For Democrats there's a big storm ongoing in Massachusetts. But it has some silver linings.
Stop Fussing about The Filibuster
All too much attention has been paid to trying to get a veto-proof vote in the Senate. Fear of filibuster never used to stop Senators from conducting votes in the past. The Senate is designed, under ordinary circumstances, to require simple majority vote for most things. Yes, Republicans have lately been threatening the filibuster more often, but that doesn't mean they'll do it. They're just enjoying the fact that it makes the Democrats give up without trying. If their bluff were called and they really had to filibuster day after day as their only tool, rather than engaging debate, the citizenry would quickly tire of it.
So I'm with David Brin on this, when he says “Invite the filibuster”. With only 59 votes, the Democrats will have to just risk the filibuster or else they might as well all go home because they no longer pretend the magic number is even achievable against the Party of No, whose entire apparent strategy amounts to little more than blocking consensus.
Even if the Democrats do get filibustered, it will help them next election to be able to claim they voted in favor of things like Health Care and that the Republicans voted against. But if instead they never bring these things to vote, it will help them not at all to run on a platform of “Well, it wouldn't have worked so we didn't try.”
If the Democrat had won in Massachusetts, the Democratic party might have blown their planning for the next election, thinking there was no real threat. Voters might have stayed home thinking all was calm. Hopefully distress over what happened today will wake Democrats up to the need to organize better. Hopefully, too, disaffected Democrats who just want to throw away their vote on a protest will see how badly that can end up.
Howard Dean, speaking to Rachel Maddow tonight, said he thought the loss was no one's fault. In fact, I think Coakley ran a pretty ineffective campaign, and there's plenty of fault to deal with there in terms of just managing image and controlling message. But Dean is right that a lot of it is just the natural consequence of what Bush left us all with. To some degree it was inevitable that some people would still be experiencing pain, and would take it out on the party in power. Maybe not everyone, but perhaps a critical few percent.
It's almost like the game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe in which it matters whether the specific number of following words is odd or even. There's a pendulum swinging back and forth and it's not magic how the outcome is, it matters who's the odd person and who's the even one.
Boom. The economy crashes. Republicans are in disfavor. Enter Obama. He doesn't clean it all up. Democrats are in disfavor. Enter Scott Brown. He perhaps doesn't fix it either. Republicans now in less favor. How does this affect the 2010 election? Well, it may work out better for the Democrats than if no special election had happened, since it gives them a chance to rally. But then again, if they don't, the 2012 election will be hurt. So some of it relies on real politics, and some on casual chance and opportunity.
For Democrats it was very important to win this. But now it's spilled milk, so it's time to move on. To quote Nietzsche, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” Only I don't think he had it quite right. What he should have said is, “What doesn't kill you is an opportunity to become stronger, don't waste it.”
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