The main takeaway from Scott Brown’s win in the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday has to be that Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP’s strategy of filibustering absolutely everything the Democrats proposed was incredibly effective. The Republicans managed to prevent the Democrats from passing their main agenda items, confirming 175-plus administration officials, or even confirming most of Obama’s judicial nominees. Most important, the GOP was able to stall while the national mood shifted and Democrats became increasingly associated with the poor economy and (ironically) the “gridlock” in Washington.
This is great news for Republicans in the short term. House Democrats are wilting at the prospect of passing the Senate health care reform bill unchanged, which is the measure’s best remaining chance for making it into law. The national environment is looking increasingly GOP-friendly, and the Republicans appear poised to romp in the 2010 midterms.
In the long run, however, the vindication of the “party of ‘no'” strategy will hurt conservatives just as much as it’s hurting Democrats now. When the GOP is back in power, Democrats will surely adopt the same strategy the Republicans are employing now. Major conservative agenda items—things like privatizing Social Security—will inevitably run into filibusters (remember, Republicans haven’t had over 60 percent of the votes in the Senate since the ’20s). Conservative judges and presidential appointees will be even harder to confirm than they were in the Bush years. The GOP will be left with the only thing it’s been able to pass in recent years: war resolutions and tax cuts for the rich. How’d that work out last time?