Every ten years, the United States conducts a comprehensive census, upon which the redrawing of Congressional political districts – what we Canadians would call “ridings” – will be based. 2020 was a census year. You may have noticed that this time around there was high profile litigation surrounding the process, as Trump and his Republican pals tried, in effect, to gerrymander the entire country by rejigging the rules on who gets counted. At the same time, the GOP sought to maintain its white minority rule (there’s really no other way to characterize it) by securing control of the State legislatures, which will redraw the election maps based on the decennial census. In 2010 they succeeded brilliantly, solidifying their unfair advantage in a political effort they brazenly dubbed Project Redmap, and this year, while we were all looking the other way and celebrating the ouster of Trump, they did it again. Democratic voters, seemingly indifferent as ever to how power is doled out by their godawful system, didn’t vote to change things at the State level, and Republicans solidified their control over the majority of State legislatures, giving them the opportunity, now, to redraw 188 Congressional Districts, almost 45% of the whole House of Representatives. When they do, they’re going to gerrymander the living crap out of the entire country.
The crazy-making phenomenon of Republicans losing the popular vote but taking power anyway will thus persist as the defining trait of the American political process, and the odds are excellent that in 2022 the GOP will retake the House of Representatives – the body in which all Federal legislation originates – at which point Biden’s Presidency, and the entire progressive project he hopes to pursue, will be, for all practical purposes, over. Moreover, having pulled off Redmap II, the GOP is unlikely to have anything to worry about until at least 2030, and will continue to hold the balance of power despite their general inability to gain majority support. Nothing’s ever a mortal lock in politics, though, so just in case, Republican-controlled States are also doing their damnedest to pass draconian voter suppression legislation the like of which Americans haven’t seen since Jim Crow. The goal, as always, is to make it punishingly difficult for people of colour to vote, which will be especially useful when it comes to taking back the Senate (Senate elections are State-wide and can’t be gerrymandered). They aren’t being coy about it either. They don’t see why they have to be. They reckon that nobody can stop them.
So, two years. That’s probably all the Democrats have, and it gets worse, because though you can theoretically do a lot in two years, you can’t when the Senate filibuster remains as an implacable obstacle to everything that can’t be shoehorned into the budget reconciliation process. If it’s not about raising revenue or spending, it needs 60 votes, and that there is what it is. Want to raise the minimum wage? Mitch says no. Want to pass laws that will address climate change? Mitch says hell no. Put a stop to incessant GOP ratfucking and protect voting rights, once and for all? Mitch says go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.
As I’ve railed in this space before, the filibuster is just a Senate rule of procedure, and an accidental one at that. It isn’t law, and it most emphatically is not contemplated anywhere in the Constitution. I wrote all about it a couple of months ago, if you’re interested:
…and because it’s just a rule, the Democrats could do away with the filibuster right now, with 50 votes and Ms. Harris casting the tiebreak. They could. Yet they can’t. Which brings us to this guy:
Kind of looks like a Republican, doesn’t he? He kind of acts like one too.
Then there’s this piece of work, seen here flouncing into frame so she can cast a theatrical thumbs down to giving the working poor a fighting chance at eating every second day, if they can just snag second jobs working the night shift at Walmart or Taco Bell:
…a dick move that was hilariously lampooned in a deceptively caustic little video that ought to earn this young lady some sort of award:
They may be Democrats, and presumably they’d agree that it’d be nice to enact a few bills into law now and then, but both Sinema and Manchin insist they won’t vote to abolish the filibuster. Not under any circumstances. Manchin, who people swear up and down isn’t an idiot, says he doesn’t want to remove minority protections from Senate procedure – this in a diabolically conceived minoritarian institution in which the 50 Republican Senators represent over 41 million fewer Americans than the 50 Democrats, owing to a constitution that gives the 580,000 odd clodhoppers in Wyoming the same number of seats as the 40 million Californians whose individual votes are thus roughly 69 times less powerful – and has an infuriating habit of blathering on about the “Byrd Rule” as if it was something dictated to Moses by flaming shrubbery. (What the hell is the Byrd Rule? You might well ask. Named after one time Senator Robert Byrd, who was not any sort of deity but rather a Democrat from Manchin’s own West Virginia who soaked up a Senate seat for 51 years, as white guys tend to do, it’s the rule that restricts the filibuster-proof reconciliation process to budget items). As for Sinema, whose home State of Arizona is one of the ones trying to pass laws to make sure only white folk get to vote, she sent out a chipper email to her constituents explaining it for them:
Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it’s meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be. I believe the Senate has a responsibility to put politics aside and fully consider, debate, and reach compromise on legislative issues that will affect all Americans.
Yeah, well, tell it to McConnell, and by the way, Senator, the frickin’ Senate was not designed to be a gridlocked talking shop where bills from the House go to be quietly throttled. Read the frickin’ Federalist Papers. The beloved Founders designed the Senate to require supermajority approval for only a carefully restricted set of matters, among them ratifying treaties and removing miscreants from office via impeachment. Otherwise, it was supposed to run by simple majority rule, just like the House, which still works that way owing to the lower chamber’s fortuitous absence of legislators stupid enough to create something as game-changing as the filibuster entirely by accident.
A couple of weekends ago, Manchin raised a stir by appearing on the Sunday shows and suggesting he’d be amenable to reforms that made the filibuster more painful to use, perhaps by bringing back the old school Mr Smith Goes to Washington sort of talking filibusters. He later walked that back a bit, saying that the pundits were making too much of it, but who knows? Maybe he’ll see the merit of his own idea, which would actually do a lot of good, depending upon how they cast the reform, even if it is an unsatisfying half measure. If Sinema could be persuaded to go along with the compromise we might wind up in a world in which filibusters, blessedly, had to end at some point and couldn’t block legislation permanently. This might be something President Biden could get behind too, despite his misty-eyed, rose-tinted adoration of the bipartisan Senate of his youth, which he seems to think could still exist.
Well, it can’t. It’s over with that. It’s been over with that since that roly-poly rat bastard Newt Gingrich hit town, and it ain’t coming back.
The Democrats don’t have to sit there and accomplish nothing over the next two years. Even more important: they don’t have to accept that two years is all they have, either. They can change the whole script, but to do it they have to get HR-1, the For the People Act*, passed to protect voting rights and stop Republicans at the State level from putting the final nails in the coffin of American democracy. That, too, means doing away with the filibuster, because there sure as shit aren’t 10 GOP votes for that. If Manchin and Sinema don’t give their heads a shake and clue themselves in to the enormous peril inherent in what the Republicans are up to, fast, the GOP is going to pull off a political heist of historic proportions, and starting in 2022 you likely won’t see a Democratic majority in either chamber of Congress, not then, and maybe not ever again for as long as you live. Then they won’t need an army of Trump-worshiping, QAnon-quoting brainstems to storm the Hill looking to sack the joint and hang a few folks while they’re at it. They’ll just need the morons to go out and vote once in a while in the rigged elections, after which everybody can pretend that the United States is still the land of the free.
This is about so much more than making the most of this opportunity. It’s about whether the Democrats will ever get another like it. Both problems have the same answer.
What do you bet that once Mitch gets his majority back, first thing he does is ditch the filibuster so he can cram his agenda right down America’s throat?
*Read about it here: