The Fight Over the Filibuster Is All About Democrats' Fear of Losing Control

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Democrats, and their allies in the media, have seriously ramped up their rhetoric against the filibuster — the tool used for centuries in the Senate to halt legislation that did not have a supermajority of Senators going along with it. This one tool of Senate procedure stands in the way of Democrats and their dominance of legislative policy for the next four years, and they don’t like that.

Of course, those right of center are pointing out the obvious — the Democrats are the only party to use the filibuster since 2014, they have a long history of using it to thwart Republican initiatives, and it’s more than a little over the top to call it a racist tool of a bygone era. But there is a far more practical reason that the Democrats should rethink this: Do they think Republicans won’t use this to their advantage?

The Republicans weren’t decimated in 2020. They only need one seat in the Senate and a small handful in the House. Nancy Pelosi is the House Speaker with a very thin majority and leading a caucus that is on the cusp of a civil war should the Republicans ever take back the chamber. The Senate is only in Democratic hands because the GOP suppressed their own vote with stolen election rhetoric ahead of two Senate runoffs in Georgia. While the Democratic Party is acting like they have some sort of mandate, the reality is that the American voters are pretty split over which party is actually the right one to lead them.

There is no such thing as a permanent political majority. It has shifted back and forth over time, and this time the margin between them is razor-thin. There should be a recognition that they should be trying to win more people to their side through negotiations rather than ram through bad policy in an attempt to force change on an unwilling country. Given how easy it is to flip things toward the Republicans, it would make sense to act calmly and rationally and certainly not with the frantic pace at which they’re working.

And you absolutely know that if the Republicans were trying to end the filibuster that the Democrats would be melting down. The filibuster is to prevent the tyranny of the majority and force negotiation, and every Democrat across the country would be screeching about how Republicans are continuing to march toward tyranny with this act.

So, why do it themselves? Because they are genuinely afraid that their majority won’t exist for very long, and when you act out of fear, you make serious tactical errors.

Democrats should know better, or should at least be honest enough to admit that this is a very bad route to take, because they know they don’t want the Republicans to ever have the Senate and there be no filibuster to stop them. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: If it’s a power you don’t want your opponents to have, don’t give it to yourself because inevitably it will fall into their hands.

That is a big, big problem the Democrats will have to reckon with down the line if they continue on with this attack. It’s not the only problem they have, though. In attacking the filibuster and the people working to keep it in place, they are attacking some of their own members in the Senate, which will inevitably push them toward the GOP on more issues. You think Joe Manchin will sit back and just take this? He’s arguably the most powerful man in the Senate, and you’re attacking him — a member of your own party — in an effort to force a major, no-going-back kind of change on the Senate and U.S. politics.

That seems… ill-advised, at best. But I suppose there are tough lessons that the Democrats will have to learn if they want to keep reacting instead of trying to actually govern responsibly.