What if it all goes right?

While there is justifiably lots of angst over the upcoming election, I want to look at what is realistic to expect even if Democrats have a good night on November 3rd. For this purpose, I’m assuming the following is the lay of the land on January 21st, 2021:

  1. Joe Biden is President with a fairly comfortable but not landslide win.
  2. The court is split 6-3 in favor of Conservatives.
  3. The Democrats picked up four seats in the Senate.
  4. The Democrats picked up some more seats in the House.

Given the above, what is realistic to think Democrats can achieve going forward? As nice as it would be, I don’t see the court being expanded or any states being added - Republicans would filibuster both of those and at least Manchin and Feinstien are unlikely to go along with a new nuclear option. Even if Dems win more than four seats, those wins are likely coming from red states and those new Senators might not go along either. Are either of those possible to drive through via Reconciliation?

Can we look forward to new healthcare? The ACA is almost certainly going to get killed by a 6-3 Court. Even if passed via Reconciliation, would a new healthcare bill have any chance? Roberts can’t save things next time, even if he was inclined to do so. Tax reform? That seems a possibility. Reconciliation is an avenue here. Climate change? Getting back onboard Paris should be doable, but if anything I would expect environmental protections to erode domestically - a 6-3 Court is going to favor private landowners and be hostile to regulation. Abortion? While it might not be gone in one fell swoop it is realistic to expect things like fetal heartbeat and admitting requirements to be in effect in a number of states.

I realize this might be more akin to the disaster porn of the election shenanigans thread, but I am struggling to see much to hope for in the long run. The structure of the Senate is an impediment that I do not know can be overcome. We are quite possibly at a high water mark at this election. We have a massively unpopular President motivating voters - after two years of Biden do we think Democrats would have as much of an enthusiasm advantage heading into 2022 (assuming we agree there is an advantage currently)? The nature of the Senate requires Democrats to have a big tent to even get to 50, let alone beyond. That big tent and numerical restriction makes structural change difficult and Republicans don’t have to play ball - they can anchor on their base and have a fighting chance, if not home field advantage, of getting 50+ due to there being more red states.

I hope I am being unrealistically pessimistic here. What does everyone else think is realistic in the next four years even if Biden wins?

If Dems have 51 seats and 2+ Senators unwilling to set aside the filibuster, then Dems will accomplish absolutely nothing. McConnell will surely filibuster everything on the assumption that wrecking Biden’s term is the surest way to regaining control of the Senate and the White House by 2024. It’s the Obama plan, all over again.

To have a meaningful discussion, you have to grant either more seats or fewer filibuster die-hards.

Yeah, pretty much. McConnell won’t let a bill affirming that people love puppies pass.

Put another way, ‘it all goes right’ has to mean Dems get a governing majority, which is either 60 Senate seats if they keep the filibuster, or at least 50 seats held by Dem Senators ready to abandon the filibuster. I’m assuming that Dems aren’t suicidal and, if they manage to take the Senate, they’ll opt to govern rather than sit on their hands. But I could be wrong!

I have had more than one smart person tell me this:

“Manchin can be bought.”

One wrinkle here: if Feinstein votes to keep the filibuster, we here in CA will start a Recall Feinstein campaign so fast it will make your head spin.

That’s a whole can of worms but F’ it. If she won’t vote to at least limit the filibuster for things like voting reform, admission of states and court reform, what the hell good is she?

This is a question that has plagued scholars through the ages.

So assuming two things — the Dems get control and don’t impede themselves with traditions — then I think a first Biden term could well manage statehood for DC and PR, a public option health insurance plan with sufficient subsidies for low-income people to buy in, tax reform to raise taxes on higher incomes and / or wealth taxes, and expanding the Court. The only thing stopping them would be their own collective desire.

That brings up an interesting question. It seems assumed that one reason GOP Senators stick to their guns so well is that, even if they lose an election, they have a cushy consulting gig or Board seat to look forward to as long as they were a team player. You don’t hear the same thing said about Democrats as much but it must also be a thing? Is that the sort of buying you are talking about or is there some sort of legislative thing he would value enough to risk his WV seat?

Oh, Democrats 100% need Joe Manchin in the senate. He can’t retire or move on at all – his seat will almost certainly go bright red supernova the moment he leaves it.

But…Manchin has basically been back-benched for most of his career in the committee assignments he’d like. He knows that in the Democratic party, he’s the uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving and makes everyone a little uncomfortable.

