NY Times Features Frances Lee in Edsall's Piece: What if Beating Trump Is the Easy Part?

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

Thomas Edsall, writing in The New York Times, quotes Frances Lee extensively on the issues of strengthening and expanding the Democratic coalition, and on the future of the filibuster. Lee is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs and a CSDP faculty associate.

Presidents presiding over unified government typically face huge backlash at their midterm elections. This has been true regardless of how well they hold together on their party’s priorities. Democrats lost their congressional majority in 1994 after they had failed spectacularly to deliver on health care reform with unified government under President Clinton. Democrats then lost their congressional majority again in 2010 after they succeeded in passing health care reform with unified government under President Obama. No matter whether they succeeded or failed on their major agenda priority, the midterm election result was the same.


If the Senate were to move to simple majority rule, majority parties would not be able to paper over their internal differences by holding together on symbolic votes, knowing that the opposing party will block them. Majority rule in the Senate would put the majority party more on the hook to deliver on its promises to base voters, and they could not blame the opposing party for blocking them. But this does not necessarily mean that they will be more successful in advancing legislation on controversial issues. Freed from the filibuster, parties will struggle more with their own internal divides.