Back in 2005, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and presidency, they were contemplating a “nuclear option” to end the filibuster on judicial nominees. We were all aghast at the unprecedented number of filibusters that were mounted by Democrats to block highly qualified nominees to Federal Appellate courts. At the time, the ever perspicacious George Will warned conservatives of the counter-intuitive consequences of squelching the filibuster. He wrote in the Washington Post on April 25, 2003:
“The future will bring Democratic presidents and Senate majorities. How would you react were such a majority about to change Senate rules to prevent you from filibustering to block a nominee likely to construe the equal protection clause as creating a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?
And pruning the filibuster in the name of majority rule would sharpen the shears that one day will be used to prune it further. If filibusters of judicial nominations are impermissible, why not those of all nominations — and of treaties, too?”
As it turned out, the Republicans lost control of both Houses within17 months, and by 2009, the Democrats had the presidency and 59 seats in the Senate. Had Republicans opened the door for filibuster reform, the Democrats might have taken the initiative to completely extirpate it. One could only imagine how destructive the 111th congress would have been with unbridled power.
Luckily, the Democrats lacked the political support and audacity to implement filibuster reform when it would have counted. Now that they are irrelevant, they are calling for changes in the filibuster. The reality is that such radical changes in Senate rules can only undermine the Democrats and benefit Republicans.
Although the Democrats will still control the Senate for the next two years, the Republican-controlled House would block any measure that passes the Senate. Therefore, even if they were to abolish the filibuster altogether, they would never benefit from it.
Now, let’s fast forward to the 2012 and 2014 elections. By any objective measure, the Republicans have at least a 50% chance of winning the presidency in two years. The Senate elections for the next two cycles will be calamitous for Democrats. Let’s start with 2012. The Democrats are forced to defend 23 seats, while the Republicans will only defend 10. But the prognosis for the Democrats is even worse than these numbers suggest. Many of the Democrats are either dead men walking or seriously vulnerable. Very few Republicans, if any, are underdogs for reelection. The Democrats will have to defend 6 seats that are in solid red states. Worse yet, they will be running for reelection with Obama at the top of the ticket. Obama’s approval rating is as low as 30% in some of these states. Here are the most vulnerable red state Democrats in 2012:
Claire McCaskill in Missouri
Jon Tester in Montana
Ben Nelson in Nebraska
Kent Conrad in North Dakota
Jim Webb in Virginia
Joe Manchin in West Virginia
In addition, they will have to defend Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Bill Nelson in Florida, two states that shifted back to their former Republican tilt. Let’s add Herb Kohl in Wisconsin and Debbie Stabenow in Michigan to that list. They are both very vulnerable, and now the Republicans have strong farm teams in those states. Purple states like Minnesota and New Mexico will be challenged, especially if Jeff Bingaman retires his seat in New Mexico. This adds up to 12 vulnerable seats, even before factoring in some vulnerable Dems in blue states like Bob Casey in Pennsylvania (it’s not even a blue state anymore), Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, and Robert Menendez in New Jersey. The Democrats are overexposed in the Senate much like they were in the House heading into the 2010 midterms.
The Republicans on the other hand, don’t have a single member who is an underdog for reelection. Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown (for what they are worth) are the only blue state Republicans up for election, yet they poll very strongly among the broad electorate of those states. The reality is that barring any criminal negligence on the part of the GOP, the Democrats will lose control of the Senate in 2012.
What about 2014? The prognosis for the Democrats is just as bleak. Every Republican up for election in 4 years will be in a solid red state, except for Susan Collins. The Democrats will have to defend 8 red state seats and several purple states that are trending red. If we win the Presidency in 2012, it is hard to see how we don’t have a control over every facet of government, with the possibility of 60 seats by 2014.
The bottom line is that the constitutional mandate of allocating equal representation to small states is coming home to roost. The Senate was always a god-send for conservatives because there are so many more red states than blue states, yet they receive the same number of seats. It is only due to Republican incompetence that these states have elected so many Democrats and RINOs. Once the realignment of the red states is completed, the Democrats could face a permanent reality of being reduced to 40-45 seats. Their only hope of preserving Marxism will be the incessant use of the filibuster (and the inclusion of some RINOs if we get 60 seats in 2014). By eliminating the filibuster or reducing the threshold for cloture to 55, they will legislate themselves into oblivion.
As George Will noted in his 2005 defense of the filibuster, it is the Democrats who usually benefit from the high threshold for cloture:
“It has been 98 years since Republicans have had 60 senators. But in the past 50 years, there were more than 60 Democratic senators after seven elections: 1958 (64), 1960 (64), 1962 (67), 1964 (68), 1966 (64), 1974 (61), 1976 (62).”
In fact, since the article was written, the Democrats captured 60 seats yet again in 2009. However, if the Republicans capitalize on their chance at realignment (the same way they did with the House in 2010), not only will the Democrats never achieve a 60 seat majority, they will struggle to crack 45-47 seats. In addition to the geographical juggernaut, the Democrats face a demographic encumbrance as well. One of the reasons why the GOP lost so many seats was because they experienced a sudden spate of retirements, creating vacancies in vulnerable states. Now it is the Democrats’ turn. Eventually, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii will have to retire. Frank Lautenberg was already taken out of Jurassic Park when he reentered the Senate in 2002. Jay Rockefeller is already 73, and West Virginia is not the same state that originally elected him 25 years ago. Tom Harkin and Carl Levin are both over 70 and represent swing states. The Democrats really have their work cut out for them over the next decade.
The Democrat Party is a sinking ship that contains only one lifeboat; the filibuster. It appears that they are trying to vanquish their only means of survival. Hey, isn’t it comforting that the GOP is not the only party that self destructs?
Cross-posted to Red Meat Conservative