The worst? that could happen?

Robert Verbruggen:

We’re weeks from Election Day. There’s still time for the polls to tighten, and the polls might just be wrong anyway.

But boy, do those polls not look good right now. The most likely outcome at this point is for the Republicans to lose the presidency and the Senate, giving the Democrats control of the entire federal-lawmaking apparatus.

At this writing, FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats an 87 percent chance at the presidency, a 73 percent shot at reclaiming the Senate, and a 95 percent chance to keep the House. The “no toss-ups” maps at RealClearPolitics have Biden winning the Electoral College 374–164 and Democrats taking the Senate 51–49. (Bear in mind that the vice president breaks ties in the Senate, so a 50-50 split coupled with a Biden-Harris victory would still give the edge to the Democrats.) For weeks the betting market PredictIt has given the Democrats a better-than-even shot at a “clean sweep.”

If the Democrats do in fact win everything, we could be in for a miserable and acrimonious couple of years.

Toward the top of the agenda will be an intra-party debate over whether to kill the legislative filibuster and pack the Supreme Court. I highly doubt they’ll have the votes for the latter, and with a narrow margin even the former will be out of reach because some moderates are sure to balk. But there’s at least a chance the Democrats could have unified control and no limits on how they use it.

If the filibuster goes, the Democrats can pass just about anything that 50 senators agree to. And even with the filibuster intact, the party can achieve many things through the “budget reconciliation” process. That’s how the Republicans passed their tax bill in 2017, and it’s how they tried to handle health-care reform too. (The big rule for a reconciliation bill is that each provision must affect the budget.)

Democrats’ priorities will obviously depend on their margin of victory. But Biden wants to ban “assault weapons”; further expand the government’s role in health care, including by having a public plan “compete” with private options and lowering the age for Medicare eligibility at great cost; hike taxes, especially, but not exclusively, on higher earners; and much more.

Assuming Court-packing doesn’t happen, some legislative victories will be followed by intense, high-stakes legal challenges. I could definitely see the conservative justices’ striking down an assault-weapons ban and aggressively policing Biden’s use of executive authorities leading to renewed calls to pack the Court. If the ridiculous Obamacare case now before the Court is any guide, I could also imagine frivolous challenges to just about any major victory the Democrats manage to notch — challenges that would have little chance even before a 6–3 conservative Court but might get far enough to make the Left sweat.

All this could add up to an enduring loss for the Right. As 2017 showed us, American conservatives can cut taxes, but rarely do they manage to roll back expansions of government. Republicans made some real changes to Obamacare, both by killing the individual mandate and by enacting some good executive actions, but these efforts fell far short of the total overhaul they had been aiming for — and the executive actions can be undone by the next president without any help from Congress. Two years of unified Democratic control could ratchet the country quite a bit to the left, even if the Supreme Court strikes parts of the agenda down.

An across-the-board defeat next month would also influence the broader conservative movement. One good effect would be to unite us against an onslaught of left-wing initiatives. Honestly, we’ve been at our best lately when fighting a common enemy, as during the Kavanaugh hearings. Most of us are exhausted by the “MAGA”/“Never Trump”/“anti-anti-Trump” divisions that have us perpetually fighting with each other — defending the indefensible, lashing out impotently at the choices our party’s voters have made, and trying to make the best of an embarrassing president without losing our souls.

If Republicans, and especially Trump himself, get demolished next month, it will also begin a new chapter of the “What does Trump’s election mean?” debate. There are some things he proved beyond any doubt in 2016: There’s enough of a constituency for populism in the GOP that a populist can win the primaries, especially if the establishment candidates fracture the rest of the vote; some swing voters will connect with this approach as well; and GOP voters — most of whom are not sticklers for traditional conservative ideology — will consolidate around the party’s nominee more or less no matter what.

But none of that means Trumpism has to be a force for decades to come. Trump didn’t win a majority of the primary- or general-election votes, and it’s not like he was the only Republican who conceivably could have beaten Hillary Clinton. How much to borrow from Trump, both in terms of policy and in terms of demeanor, is a big question that Republican politicians need to be asking themselves. If Trump’s first term culminates in a landslide for the Democrats, the Trump path to victory and method of governing starts to look a lot less attractive.

Maybe everything will change in the coming weeks, and Republicans will at least hold the Senate. But if not . . . well, if you think 2020 has been a hoot, wait till you get a load of 2021 and 2022.

As the phrase goes, expect the worst. Do that, and humans, including voters, will never disappoint you.



One thought on “The worst? that could happen?

  1. Good Morning Jean, Are you more calm today? Just teasing. I am not sure you should read this Presteblog. It is not a happy one. Do you want to watch the last debate together on Thursday.? We can do it either your place or mine. Of course Chris is included. Scottie


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