In time, competing forces will come into play. Increasing obstruction of Republicans on a variety of issues could lead to mounting frustration, leading to leading Democrats who had spoken out against the abolition of the filibuster in support of at least weakening the filibuster. But as the midterm elections approach, some senators may be less willing to initiate a fight that smells of partisanship.
“As you get closer to half-time, people get more nervous about anything that could be considered controversial,” Ornstein said.
A short story
Introduced in the lead-up to the Civil War by John Calhoun, a staunch Senator on Slavery from South Carolina, the filibuster was heavily used during the Jim Crow era by segregationists who wanted to prevent the introduction of widespread civil rights laws. Nationwide polls from the 1930s to 1950s showed that most Americans supported anti-lynching legislation, electoral tax abolition, and other such laws – but Dixiecrat senators from the Separated South used the filibuster to stop the legislation.
After the civil rights movement, the backlash against the filibuster led to the 1975 reforms; In the years that followed, it remained the main domain of conservative southern senators like James Allen and Jesse Helms, who were considered “outlaws, almost parias among their peers,” Jentleson said, calling them “absolutely the Ted Cruzes of their time.”
“If the Republican leaders at the time had had their way, they would have got these guys to stop and kick them out of the party,” he said. “But it turns out that they were sort of a forerunner in the direction of their party.”
In his book Jentleson writes that it cannot be a coincidence that the G.O.P. leaned on the use of the filibuster after the rise of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. McConnell, who in 2010 stated that his primary goal was to ensure that Obama was “a president for one term,” began using the 60-vote threshold to prevent almost all legislation from being passed.
“Before McConnell, no leader had tried to use it against almost anything that came before the Senate,” Jentleson said. “It turned out that Republicans could easily evade the blame – and that voters blamed the party in power for doing nothing, particularly blaming Obama for delivering on his promise to break the deadlock in Washington to overcome, had not respected. “