“My View” from the Sept. 20, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
Nobody in the media wants to say it because we have too much fun calling the play-by-play as the game goes on, but the presidential race is over. After more than a year of watching Mitt Romney, there are very few undecided voters, and despite the significant dissatisfaction with where we are and where we are heading, Mitt Romney simply cannot sell the public that he is the guy to move us forward.
His multiple missteps and awkward moments are too many to catalog here, but suffice to say that an empty vessel cannot be elected president of the United States.
It is equally likely that the Democrats will not retake the House, despite massive public dissatisfaction with Congress as an institution, a strong wind at their backs right now and the failure of the Republican Party this year to articulate a coherent thematic. There are simply not enough districts really in play to plausibly argue that the House can swing over. Credit gerrymandering and the latent power of incumbency for the likelihood that John Boehner returns as Speaker.
That leaves the Senate as the real game in town. The odds are that the Democrats retain control — since Massachusetts, Missouri and Virginia are now trending toward Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill and Tim Kaine respectively — and in Florida, Bill Nelson is looking comfortable. Sure, Wisconsin and Montana are still toss-ups, but it’s hard to envision Republicans getting the magic four pickups they need.
All this analysis of the chess game is a mere foundation, however. In order for the president to govern next year, he will need his Democratic Senate to be able to act. Boehner will need to feel cornered and be brought to the negotiating table for fear that he otherwise will be seen as the sole obstructionist holding the nation back. As long as Boehner can hide behind inaction in the Senate, he has been spared real pressure.
All this then raises once again the most important impediment to Senate action: the Senate filibuster rule. In January of 2011, even though they controlled the Senate, the Democratic leadership failed to take advantage of a short period that exists at the beginning of every new congressional term to change the filibuster rules by a mere majority vote. The rest is, as they say, history. Gridlock, failed nominations and frustration. The chance to act in that brief window must not be allowed to slip again.
Why raise this right now? Because even though the elections are 47 days away, it is not too soon to think about actually governing. And absent filibuster reform, we will have the same gridlock next year as this. That’s an argument we have to start repeating sooner rather than later, and it’s critical that we get pledges from leading Democrats to act. Otherwise, institutional pressures may prevail — as they did last time — and party elders will take the easy way out and preserve the status quo. The status quo is no longer acceptable.
That’s “My View.”