“Poll numbers,” NBC News warned on Tuesday, “are pointing to a midterm shellacking for Democrats.” Seven-in-ten Americans think the country is on the “wrong track.” Joe Biden’s job-approval rating is mired in the low 40s. While voters are split on which party they want to see in control of Congress, the generic ballot average gives Republicans a similar advantage to the one they enjoyed in 2014, when the GOP won 247 House seats and won nine seats in the U.S. Senate, flipping control of that chamber.
If the mood in the Democratic caucus is increasingly bitter, it should be. But the party in power and its supporters in the press haven’t accepted the inevitability of their circumstances yet. As the midterm elections bear down on the party with the seemingly unalterable trajectory of an earthbound asteroid, the party’s members are concocting increasingly harebrained schemes that just might deliver them from their unenviable fates.
Among Democrats who have convinced themselves that their only hope is to pass something—anything—they can call transformative progressive legislation, an extremely convoluted plan is gaining traction. With “Build Back Better” still a smoldering heap, the only game in town is a broad package of legislative reforms that would functionally federalize state-level elections. But that bill cannot pass if Republicans can take advantage of the filibuster and the 60-vote threshold to end debate on a bill. At least two Democrats—Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—insist that they won’t support a carveout of the legislative filibuster, even for a bill they support. That means Democrats could be forced to break the glass around “Plan B,” and it goes something like this…
Per reporting by The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would call for a simple majority vote on the election-reform bill and skip the procedural cloture vote that would traditionally cut off open-ended debate on the matter. Republicans can be expected to filibuster the bill and gum up the works with proposed motions and amendments. Democrats would welcome all this, so long as they can force Republicans to engage in an old-fashioned talking filibuster. A Senate rule prevents individual senators from speaking twice, so the idea would be to compel all 50 Republican senators to talk for “days or weeks” until they’re eventually exhausted. At this point, the debate is over, and the legislation can “pass with 51 votes without changing the Senate’s rules.” Voila!
The Hill’s reporting notes that the senators and staffers contemplating this strategy (inexplicably, on the record) have oversimplified the procedural hurdles that litter the Democrats’ imagined pathway to victory. Moreover, the level of delusion demanded of a party that thinks giving its opponents “weeks” of uninterrupted access to a microphone is a winning move is hard to describe. Any one senator with the gumption to engage in a talking filibuster, almost always in service to a lost cause, garlands themselves in romantic praise. From Rand Paul to Ted Cruz, from Wendy Davis to Bernie Sanders, lawmakers who take advantage of this theatrical tactic enjoy instant celebrity, and their arguments are exposed to audiences that would have never heard them.
Multiply that effect by 50, and you have some idea of the folly Democrats are entertaining in their desperation.