Posted by Curt on 28 January, 2021 at 9:03 am. 1 comment.


by Damon Linker

The left wing of the Democratic Party has a plan, and it goes like this:

With the party controlling both houses of Congress along with the presidency, Democrats in the Senate need to vote as a bloc (with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the winning 51st vote) to eliminate the filibuster, the parliamentary procedure that enables the minority party (in this case, the GOP) to require 60 votes to advance most forms of legislation. With this accomplished, the Democrats should then ram through a long list of policies, ranging from additional trillions of dollars’ worth of pandemic relief to various institutional reforms that will enhance the party’s electoral prospects going forward.

That’s the plan, but it’s already falling to pieces. That’s because former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded as a condition of reaching a power-sharing agreement with Democrats that the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promise to keep the filibuster in place. This was never a serious threat because any such promise was unenforceable; Schumer could agree to it and then break the deal the moment Republicans filibustered something the Democrats passionately cared about passing.

Yet if the goal of McConnell’s gambit was to preserve the filibuster, it must be judged a smashing success. That’s because by forcing the issue right up front, McConnell prompted two Democrats — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — to state forthrightly on the record that they have no intention of supporting the elimination of the filibuster, now or in the future.

Not only does that mean the left’s plan is dead in the water. It also means that McConnell has already called Schumer’s bluff in advance, preventing him from using the threat of eliminating the filibuster as leverage to persuade Republicans not to use it to slow down or scuttle legislation Democrats favor.

Who’s to blame for the left’s plans running aground so soon? Many will be tempted to direct their ire at party leaders or the supposedly wishy-washy, cowardly senators who refuse to wield power with the ruthlessness Republicans regularly do. But the real culprit is the party’s voters, many of whom simply don’t favor the policies such hardball tactics would enact. That’s the Democratic reality: The party may hold (extremely narrow) majorities in both houses of Congress, but those majorities are comprised of elements that are far from being uniformly left wing.

The Democratic Party is quite ideologically broad. It ranges from Bernie Sanders fanboys and AOC stans on one side to Michael Bloomberg-admiring technocratic neoliberals on the other, with Joe Biden attempting to straddle the extremes from the somewhere in the middle.

But even this way of talking about the fissures in the party makes them sound too neat and tidy. You have highly educated very progressive urban professionals whose views often align with left-wing activists, who want to push policy as far left as they can. You have large numbers of suburban voters, many of whom are more moderate on policy, and some of whom used to be Republicans, found Donald Trump personally repulsive, and began voting blue as a result. These voters are broadly supportive of the new administration but don’t necessarily want to see a massive expansion of government spending. Then there are culturally conservative but economically populist voters, notably in the Midwest, who are nonetheless somewhat receptive to Republican warnings about the imposition of “socialism” and the threat of urban unrest.

Some of these groups are whiter than others, but they’re also made up of minority voters, who are themselves further divided in a multitude of ways. Younger Black voters align electorally with urban progressives, but older Blacks tend to be more skeptical of big, ambitious government plans. Hispanics, meanwhile, favor Democrats overall but with significant regional variation (Latino voters in California were much more likely than Latinos elsewhere to support Sanders over Biden in the state’s primary last year, for example), and with some ominous signs of rising support for Trump this past November, especially in Texas and Florida.

That’s a portrait of a highly fractious party.

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