President Obama's stimulus plan has passed the House with only a handful of Democratic defectors and unanimous-UNANIMOUS-Republican opposition.
We're in a much stronger position than we were in 1993, when Bill Clinton's tax bill passed with zero Republican votes and only one vote to spare.. Back then there was still a sizable bloc of old-school Southerners. Yesterday saw a comfortable margin and only eleven defectors:
Allen Boyd (D-FL-02)
Bobby Bright (D-AL-02)
Jim Cooper (D-TN-05)
Brad Ellsworth (D-IN-08)
Parker Griffith (D-AL-05)
Paul Kanjorski (D-PA-11)
Frank Kratovil (D-MD-01)
Walt Minnick (D-ID-01)
Colliin Peterson (D-MN-07)
Heath Shuler (D-NC-11)
Gene Taylor (D-MS-04)
Mostly Southern, mostly red red districts, mostly easy to explain (except... Kanjorski?). We're lucky to get votes for Speaker from Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Walt Minnick of freakin' Idaho, one of only five truly red states left.
It's clear that the GOP, seeking an identity in the post-conservative era, is repeating the mistakes of the Alf Landon era by positioning themselves as agin'ners. Past of it's the dynamic of the districting process. With nothing left but deep-red districts, and most states carefully gerrymandering the lines, the surviving Republicans are further and further right. There's just no Jim Leaches left. The big fear isn't getting knocked off in a general election—it's getting primaried by the ideological anti-taxers in Club For Growth. Thats' why Democratic naysayers Minnick and Kratovil are even there; Kratovil beat the winger who knocked off moderate Wayne Gilchest in the primary, and Minnick beat freshman Bill Sali who turned out too conservative for even Idaho.
So they're playing to the dwindling base, the 20-percenters who stuck with Bush to the end. Fine by me—they bottomed out at 88 seats in the 1936 election, and this map shows me a Landon-like 519 to 19 electoral college landslide for Obama over Palin (you know they're going there) in 2012.
But a state is a state and you can't gerrymander the Senate. The ball is now in Harry Reid's court.
Conventional wisdom holds that you can't get anything done in the Senate without 60 votes to stop a filibuster. But you almost never see the actual filibuster, the Jimmy Stewart standing up for hours Mr. Smith Goes To Washington style. What matters about the filibuster is the threat. “Ooh, we can't do that. That might hurt my dear esteemed honorable friend from the great commonwealth of Kentucky's feelings and he'll (shudder) filibuster.”
Why not let them? Unlike Jeff Smith, they won't look like the good guys as the high drama plays out. Let every newscast show Mitch McConnell reading the phone book into the record, blocking the agenda of the wildly popular new president. Let them shut the whole show down, and let people see it.
Sure, Newt Gingrich overplayed his hand in 1995 with the government shutdown. But the dynamic is different now. That “crisis” was artificial and ideologically driven. This thing is real. And the Contract On America agenda was polarizing, with nothing like the 80 percent or so approval Obama now enjoys.
It's a win-win. You show the Republicans for the obstructionists they are, and damage their brand even further. Pretty soon, someone with a tough race in two years, a Specter or a Gregg (or a Grassley?), cracks.
So Harry, make them squirm. Make them talk. And get Senator Franken seated while you're at it.