If current polling is accurate, more or less, then the Republicans are going to retain control of the Senate, and that’s a bitter blow to we liberal types, because it’s the Senate that approves cabinet and judicial appointments. The stacking of the judiciary, made possible by Mitch McConnell’s relentless obstructionism during the Obama years, will thus continue apace. If Trump fires Sessions and appoints, say, Steve Bannon, that’ll get by too (though it would break poor little Lindsey Graham’s heart).
However, it does look like the Dems will take the House, maybe by a narrow margin, but they should take it. For what might happen then, should the darkest fears of the Republicans be realized, see my prior post: All But A Signed Confession.
With the Democrats in control of half of Congress, the Trump legislative agenda, which never got past the inevitable and inevitably disastrous tax cut phase, will be mired up to its wheel wells in muck. No more Obamacare repeal efforts, no gutting of Social Security and Medicaid to pay for the tax cuts, no more legislation taking workers’ rights away (they’ll have to rely on the Courts for such things now, and they’re already trying). That’s good; a sort of sea wall will hold back the Trump/McConnell tidal wave for now.
Paul Ryan will be gone, too, and that’s delightful.
Unfortunately, though, the rest of Trump’s term will be full of peril for the good guys. Congress will be gridlocked, reinforcing its public perception as a useless partisan talking shop where the morons fiddle while America burns, and this may create backlash. If the Democrats take the blame, it’ll be open for Trump to run in 2020 against the “do-nothing Congress”, just like Harry Truman did, with great success, in 1948. The Democrats may also fall on their faces, appearing hapless and disorganized – that’s their thing, after all – and if they appoint Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, they’ll have installed every Republican strategist’s favourite punching bag in the top slot, where she’ll be demonized and serve as a lightning rod for right-wing rage, galvanizing Trump’s horrid base. She’ll have this effect, mind you, despite her history as a thoroughly competent and successful Speaker, whose masterful stick-handling of Obamacare through Congress was crucial, as was her obstacle course maneuvering of Wall street reforms, the economic stimulus, and many other progressive measures that marked one of the most successful tenures in the role since WW II.
That will be the first fight. Pelosi or – who? The infighting may be biter and divisive. If so, either way the Democrats lose.
As they get down to work chairing all those House oversight committees, they may expose a veritable mountain of corruption and malfeasance, they certainly should, anyway, and that would be fun to watch. Will it matter, though? I doubt it. Trump is bulletproof. Americans don’t give a damn about the rule of law or the corrosion of their democracy. They don’t know enough to fear fascism. They might not even care if Mueller comes forward with a report that proves Trump’s complicity in the Russian meddling in 2016. What they’ll want is for everything to get fixed, and nothing will be. If, in 2020, they’re asked the Reaganite question “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”, there will be only one answer. This is especially so given that the Western economies are well overdue for a recession, and the government is not well placed to deal with it – a stimulus like the one that saved the day after the 2008 fiasco is almost out of the question. There’s no money. Congress will be unable to step in.
The inability to act can be laid entirely on the Republican’s doorstep. They’ve left America’s finances in terrible shape.* This year, the Federal Government is borrowing 1.3 trillion – that’s trillion – dollars to fund program spending, the predictable (and predicted) result of the obscene Republican tax cuts for the wealthy. So much for all those braying GOP deficit hawks of yesteryear. There will be no possibility, either, of righting the ship by undoing those tax cuts. The Republicans in the Senate will block it, and Trump would veto it anyway. There will be no desperately needed infrastructure bill, because there’s no money – a pity, since this is the one area in which Democrats and Republicans could conceivably cooperate. Obamacare will get no further mauling in Congress, but it won’t be improved, either, and the court challenges now in process may defang it anyway. That’s what the stacked Supreme Court is for. There will be no action on climate change, nor anything done to stop Trump’s ridiculous trade war, his re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, his withdrawal from arms control treaties, or his supine obedience to Putin when it comes to cyber-security and thwarting further Russian hacking of their democracy. There will be no action on the opioid crisis, and certainly nothing on guns, mass killings, or the growing scourge of extreme white supremacist violence. Trump’s unilateral brutality to immigrants will continue unabated. So will his malicious deregulation at the behest of his pals in the oligarchy. Even the military will suffer, just when a number of very important equipment purchases were in the works; I can’t join with my fellow liberals in their chorus that America spends too much on its military, and wastes all of it. The armed forces are in dire need of recapitalization, especially now, with Russia resurgent and China ascendant.
The public will sit there, waiting for the magic to happen. They’ll be watching deficits balloon out of control, nothing getting done, their own lives getting worse, their taxes as high as ever, their wages just as low, their roads and bridges falling down around their ears, with their relatives addicted to fentanyl, or shot dead by somebody with an axe to grind, the waters poisoned, the forests burning, the coastal regions flooding, and perhaps the economy in deep recession, and who will they blame? Maybe whoever Trump tells them to blame? And how does this get better?
The U.S. Constitution is no longer equal to the problems faced today. It was written at a time when there were as yet no American political parties (George Washington inveighed against the idea, and warned of the evils that attend party politics), and was designed to function on cooperation, with there being no one side able to emulate the British parliamentary system and “form a government”. Yet these days, utter gridlock is all but guaranteed unless one or the other party does form a government in the English style, with majorities in both houses of Congress, and a chief executive who is, in effect, fused with the legislative branch in complete opposition to the “checks and balances” model embraced by the Framers. It’s even necessary to have a friendly partisan Supreme Court on call, lest the judges simply declare unconstitutional everything the legislature attempts. The problem is made that much worse by the strange existence, unique in a Western democracy, of only two political parties. There’s nobody in the middle, no wrangling to be done, no compromises to be made within shifting alliances, bill by bill. When Democrats and Republicans can’t work together, either one party controls everything, or nothing happens. Nothing at all.
This is why Obama resorted to Executive Orders whenever he could, pushing the Constitutional envelope to very near the breaking point, and leaving behind a frail legacy that Trump can readily undo with his own often ill-considered orders, which he dearly loves to make. It lets him play show and tell!
It’s no way to run a government.
Now, slather on top of this one of the most spectacularly ignorant electorates to ever have the franchise, a lazy, lumpen mass of know-nothings begging to be led around by their nose rings when they aren’t sticking their heads in the sand, and what have you got?
It will be wonderful to see Trump checked, God willing, and wonderful to see his manifold corruptions and misdeeds exposed, but it won’t fix things, and I don’t know what will. We’d better start bracing ourselves now for Trump 2020, and four more years of the monster. The seawall can’t hold forever.
*Somehow, the Republicans have entrenched a narrative that Democrats spend the country into ruin, and Republicans are fiscally responsible. The exact opposite is true: Dems v Reps on deficits