Conservatives often blame elected Republicans for not producing revolutionary changes when in power. This frustration is understandable, but it is also wrongheaded. No political party can make revolutionary changes in American government unless that party not only controls the House of Representatives and the White House, but, critically, has a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.
Until 1919, debate in the Senate was unlimited. There was no Senate Rule which allowed for cloture, or limiting debate. A determined Senate minority could effectively stop any congressional bill, any presidential appointment (which required Senate confirmation) and any treaty.
When Democrats have had that combination of power, they have used it to radically change America. FDR had four consecutive Congresses in which Democrats could do virtually anything they wanted, because Senate Democrats could pass a cloture motion. Democrat majorities Democrats also had filibuster-proof Senate majorities from 1963 to 1967, the years in which LBJ’s Great Society program was passed.
Senate rules were changed in the 1970s. Cloture only required a three-fifths majority instead of a two-thirds majority. Under these new rules, Democrats had filibuster-proof Senate majorities, along with control of the House and White House, from 1977 to 1979. Until Scott Brown won his special election earlier this year, Obama’s Democrats did not need a single Republican to pass his stimulus bill and related measures.
In these four separate eras in which Democrats could invoke cloture without Republicans and also controlled the House and White House have produced those giant leaps towards big government and socialism which bedevil us today. So why have Republicans not rolled Democrat programs when they had power? Since the cloture rule was adopted over ninety years ago, Republicans have never had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (much less had that supermajority in the Senate and also controlled the House and White House.)
That may change in the next three election cycles. In 2010, Republicans were supposed to lose seats (at least that was the thinking a year ago.) Now it seems certain that Republicans will gain seats – North Dakota, Delaware, Indiana, and Arkansas – and will have a good shot in other states – Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, California, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. If Republicans hold Ohio, Florida and a few wavering states, then a net gain of 12 Senate seats is conceivable (or a majority of 53.) The big story, however, is what happens in the next two election cycles.
The Senate class of 2012 will include only two Republicans who are not from red states – Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Both are personally popular and should have an excellent chance to win re-election. The Democrats in 2012 include six Democrats from red states: McCaskill of Missouri, Tester of Montana, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Conrad of North Dakota, Webb of Virginia. If Republicans win those seats, Republican strength in the Senate is 59 seats. Democrats in 2012 will also have to defend seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New Mexico. Winning any of those five strongly contested seats would give Republicans a filibuster-proof majority.
In 2014, the odds again favor Republican gains. Begich in Alaska, Pryor in Arkansas, Udall in Colorado, Landrieu in Louisiana, Baucus in Montana, Sheehan in New Hampshire, Hagan in North Carolina, Franken in Minnesota, Johnson in South Dakota, and Warner in Virginia hold ten Democrat seats which Republicans could easily win. In other races, like West Virginia, if Rockefeller retires, and in New Jersey if Lautenberg retires, Republicans also have real chances to gain seats. What this means is that after 2012 or 2014, Republicans may well have sixty or more Senate seats – and the House and White Housee.
What might that mean? Revolution! – assuming that Republicans control the House and the White House too. The left transformed America during just such brief periods of total control. National Right to Work, once passed, would cripple coercive union power forever. Gerrymandering at all levels of government could be outlawed. Tough federal voter registration laws and laws to insure a fair counting of votes should be used to end voter fraud.
Obamacare could be repealed and replaced. Republicans could pass a flat tax and repeal taxes on capital gains, creating a boom of prosperity. Home schooling and the variety of other alternatives to the failed public school system could helped and funded. English could be made the legal language of the United States. Huge chunks of federal bureaucracy could simply be abolished. Modest entitlement reforms could be passed to make systems solvent, and individual accounts in the Social Security System could be introduced. Tort reform and expedited drug approval by the FDA (for drug long used safely in Europe) could reduce medical costs naturally.
Would federal judges stop this? Not if Republicans have the will to tame the federal bench. Congress could simply remove jurisdiction from federal courts over many issues. It could also create a number of new federal judges and justices and appoint conservatives to those seats, or it could abolished and reorganize the whole federal judiciary (only the Supreme Court has any constitutional existence and its powers and size are set by Congress.) It could impeach and remove judges who grossly misinterpreted the Constitution – what a novel idea!
In short, Republicans could produce a conservative revolution which achieves, in two short years, everything we have been seeking for the last fifty years. All this would require great boldness and vision. But our nation needs just such a revolution. Half-measures and compromises simply prolong our slow death. We need a revolution. We have the means to that revolution within our grasp soon.