CommunityThe Bullpen

Democratic Insecurity? Or Just A Different Set of Interests?

Ted Strickland, the defeated Governor of Ohio, despaired yesterday that Democrats would lose the tax cut debate.

Talking, unprompted, about the debate over the expiring Bush tax cuts, Strickland said he was dumbfounded at the party’s inability to sell the idea that the rates for the wealthy should be allowed to expire.

“I mean, if we can’t win that argument we might as well just fold up,” he said. “These people are saying we are going to insist on tax cuts for the richest people in the country and we don’t care if they are paid for, and we don’t think it is a problem if it contributes to the deficit, but we are not going to vote to extend unemployment benefits to working people if they aren’t paid for because they contribute to the deficit. I mean, what is wrong with that? How can it be more clear?”

Actually, I’d argue they’re selling the idea pretty well to the public. Every poll shows more support for their position than the Republicans. They just aren’t selling, and can never sell, the position to the other side. Republicans have rigid, Parliamentary discipline on the issue of taxes (and most other things). They each have no interest in conceding because it would spell disaster for their careers. In a presidential system with a minority veto point, this Parliamentary discipline will always win out.

There’s a choice, of course. Democrats can use this moment to change the rules. All of their important agenda items are being hijacked at the last minute, with severe rigidity. Republicans are even vowing to block the food safety bill they passed on Monday, which needs another Senate vote because of a drafting error. So Democrats could hold a bunch of show votes on job bills that get objected to, as they did last night. They could hold a series of cloture votes, none of which will pass, which is the plan for the next couple days. This “proves” Republicans are serious about hijacking the nation for millionaire tax cuts, but everyone knows they’re serious. Beyond this, Democrats could pull out the nuclear option.

No need to wait for a new Congress, no need to put together a supermajority. If 51 Senators really want to rule by majority (party) rule, they can force it […]

Indeed, I think that Harry Reid should have been threatening something like that since Republicans took to filibustering almost everything last year. And it’s not too late now: in response to the GOP threat to hold up absolutely everything in the lame duck session apart from tax cuts and appropriations, there’s nothing to stop Harry Reid from going to the Senate floor, blasting Republicans for obstructing the business of the nation, and threatening to go nuclear — to eliminate the filibuster by majority vote — unless Republicans knock it off.

That is, there’s nothing if Reid has the votes. I suspect he does, at least for the bluff.

If there was ever a moment to go nuclear, it would be right now. Republicans have brazenly taken hold of the entire Senate, daring Democrats to abolish the filibuster. Jeff Merkley’s plan to slightly reform it is nice, and I support it, but a party that really wanted their agenda to succeed would have cut the nonsense a year ago.

Instead, we’re not going to get this. We’re going to get an extension of all the tax cuts, with some fig leaf of a guaranteed vote on new START and (maybe) the defense bill or unemployment insurance. That’s pretty clear, so let’s ask ourselves why.

Is it that one side likes to play fair and inside the lines while the other doesn’t? That’s at the heart of Chris Dodd’s colloquy against the filibuster (there’s a reason Mitch McConnell hugged him after that speech). Is it that one side is so insecure that they feel the Village would be mean to them if they managed to assert themselves? Are they endlessly worried about the next election and believe that their ideas are just unpopular? Or, are they just disinterested in that agenda, period? Do they not really want to do what’s necessary to pass it?

There is no “we” in the Democratic Party. I think part of that holds for different people. But if they think they’re in better political shape as a disorganized mess, capitulating to a Parliamentary party in a presidential system, well, they’re wrong.

Previous post

Live Video: Gates, Mullen Testify at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Hearing

Next post

Obama and the Boil

David Dayen

David Dayen

1 Comment