Democratic frustration with Republicans’ success in blocking Joe Biden’s agenda is reaching critical mass. Something is going to have to give or the Democrats’ heads will explode.
What’s going to “give” will be the filibuster’s death and with that brake on their ambitions gone, the Democrats are prepared to pass legislation on voting rights, climate change, guns, “economic equity,” and other radical proposals that the people never asked for and don’t want.
The tipping point may come later this month. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to bring the Democrats’ voting-rights power grab to the floor, daring the Republicans to defeat it and “prove” how racist they truly are. That’s the way Democrats and the media will portray it, anyway.
But Democrats have another worry. Their very own problem child, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose obstinate insistence that Democrats make an effort to bring Republicans on board the voting-rights bill or he won’t vote for it is topped by his refusal to destroy the filibuster. With Schumer trying to play hardball, and the apocalyptic Democratic rhetoric about the “end of democracy” being nigh if the bill fails, Manchin is under enormous pressure to cave.
In a rare show of public frustration with his own party on Tuesday, President Biden appeared to lash out at Manchin when he accused a pair of unnamed senators of aligning too closely with Republicans and stalling efforts to pass sweeping voting standards.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently announced that his chamber would vote this month on a House-passed elections bill co-sponsored by every Democratic senator except Manchin — a move that would force Manchin to pick a side in a fight that has taken on new urgency in recent weeks.
“That is a problem with the Democratic Party. What you see with Republicans — they stick together no matter what,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, a civil rights leader who attended the Tuesday speech in Tulsa. “They need to let Manchin understand we elected Joe Biden — not Joe Manchin — to be president.”
It’s fascinating that the good reverend echoes the exact same criticism of Democrats made by Republicans about their party. But the truth is, both parties are full of rock-solid partisans and when it comes to something as vital as protecting the future of the party, even the squishiest of squishes click their heels and say, “yes sir.”
And that goes for Democrats who see the GOP effort at the state level to improve the integrity of the vote as a threat at their own power base — minorities.
Democrats increasingly see an existential threat from Republican-led state governments determined to place new limits on voting, which critics say would disproportionately affect voters of color, a core part of the Democratic coalition. One Democratic congressional aide, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said “panic” is the right word to describe the mood in the party.
The GOP moves, which include scaling back the use of ballot drop boxes, limiting access for mail ballots and creating new identification requirements, threaten to make it harder for Democrats to keep their congressional majorities in the midterms, and hold the White House in 2024.
So maybe it’s not so much democracy that is at risk, but rather the Democrats’ power in Washington being in danger. It reads a little differently when you think about it like that, doesn’t it?
As long as Manchin and Sinema stand firm against breaking the filibuster, the Democrats don’t have a prayer of passing their agenda. The only way that agenda has any chance of passage is in the next Congress. That means Democrats will have to drastically increase their majorities, especially in the Senate. But unless Republicans do something really stupid, that is not likely to happen. In 2022, more Democratic Senate seats are up for grabs than Republican seats. That spells trouble for Chuck Schumer’s job as majority leader.