While not being presumptuous of a Democratic victory across the board in 2020, Progressive and Centrist Democrats need to ask themselves the question “If we win, where are the votes to enact our progressive programs?”
The History of the last 25 years provides some lessons Progressive and Centrist Democrats need to pay heed to if they win the House, Senate and Presidency in 2021. These lessons are:
- When Democratic Presidents take office, Republican lawmakers become clones of Doctor No and obstruct legislation and nominations to the detriment of the country. They did this on proposals like the Clinton Economic Plan (where a similar one passed under the first Bush Administration,) the Clinton Health Care Plan, the George W. Bush Immigration Plan, the Obama Stimulus Plan (which contained one of the largest tax cuts in history,) the Affordable Care Act (based on Republican ideas and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts Plan), Cap and Trade (which John McCain supported before going against it when Obama signaled support), Infrastructure plans, and the Merrick Garland nomination to the United States Supreme Court.
- Conservative Democrats wield a lot of influence on the shaping of legislation. A BTU tax on gas purchases? Sorry Vice President Gore, said Conservative Democrats from oil-rich states in 1993. Allowing people under 55 to buy into Medicare in the Affordable Care Act? No way, said Senator (and 2008 McCain supporter/friend of the health insurance industry), Joe Liberman in 2009 and 2010. Let us not forget Senator (Cornhusker) Ben Nelson of Nebraska and the favors he received for his support of the Affordable Care Act. if Democrats do not get to over 60 votes in the Senate, Progressives will need to think about the perspectives of Senators Sinema, Manchin, and (if he gets reelected) Jones if they regain control in 2021.
If the Democrats do not seat 60 legislators in the United States Senate in 2021, (either Centrist or Progressive; it does not matter which; both would be branded as Socialist by the fringe right), Democrats should consider the following when moving forward-looking legislation:
- Filibuster Reform which would restrict or actually do away with the unlimited debate in the Senate Chamber so legislation could proceed to a floor vote. Democrats need to be careful of what is crafted. The Senate has changed party control seven times in close to 40 years and, like the move to take away the filibuster on Presidential nominations, any further reform could lead to unintended consequences like the Worst and Dumbest Presidential Cabinet (Trump’s) in History and judicial nominees from the reactionary wing of the Republican Party.
- Expanding the Size of the Courts. Two Presidents who lost the popular vote have been able to fill judicial seats (including four on the United States Supreme Court) with candidates the majority of the American People did not want. In order to correct the judicial misdirection, these “minority” judges have started to steer the country (Citizens United, Voting Rights), it may be necessary for a Democratic President and Senate to expand the size of the courts so they reflect the norms of the country.
It is reported that when negotiations for the Obama Stimulus Plan took place, some Democrats, incensed that the price tag was not higher, complained to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that more funds were needed. Emanuel reportedly replied that he wanted more money to but where were the votes.
This is a dose of reality that Democrats need to be honest with themselves and the voters about. This is why Centrists and Progressive Democrats need to unite behind a program that they could unanimously embrace and pass. This is the likely political dynamic they need to plan for no matter which Democrat gets the nomination and hopefully wins the office in November 2020.
If victorious, Democrats (both Centrist and Progressive) need to consider where the votes are when looking to pass legislation. Republicans will become Dr. No, and obstruct again and Moderate to Conservative Democrats will have to be appeased. Filibuster Reform and expanding the Courts could provide some relief and move the country forward but long term consequences (blowback) can occur.