Republicans Warn They Might Get Their Way
A general rule in life is that if Josh Hammer comes out against something, there’s a 90% chance it’s an objectively good thing. On 3/19/2021, Josh Hammer published a column attacking the idea of abolishing the filibuster, one that has become popular among Senate Democrats. The article is full of bad arguments, an odd amount of anti-majoritarian sentiments from a self-described populist, and much more that exposes Hammer for the moron he is. However, there’s one point Hammer makes in the article that should be talked about:
The post-World War II modern GOP has been a coalitional party sustained by cultural conservatives and economic libertarians, but more often than not, the party erred on the classical liberal side encapsulated by Henry David Thoreau’s line from “Civil Disobedience”: “That government is best which governs least.” But ever since Donald Trump’s presidential election in 2016, the GOP’s classical liberal wing has faced a strong countervailing force in an ascendant nationalist-communitarian wing that is more willing to wield government power in the service of good political order to secure the common good. Thus, while the GOP of yesteryear may have been less eager to use a post-filibuster Senate to advance its agenda, the newer GOP would be more inclined to reward its friends and punish its enemies within the confines of the rule of law.
For the record, this narrative of history only exists in Hammer’s head. The most-recent GOP President before Donald Trump was George W. Bush, who expanded the state’s power in every way possible, especially in regards to what intelligence and law-enforcement agencies can do. This “common good” based Republican Party also, once again, does not exist outside the heads of Hammer and his bedfellows like Oren Cass and Yoram Hazony. Just look at one of the most recent fights in the Republican Party, the fight against masks, and ask yourself how it’s not in the common good to wear one in order to stop the spread of a virus during a pandemic.
However, it’s important to remember one thing: Hammer has been one of the most vocal advocates for the GOP described above. Hammer is basically saying that we cannot abolish the filibuster because if we do so, people like Hammer might get their way. And if he wins, what will he, Yoram Hazony, and Oren Cass have to complain about?
While Hammer may be on the fringe, he is far from the only person to make this non-warning. He is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say on this same issue on 3/16/2021:
As soon as Republicans wound up back in the saddle, we wouldn’t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero input from the other side. Nationwide right-to-work for working Americans. Defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities on day one. A whole new era of domestic energy production. Sweeping new protections for conscience and the right to life of the unborn. Concealed-carry reciprocity in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Massive hardening of security on our southern border.
Now, there are Republicans who, if they were to give this warning, I would take it seriously. If McConnell’s fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said this, for example, I would certainly be listening. Mitch McConnell, “winners make policy, losers go home,” is not one of those people.
Might I remind you, it was McConnell who abolished the filibuster option for Supreme Court nominations in 2017, primarily so Republicans could push through Neil Gorsuch. This tactic was also used to push through both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
And no, before someone points it out, I do not buy the idea that McConnell only did that because Harry Reid did the same for normal court nominations four years earlier. The House of Representatives used to have a filibuster that was abolished in 1890 by Republicans. They didn’t do this because Harry Reid changed the rules for court nominations over a century in the future — they did this because otherwise, the Democrats would make it so they were unable to govern.
In truth, if McConnell actually felt he could pass much of this in a Republican-controlled Senate just by abolishing the filibuster, he would gladly do so. McConnell isn’t exactly someone who’s known for his strict adherence to precedent, he’s much more known as someone who would gladly change the rules just to score another point on the political scoreboard. And he earned that reputation primarily because that has been his entire philosophy ever since he became the Republican Senate leader in 2007. This is the same man who wouldn’t vote for medical treatment for 9/11 first responders because it would raise taxes slightly, who tried to repeal Obamacare while Obama was President, and who once filibustered a bill he introduced.
But let’s really talk about what he’s threatening here: McConnell is basically saying that we can’t get rid of the filibuster, because then he might win. This does make sense, considering the Republican Party gets the vast majority of its votes by not doing anything major, but instead campaigning on stopping the thing that’s happening under them. During the 2020 Presidential Election, Donald Trump repeatedly showed videos of riots that happened while he was President before warning that these would happen if Joe Biden was President.
Do you want to know why abortion will never be made illegal? Because there’s too much money in fighting abortion. Hence why the last serious attempt to add a right-to-life amendment to the constitution or allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade was back in the 1980s, before most of the big-money groups in abortion policy came about. And this is not only a Republican issue, the main reason why the United States has had no serious attempt at gun control since around the same time is because there’s so much money in fighting guns that Democrats do not want to give up.
Some things are true even if Revolver says them, and as they put it in an article published on 3/19/2021:
President Trump’s first two years in office presented an unprecedented opportunity for the modern Republican Party. Over the past 90 years of American politics, Republicans have held both houses of Congress plus the presidency for just eight of them, and four of them were under George W. Bush. Given the enormous deficiencies of Bush-era conservatism, Donald Trump’s early years in office were quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to quickly enact far-reaching conservative policies at the national level. President Trump promised a dramatic immigration overhaul that put Americans first, a surge in infrastructure spending, curbs on Big Tech’s power, and a replacement for Obamacare.
None of that happened. Why? Because McConnell didn’t want it to happen. McConnell may tell voters now that he wants abortion restrictions, border security, and nationwide concealed carry. But in reality, McConnell preferred the status quo. Thanks to the filibuster, he always had a readymade excuse for his inability to deliver: “Sorry, we can’t. You need sixty votes.”
They go on to point out McConnell’s hypocrisy, and how he’s willing to bend the rules when it helps him:
When the issue was actually something the McConnell faction cared about, the filibuster was never a barrier. Even the establishment cares about getting Supreme Court justices appointed, so when Democrats filibustered Neil Gorsuch, Republicans immediately bypassed it. Passing corporate tax cuts mattered, so in 2017 they were happy to use reconciliation to ram through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
But Mitch McConnell has zero interest in actually securing America’s border, which might imperil the earnings of the donor class. Likewise, he has no interest in defunding Planned Parenthood, because there might be backlash if he did so, and then he couldn’t as easily harvest votes from voters he likely views as abortion-obsessed rubes.
And they end by summing up McConnell’s views on the filibuster better than I ever could:
The filibuster does not protect the rights of the minority party. It protects the majority from keeping its own promises. And Mitch McConnell has a lot of promises he wants to break.
For McConnell and all his allies, the filibuster is perfect. They get the policies they want, ignore the ones they don’t, and then go back to fundraising and tweets promising change.