or down vote unless its version of the bill is brought to the floor for a vote within a calendar month.
Allow it to act as a governing legislature if it can get its act together to do so ... allow it to act as a "house of review" if it can get its act together to do so ... but a blocking minority can't simply threaten to hold its breath until it turns blue to block legislation passed by the House.
Wow. That's actually a really clever procedural reform suggestion. No one in Congress today would go for it, but it's brilliant.
If 60 Democrats in the Senate don't pass New Deal 2.0 after the worst financial crisis since the Depression and 2 consecutive elections in which the Republicans got shellacked, you can safely infer that they don't particularly want New Deal 2.0.
Ron E. is correct. I'm becoming more convinced every day that we need to stop assuming elected Democrats are secret liberals/progressives who capitulate and give in to the right wing out of fear and electoral calculus.
The Democratic party is both the majority and opposition party in DC, with the Sreaming Ninnies, aside from just mucking things up however they can, actually giving political cover to conservative Dems who believe in free market pixie dust and spreading democracy by gunpoint.
On a side note, watching Nick make this chart was like seeing an artist paint.
But look, Democrats had more than 60 seats in the 1930s and 1960s, and it still took Republican cooperation to pass a decent agenda. It's true that you can make a safe inference that some Dems don't want New Deal 2.0, but it's also the case that there's not a single Republican for them to go to.
At some point, the Dems have to stop listening to their inner David Broder and realize they are both the liberal party and the left wing of the opposition party, rolled into one - so that sufficient Blue Dog support makes a bill inherently bipartisan, and screw that party that only has followers in the South and the sparsely populated states of the Plains and northern Rockies.
It's a real problem that the Democratic Party is so schizophrenic these days, with a mix of genuine progressives and Congresscritters who live to do the bidding of the corporate world. So they might as well re-frame things in a way that acknowledges the division and takes advantage of it in some form.
Sure, it puts the Blue Dogs in the driver's seat, but it's not like they're not already there.
In the meantime, if the Dems are lucky enough to pick up 4-5 Senate seats in 2010, I think the filibuster really will become much rarer, because there won't be that many times when you can get 5-6 Blue Dogs to vote against cloture on the same bill. To get those sorts of numbers really would involve the Blue Dogs setting themselves up as a quasi-opposition party.
But Nicholas, the threshold was 2/3 during the New Deal ... between 1806, when the motion to move the previous question was removed, and 1917, there was no mechanism to halt debate, and from 1917 to 1949, it was 2/3 of those voting.
Indeed, a "Small Reform" of the filibuster might be to make cloture 3/5 of those voting, and to rule out quorum calls in sessions lasting more than 24 hours continuously.
Just make the Senate democratic (small d) and have cloture require 51 votes. Problem solved.
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