But if he can be bought, it’d be in a couple of ways:

  1. Committee chair assignments. I’m guessing Joe wold like to have the Energy and Natural Resources chair. He’s already ranking minority member of that committee. Maybe Armed Services instead is more lucrative to him. Not sure.

  2. I’m guessing that Manchin has some pet programs of his own for West Virginia that he can’t get out of committee, much less to a vote. You promise him you’ll get those to a floor vote by abolishing the veto, and he’s probably going to be ready to flip.

And here I’m thinking that even four years will be barely enough time just to undo all the damage from the Trump admin and maybe put in some protections to ensure the worst abuses can’t happen again.

If Democrats have the Executive, then they do have the power to turn things around in this country. The real question is if Democratic leaders have the desire to use it. The answer right now seems to be “no”, which makes it the responsibility of the Democratic base (you, me) to change that answer to “yes” over the next 4 years.

This is the key, more important even than trying to undo what Trump’s fucked up.

If you put in safeguards against this kind of bullshit in the future, then you’ll have more time to fix stuff moving forward.

I know this is glib, but how about if instead of figuring out how to go nuclear on structural reforms they just, you know, pass legislation that is popular?

I get that some of those laws might be under threat from a conservative court, but getting them there takes time, and if they are struck down, then the American people have less reason to want conservative presidents nominating conservative judges.

The electorate generally gives competent presidents two terms, but undercuts them halfway through by giving some or all of the legislature back to the opposition. We can hope the GOP are thoroughly discredited or in disarray, but I think this happens regardless of whether people like the opposition. It’s more a response to the party in power.

So the Dems, as the party in power, have to show their beneficence clearly and in terms that broad swaths of the electorate will like. The ACA received a lot of manufactured outrage, but proved to be popular ultimately. Health care, job security, online privacy, general quality of life stuff that people can see–that’s what’s going to stave off the opposition, it seems to me.

Unfortunately, that probably doesn’t include climate change policy, which is vital but will raise hackles and feel punishing. If the Dems’ wins are big enough and they’re organized enough to move quickly with some of the preceding stuff, then hopefully that buys them enough goodwill to do the really hard stuff that needs to start ASAP.

Also being a little glib, but that legislation is going to mean dick if we don’t have structural reform to protect our democracy. Authoritarians don’t really have to give a shit about previous legislation.

When I say “structural reforms”, that encompasses a lot more than just the Supreme Court, just for clarification.

Strongly agree. We need to protect voting and protect the democracy from autocratic rule, since apparently the only thing protecting those in the past were just gentlemanly agreements. And since now one party has said “fuck you, lol” we need legislation to make sure the next time they get power they aren’t able to say “off to the gulags with you, lol”

How do you pass anything with the current Republican senate having a veto-proof majority if you abandon “structural reforms” as a first step?

Like strengthening the ACA?
Like climate change regulation and legislation?
Like infrastructure?
Like tax reform that undoes the Ryan tax bill of 2017?
Like voting rights laws?

Those are all SUPER POPULAR things. They’re also things that a Republican senate won’t allow to the floor for a voice vote at long as there’s a filibuster.

So explain in some detail how Democrats pass all that popular legislation that you’ve envisioned?

You’re not being glib here, you’re being silly. What ‘popular legislation’ do you imagine McConnell will support and help Joe Biden pass? Why would he help pass it?

I don’t think you can do much at all sustainably on the first part of that prescription, which is why I think the focus has to be on the second part.

The thing is though, the GOP at this point has made it a point to obstruct any legislation… and in some cases, regardless of whether its popular.

The problem is that the GOP has kind of hitched its wagon to the idea that “Government doesn’t work.” And so, if they simply break government, then they can point to that failure and say, “Well see? We told you!”

So the GOP has become the party of obstruction, rather than the party of competent governance. Even when they controlled both houses, and the Presidency… they were largely incapable of competent governance. They couldn’t even achieve consensus among themselves regarding critical things like the ACA.

And the fact is, the American people, even Republicans, say that they are sick of government not working.

If one party is dedicated to government not working, then you can’t really work with them to achieve competent governance. They need to be pushed aside, so you can get to work.

Now, I will agree with you in one sense, in that what the democrats then DO with their power? It needs to be effective, and popular, after the fact.

If the Democrats take power, and fail to actually make things better, then they will lose power in the next election. This is actually part of the reason why they should just tell the GOP to fuck off, because the GOP doesn’t want them to succeed, and will actively prevent it. So the Dems are left in a situation where they’re betting everything on the idea that their ideas will work. Which is fine.