Democrats are engaged in the Kabuki theater of foreordained defeat right now.
“If you elect us, we will repeal Obamacare,” Republicans claimed in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Each victory brought a goal post shift. Ultimately, the Republican Party never got rid of the Affordable Care Act. The same happened with Planned Parenthood. Despite Republican control, reconciliation processes that bypass the filibuster and Republican presidents, Planned Parenthood funding remained.
Republicans are used to the Kabuki theater that their politicians engage in. The stylized performance, boastfulness on the campaign stage, and campaign ads and mail pieces inevitably lead to impressive speeches and theater in Congress before the inevitable and foreordained failure to keep promises. The epilogue is excuse-making and blame.
Republican voters fell for it repeatedly and, ultimately, both caught on and empowered one man to burn it all down. Donald Trump, in 2016, got elected and did force through some changes to the Affordable Care Act and then, by executive order, finally took on Planned Parenthood. The enduring loyalty the Republican base has for Trump can best be understood because Trump kept his core promise — to fight back and gut the Republican establishment that both denied its own existence and perfected ritualistic Kabuki theater always designed to impress and always designed to fail.
Democrats are engaged in the Kabuki theater of foreordained defeat right now. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden are promising to bring House Resolution 1, the Democrats’ progressive largesse of a voting reform package, for a vote. The filibuster is in the way, so they are pledging to scrap that, too.
They will display their passion. They will display their rage. They will display their commitment. Behind closed doors, Democrats know both that H.R. 1 is a terrible idea and that the filibuster is a very good idea worth saving. They cannot say either publicly, lest they spark a civil war within their own party.
Ask yourself one question: Do Democrats want federal taxpayer dollars funding the campaign of QAnon sympathizer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene? H.R. 1 would require federal dollars to subsidize political campaigns. Do you really think the Democrats who vilify Greene at every opportunity want to fund her campaign? H.R. 1, written largely by progressive activists, is a grab back of many unworkable and publicly unpopular proposals. But progressive activists love them all.
Democrats in Washington, D.C., know better than to pass H.R. 1. In addition to the inevitable court fight, it would fund people like Greene. Democrats in Washington also know they’ve been so performative on the campaign trail about voting rights and voting reform that they cannot do anything other than emotively perform for their base.
Concurrently, the House of Representatives will flip to the GOP next year. Republicans do not even need redistricting. The party that does not control the White House almost always makes gains in the House in off-year elections. Redistricting will add to the Republican edge. The Senate may maintain a Democratic majority, but the GOP will kill any initiatives in the House.
In 2024, the GOP has massive odds of retaking the Senate. The Democrats will have to defend the most seats, and many of them are in states Trump won. Right now, the Democrats have a 50-50 Senate. Even without the filibuster, Democrats are having trouble passing key legislation. They have failed to repeal most of Trump’s last-minute regulations — a maneuver that bypasses the filibuster. The Senate parliamentarian gave Senate Democrats an additional reconciliation attempt, which also bypasses the filibuster. But Democrats have failed to use that too.
With Republicans restored to the House next year and Sen. Mitch McConnell on the cusp of regaining power, why on earth would Democrats want to scrap the filibuster? They will need it against McConnell and House Republicans. Unfortunately, Democrats cannot be honest. They must instead, with help from friends in the press, go through the ritualistic and stylized dance of defeat that signals to the base they care and are fighters while privately knowing defeat was always the only outcome.
Democrats will inevitably have hell to pay from their base as Republicans did. The difference between them and Republicans is Trump was actually far closer to mainstream America than the far left. That gives the GOP one more advantage moving forward, even if the press and Democrats cannot admit it.
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