Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Some Election Day Non-predictions

Today is U.S. midterm election day. I've been doing a lot more thinking about U.S. politics of late than writing about it, in part because it's become such a depressing, rapidly changing dumpster fire. Rather than a bunch of predictions about the outcome, or an effort at scenario forecasting, I simply wanted to get a few things on paper that I'll be focusing on starting Wednesday November 7
Time to Vote

1) The States, in particular, who controls governors' mansions and the state legislatures. If the Democrats can show some signs of life in places they've neglected while the GOP has placed a strangle-hold, the makings of significant change could be on the horizon.

2) The 2020 Presidential Campaign begins Wednesday morning. The Democratic bench still seems worryingly thin, although there will likely be no shortage of entrants. Who, if anyone, will challenge Trump in the GOP primaries?
2a) Primary season may kick off with the first debates among candidates as early as the spring of 2019 (good grief).

In Bob Some Trust
3) Robert Mueller will be back on the front pages soon. If Democrats take the House, as expected, the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Campaign will be a little safer from political manipulation from the White House. My guess is that what Mueller has on Trump World is more of an embarrassing litany of sleaze and incompetence than evidence of coordination or collusion. What ever Mueller has, it will add to any anxieties among the GOP faithful as to prospects for 2020 and, if there's anyone left in the GOP with a spine, steel them up for a primary challenge. Nikki Haley, anyone?

4) Democratic control of the House: Purge Impeachment talk from Democrats' vocabulary. Far-left Democrats will agitate for it, but going there would back-fire spectacularly since they will not have the required 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict and remove Trump from office. Instead, focus on the investigative and subpoena power of the House majority in various committees. Bottle the Administration up in investigations.

Some Newbies, Please
5) Someone other than Nancy Pelosi should be House Speaker. Someone other than Chuck Schumer should be Senate Minority Leader. Full Stop.

6) Cabinet departures. Leaving cabinet after midterm elections isn't uncommon, but a mass exodous would be. My bet is that several of Trump's current cabinet members will head for the exits: Nikki Haley is already out, but watch for James Mattis, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Ryan Zinke, Kirstjen Nielsen, John Kelley, Dan Coats, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, and perhaps even Steve Mnuchin to head for the exits. Some will do so having grown weary of two years of White House chaos and belittling, others will do so to save what remains of their professional reputations.

If Trump can find any willing replacements, the Senate confirmation process will be a lengthy circus (even with the GOP in the majority). 

7) Interestingly, Americans generally prefer divided government. Unified government (White House, Senate, and House) generally isn't very successful; President's Bush, Obama, and now Trump have each had unified party control of two of three branches and found it frustrating. It is possible (only possible) that division could actually lead to the kind of cooperation and compromise between Democrats and Republicans that has mostly been unthinkable of late. A lot of bitterness will need to be bridged, but if Democrats and stomach working with the Trump White House, there are at least two areas in which I can imagine some cooperation: infrastructure, and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA).

Then again, there's little evidence either side wants to kiss and make up, even for pragmatic reasons, so I wouldn't run to Vegas and bet the farm on it.

8) There's also Trump himself. There are some people (Joe Scarborough, in particular) who think Trump will throw in the towel and bow out after one term. I just can't see Trump giving up the fight after just one term. His ego is too big to concede defeat of any kind and I think he'll go down swinging, if he goes down at all. I am not entirely sure about Trump's pragmatism at times, but what is scary about where we are is that if Trump woke up one morning and decided to move ever-so-slightly toward behaving (and governing) like a normal president, I think he could be re-elected. Trump has been is own worst enemy during the mid-term campaign, doubling down on his (white) nationalist message rather than basking in booming economic news.
Fingers Crossed

9) Madison's Design. When Trump was elected in 2016, I had some hope that he would moderate things away from election-mode and become something resembling a president for the whole country. Didn't happen. One source of comfort in the event Trump went off the rails (which he clearly has) was the brilliance with which James Madison had designed a constitutional system to thwart the concentration of power, undercut what he called "the mischiefs of faction," and spread power.

Trump is testing my faith in all of that.

Perhaps above all else, I'll be watching to see whether tonight election outcome represents Madison's design in action.

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