No Democrat who supports the filibuster should ever be elected to the Senate again

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That consensus is evident in fundraising appeals from candidates for whom support of the filibuster would previously have been an accepted and not especially controversial fact, such as Rep.Tim Ryan, currently running for Senate in Ohio, and Rep. Conor Lamb, running for Senate in Pennsylvania. 

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Both Reps. Ryan and Lamb hail from the more “centrist” wing of the party, but both of them clearly recognize the intense anger and frustration felt by the Democratic electorate about Manchin and Sinema’s obstinacy.  Rep. Lamb, for example, is facing a potential primary fight against an unabashed progressive in current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has already made abolishing the filibuster a primary issue for his campaign.

As observed by Paul Waldman for The Washington Post, in the five states where Democrats currently stand a chance of recapturing Senate seats currently held by the GOP—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—all of the leading candidates on the Democratic side have expressed support for “ending the filibuster or significantly reforming it.” According to Waldman, that is because opposition to the filibuster has in fact gone beyond a mere consensus position, and is now “foundational.”

That’s because, in the way Republicans use it today, the filibuster doesn’t just stymie progressive legislation, it stymies almost all legislation. If it was only used to block single-payer health care or a guaranteed basic income, Democrats such as Lamb would still favor maintaining it. But by using it against almost every significant piece of legislation, Republicans have pushed even centrist Democrats into a position where they can no longer support it.

If Democratic voters had been asked two years ago whether they considered the filibuster a critical issue, even those who actually knew what was wouldn’t have likely considered it as an overriding concern. But its impact on this president’s ability to achieve the goals he campaigned on now stands in such stark relief against the monolithic obstruction of the now wholly Trump-dependent Republican Party. The continued existence of this archaic vestige, from a era of Senate comity that long ago passed into history, has now become an infuriating symbol of weakness and political impotence. As Waldman observes, the filibuster is now being understood by Democrats in the broader context of the Republicans’ coordinated efforts to undermine our democracy at every turn. 

This is also occurring against a broader backdrop in which Republican procedural radicalism is at play at every level of government and politics. It isn’t just about the filibuster, it’s also about gerrymandering, about voter suppression, about the insanity of the debt ceiling, about state legislatures enacting blatantly unconstitutional laws and then getting the conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court to give them a wink and a nod.

It’s about holding open Supreme Court seats to obtain that supermajority, about taking over the machinery of elections, about “preemption” laws that Republican state legislatures use to prevent Democratic cities from setting their own rules, and about the shape of minority rule that gives Republicans such disproportionate power.

Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, takes it a step further. In his view, there is no chance that any Democrat who supports or accepts the filibuster will ever again be elected to the United States Senate. Marshall notes that Ohio Rep.Tim Ryan’s fundraising pitches in particular have crossed the Rubicon between the aspirational and the fully committed.

It’s fair to note that this kind of pitch isn’t solely or even primarily aimed at Ohioans. It’s going to Democrats nationwide. Contributors tend to be more partisan, more liberal. But any candidate is on the line for a position they take so strongly, even in a fundraising email.

I don’t know the next time the Democrats will have a Senate majority if they lose it in 2022. But like I said, no one can get a Democratic Senate nomination let alone win a Senate seat as a Democrat while embracing the filibuster. It won’t ever happen again.

As Marshall implies, a candidate who voices such a commitment to abolish the filibuster can always risk the wrath of his/her constituents by backtracking once in office. But at this point in time, the mood of the Democratic electorate is that it has little left to lose, given a lawless and malevolent Republican party intent on cementing itself into power for a generation, and given a hostile and ideologically corrupt Supreme Court sitting wholly in its service.

The thing about anger is that it always seeks an outlet, and Democratic voters—who are now forced to witness not only their hopes but the country itself being sabotaged right before their eyes—have seen quite enough.



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