Messaging to Oblivion


Since we had a lot of discussion of it earlier today, I wanted to return to this issue of the Democrats and “up or down votes” — my comments and also TPM Reader JO‘s.

It’s certainly not that I think if Democrats started demanding “up or down votes” the Republicans would just suddenly capitulate. As TPM Reader JO notes, just as with Democrats before 2007, there’s a big constituency of Republicans who desperately want as much vote-blocking and obstructionism as possible. And those are the folks — core Republicans voters — that the GOP listens to.What I do think is that the Democrats — whether you want to talk about the White House or the Senate — have done virtually nothing to communicate to the electorate why nothing is getting passed. Yes, if you’re watching closely you know. But mainly the people who are watching closely aren’t up for grabs.

I think (and recent polling data seems to bear me out) that very few people have any idea what the filibuster or anything about all this arcana about ‘cloture’ is about. Most people see the Democrats talk about doing something. And then there’s lots talk. And talk and talk and talk. And then nothing happens. As if the Dems in the House had a clear majority but were so feckless that they couldn’t pass anything on a simple majority vote. At the most basic level, I don’t think the Democrats in Washington get this.

So would things be different if the Dems took a different, more aggressive tack? At first at least, probably not — if we mean Republicans buckling and allowing majority votes. And maybe not at second or third either. But the public would have a much clearer idea of what is happening. And that would put the Democrats in a very different position politically. I cannot but thinking that this is a self-inflicted wound of the gravest and most unnecessary magnitude.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of