A Blueprint For When The Country Turns Blue
The GOP has skillfully exploited the small state bias in the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate to gain control of these institutions even though they received fewer votes than the Democrats in 2016. In addition, the GOP majority in the House is largely due to extreme gerrymandering in many of the states. The U.S. is the only first world industrialized country where a party can finish second and yet gain total control over the government.
Once the GOP gains power, they aggressively use every procedural lever available to enact their regressive and unpopular agenda. The Republicans used the budget reconciliation process — that they condemned during the Clinton and Obama presidencies — to pass deficit financed tax cuts that largely favored the wealthy during the Reagan, Bush43 and Trump presidencies. In 2017, the GOP ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and confirmed Neil Gorsuch for the seat that was stolen from Merrick Garland the previous year.
Another feature of GOP rule at the state level is that they swiftly pass legislative measures to knee cap the Democrats and cement their own power. In Wisconsin, the Republicans passed a partisan voter identification law and broke up the unions. Trump probably carried Wisconsin in 2016 due to the GOP voter suppression law passed in 2011.
When the Democrats are in power, the GOP vehemently condemns the use of budget reconciliation by the Democrats to pass their agenda. In 1993, Bill Clinton and the Congressional Democrats buckled to GOP pressure and decided against the use of the budget reconciliation rules to pass universal health care with 51 votes. Similarly, during the Obama Administration, the GOP went into full outrage mode over the budget reconciliation rules during the debate over the ACA. Contrary to popular belief, the Democrats passed the ACA through regular order by a 60–39 vote in the Senate in December 2009.
New York times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman said it best: “The lesson here is never to take right-wing huffiness about the process of politics and political debate seriously. These guys don’t actually believe in any rules at all; whatever rule they may lay down in one case, they’ll break in an instant if they think they see an advantage.”
What this means going forward is that when we Democrats regain power, we must be as aggressive in wielding power as the Republicans have been. We can no longer take seriously the GOP’s phony complaints about rules and norms. These complaints clearly weren’t made in good faith. As former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said: “The only silver lining to the dark cloud of the Trump era is the daily reminder of how full of shit conservative critics of Obama were.”
The first thing we need to do once we regain power is to eliminate the filibuster on all legislation. In the past, the filibuster has been largely used by conservatives to block progressive legislation on civil rights and health care. In contrast, the Republicans are able to pass tax cuts in the Senate with 51 votes using the budget reconciliation process. We will not be able to enact progressive legislation in health care, voting rights and campaign finance reform if we maintain the filibuster rule.
Once the filibuster rule is ended, we must expand the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. The number of seats on the various federal courts are set by statute. We need to expand the number of Supreme Court seats to eleven to make up for the theft of the seat stolen from Merrick Garland. Similarly, the GOP refused to confirm any Obama nominated judges in 2016 and are now packing the lower federal courts with young right wingers.
Another high priority must be voting rights. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County opened the door to partisan and racist voter suppression laws. A Democratic Congress must pass legislation reversing that decision. In addition, we must also pass an automatic voter registration law.
The small state bias in the U.S. Senate is another inequity in the system that favors the GOP. A law must be passed admitting Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as the 51st and 52nd states. This would give the Democrats four additional Senate seats and would make it harder to neglect Puerto Rico in the future.
I can guarantee you that if the GOP was in our position, they would do the same thing. Politics isn’t bean bag. Moreover, I’m confident that once our platform was enacted, it would be successful and popular. For example, no country that has adopted universal health care has ever backtracked and adopted a U.S. style system. Even the conservative parties in other first world countries support universal health care. The GOP is the lone outlier.
The first step to enacting our agenda is to win the 2018 mid-term elections. I’m confident we will be successful this fall but we can take nothing for granted. Now let’s throw the rascals out!