Yuval Levin is Right

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The National Review‘s Yuval Levin, reacting to Scott Brown’s win on Tuesday, writes:

Democrats are of course not in fact powerless at all. But they have adopted an agenda that only a supermajority could pass (if that, even a supermajority couldn’t pass cap and trade), and with every indication of public opposition have only intensified their determination to pursue it, putting themselves on the wrong side of independent voters while persuading themselves that people would come around because this health care bill is something liberals have wanted for three generations.* They have made it impossible for themselves to change course without a massive loss of face and of political capital.

It’s not often that Mother Jones agrees with the National Review. But I have to say that Levin is mostly right (at least in this particular section of his post). The Democrats aren’t powerless. They still have large majorities in both houses of Congress—they could pursue passing a revised bill through the reconciliation process (unlikely) or have the House pass the Senate’s version of health care reform (also unlikely, but slightly less so). And Levin is right that the Democrats did adopt an agenda only a supermajority could pass.

That’s because real reform of anything—unburdened by the limitations that reconciliation rules impose—really does require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome the inevitable filibuster. That affects Republicans, too. Bush’s main reform effort—the partial privatisation of Social Security—would almost certainly have failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Tax cuts and wars aren’t reform. The Democrats wanted to actually do something, and they nearly succeeded. They still could. After all, as Levin writes, it’s impossible for them to change course without “massive loss of face and political capital.” It’ll be interesting to see what they do.

*My one objection to the above block quote would be to point out that this health care bill is not what “liberals have wanted for three generations.” It’s far too conservative for that to be true.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate