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Supermajority retention

Nate Silver thinks Democrats will probably lose some Senate seats in 2010. But maybe they'll pick up a couple! Or lose a bunch! Hard to say. I'll just note that Democrats will definitely lose their supermajority sooner than later. If not, something is going seriously wrong in the system. A competitive, two-party democracy shouldn't have long periods of single-party dominance. The mid-20th century, which did see Democrats with that sort of majority in the House, was the product of a three-party system in which a party of conservative, racist Southerners entered into a coalition with the Democrats. But that's over now.

The big caveat, I'd say, is that there's some chance that the fringe conservative movement becomes a third-party -- in effect, if not in name -- over the next few years. That's the implication of David Brooks's column on conservative politicians vying to lead the Tea Partiers, and its the exact situation we saw in New York's 23rd. I don't think it's a hugely likely outcome, but the movement's extremism, mixed with an unstable economic moment, makes it foolish to entirely discount the possibility.

In any case, the likely outcome is that Democrats lose seats in 2010. Supermajorities don't traditionally last long; incumbent parties generally don't do well during midterm elections; majority parties are by definition defending more seats; and high unemployment numbers are rarely good for reelection prospects. The measure of a supermajority is how much it accomplishes while it exists, not how long it manages to survive.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

With no party discipline (read voting against dem leadership on PROCEDURAL issues and obstructing legislation sponsored by ones own party), the dems don't really have a super majority.

So, dems will lose a nominal super majority in the senate, but it won't really change the dynamics of legislation, it Snowe and Collins start acting like sane people. No guarantee of that, however.

It does put getting more things through reconciliation back on the table. Personally, I would like to see a stand alone bill for a medicare buy in/robust public option introduced under reconciliation. Let conservadems and repiglicans vote against the single most popular idea to come out of HCR and see how their constituents react.

Posted by: srw3 | January 7, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Finally you concede that the Democrats are a supermajority! There is no logical reason to constant complaining about Republican action or inaction because they have nothing to do with the governance of the nation. It is clear that you do that only because it is easier for you to castigate Republicans than it is to acknowledge difficult problems in governing that Democrats are now having to adjust to.

Posted by: lancediverson | January 7, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"If not, something is going seriously wrong in the system."

What's wrong with the system is that one party, the repiglicans, insist on opposing and obstructing every single Dem proposal. If the dems can make some hay out of this party of no attitude, super majorities will continue for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: srw3 | January 7, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

lancediverson-"There is no logical reason to constant complaining about Republican action or inaction because they have nothing to do with the governance of the nation."

I guess you missed the procedural stalling tactics that repiglicans engaged in all summer and fall. The Senate runs on unanimous consent. By forcing debate and votes on every single action the Senate takes up, repiglicans can slow action in the senate to a crawl. It was the dems fault to try and get something bipartisan out of finance, wasting 2 months to get 1 repiglican vote who ended up voting against the bill anyway, but having to go until xmas eve to get the bill passed was strictly due to repiglican stalling tactics.

I guess you don't understand how the Senate works.

Posted by: srw3 | January 7, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Also, the Dems long period of structural dominance was not a long period of supermajority structural dominance. The New Deal produced a 10 year period of a 60% Democratic Senate, and the Great Society produced a 20 year period where Democrats had at least 55% of the seats, but to maintain a supermajority for an extended period of time is basically impossible. Unless you're the Canadian Liberal party.

Posted by: NicholasBeaudrot | January 7, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

@ Lance:

Republican action or inaction has nothing to do with the governance of the nation??

Surely you jest.

See srw3's clues. Obstruction and inaction affects the process, quality, and outcome of legislation/governance.

Posted by: onewing1 | January 7, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@srw3: Agree with you that Dems have super majority in name only. Looks and feels like at least three parties to me: Dems, ConservaDems, and the Party of No.

Posted by: onewing1 | January 7, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As people have been saying since Obama took office, however, people vote based on how they feel on election day, not how they feel months in the past. I like the debate I've heard over the last few days that after healthcare is passed you set up financial regulation as the issue to be debated over the summer. Have the Dems take a strong stand for reform and let the Republicans (or those Dems close to the industry) dare to hold the legislation up or advocate for softer controls. Let the president take a stand on something so he can look strong and not be so intent on passing something that he can't let the legislation fail.

Posted by: MosBen | January 7, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I disagree that this in the Brooks column:

"Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year"

leads to a shift in the electorate from left to right.

You should read this, by Michael Lind:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/feature/2010/01/04/new_economy/index.html

Lind captures the view of the economy outside the media bubble. Basically, everything that the educated class told us about the economy was wrong. The American people have been played for suckers, with the debt, insecurity, and reduced prospects that go along with that. That is where the loss of credibility has come from and it leads to an unsettled electorate, not one that is trending conservative.

On economic issues, I think the trend is populist, which neither party has been able to come to grips with, because both are in hock to the corporate elites.

Posted by: mminka | January 7, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I think progressive Dems should look seriously at the Tea Party model. This party needs discipline and some VERY aggressive reminders that Senators and Representatives serve at the pleasure of the voters.

Nate Silver has done some great work sketching out the "most valuable Democrats" -- comparing their willingness to support the party to the ideological composition of their states. Democrats who take unnecessarily conservative stances should know they will face a serious primary challenge at re-election. Period.

Posted by: NS12345 | January 8, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article, except for one thing, the third party of "coservative racist southerners"...umm, I hate to tell you, but that those guys were all Democrats. Al Gore Sr., Robert Byrd(still in there), they were all democrats, and as for this joining their coalition with the democrats, c'mon guy, that's just disingenuous. The Dem's and Repub's back then were the same then as they are now, just a bunch of politicians from different states looking out for their own political futures, nothing more, nothing less, end of story!

Posted by: joe2171 | January 9, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

What country is Klein talking about that had a three party system? Conservative, racist Southerners allied with the Democrats? What are you talking about. The racist Southerners were the Democrats. And the racists are still the Democrats. See the newsflashes regarding Harry Reid's and Bill Clinton's comments regarding President Clinton. For 150 years the Democrats discriminated against blacks and for the last fifty years the Democrats have discriminated against whites. The Democrats have always and continue to be the party of bigotry, prejudice, racism and discrimination. Reread the history and don't try to push the hateful behavior of the Democratic party onto modern conservatives.

Have an Evil day

Posted by: DrEvil1 | January 9, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

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