Jason Richwine argues that “to preserve the filibuster, Republicans need scarier policy threats.” He writes:
Without mutually assured destruction, I cannot see the filibuster surviving. If Republicans want to keep it, they need to come up with a legislative threat that is much scarier to Democrats than defunding Planned Parenthood.
Ross Douthat has made a similar case, proposing that,
if Democrats do abolish or dramatically weaken the filibuster it will because the Republican Party, by its nature as a blocking coalition, struggles to make credible policy threats.
There is something to this argument, but I’m not sure there’s as much as Richwine and Douthat think. Do you know in what arena the Democrats really are scared of Republicans? The judiciary. As we have seen over and over again during the last three decades, Democrats will do almost anything to try to prevent the seating of originalist judges who they believe are likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, sustain Heller and Citizens United, chip away at the excesses of the Warren Court and the New Deal, and strike down legislation that progressives dearly covet but know deep down is illegal. Despite this, Harry Reid happily went nuclear in 2013.
Why? Well, because there is a strain of millenarianism in progressive thinking, which, when coupled with the conviction that the Democratic Party is destined to inherit a permanent majority any day now, finds it hard to conceive of the tables being turned. The contemporary American Left exhibits this assumption all the time, which is why, inter alia, it is now comfortable calling for hate-speech laws, why it is busy investing so much cultural power in large corporations, and why it has made its peace with the FBI.
It is not an accident that the two senators who are the most committed to keeping the filibuster intact have both been in politics for a while and come from split, flippy states such as West Virginia and Arizona (Trump won West Virginia by nearly 40 points in 2020, while Governor Ducey won Arizona in 2018 by 14). They understand that things can change — and fast. Most of the current Democratic class does not. And that is a more important dynamic than whatever policies Republicans might see fit to threaten.
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