Saturday, October 29, 2016

What If: The Republicans Still Win the House And Still Lose It All?

It's pretty to think that Hillary will win this November 8th - that she's locked up enough Blue States and securing enough battleground Purple states to get the Electoral College wins - and it's pretty to think that the Democrats can claim the Senate - Nate Silver's 538 crew is giving the Dems a slight edge at the moment - so that we no longer face the Obstructionist nightmare of Senate Republicans shutting out every Hillary nominee for judicial and executive vacancies.

That leaves the House elections. For all the slight odds of a Democratic victory there, the likelihood is that the gerrymandering and dominance of enough states will ensure the Republicans hold onto that half of Congress.

But what if? What if the Republicans win the House but still lose it?

Here's the situation. There is a lot of anger driving the Trump voter base, and enough of that anger is aimed not just at Democrats but at any Establishment figure. Especially the ones among the Republican ranks who HAVEN'T given Trump his demanded absolute fealty.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Paul Ryan.

The House Speaker is facing a shaky election now where even his own party voters may shun him out of sheer spite. There's a slim chance he might lose. It's unlikely, but possible.

If that happens while the Republicans retain control of the House, the fight for the Speakership will turn into a free-for-all. For all the unity of the GOP when it comes to the issues, the party itself is riven by noticeable factions. The so-called Freedom Caucus - the ones with the extremist wingnuts looking to burn ALL of government down - is the most active and most obsessive... just not the largest one. It's still large enough to have driven the previous Speaker Boehner into early retirement, and they're still hungry for more control of both party and Congress.

Given the dynamics of gerrymandered districts, there's every chance most of the Freedom Caucus will survive this election cycle. And remain united enough to force new leadership on the Republicans and the House that would push their agenda - tax-cut everything, deregulate everything, Christianize everything, Impeach all Democrats or drive them from office - at all hazard.

The way the House works, they can block any leadership election with enough nay votes to prevent anyone Establishment from winning outright (they were about to pull this on Boehner when he outmaneuvered them with his retirement). They won't have enough - not at the beginning - to win but they'll at least stop anyone else.

At that point the whole place could go mad. Whatever makeup of the mainstream Republicans among House members would rail against such blocking, and they'd be looking at other options.

If the majority of House Republicans wanted to - and if there's a procedure for it, which I think there is - they could kick the Freedom Caucus members out of the party itself, denying them any effort at control. Problem with this solution: If they kick enough of the rabblerousers out, they run the risk of losing too many members... allowing the Democrats to emerge with a plurality that can control the House instead.

The second option would be for enough mainstream Republicans - at least the ones in safe districts, or the ones looking at retiring soon anyway - to either go Independent or else switch to Democrat to where the Democrats gain a majority or a strong plurality. It would depend a lot on what kind of deals the Democrats would be willing to make with the defectors. This solution is less likely because there might not be enough Republicans in office willing to run this risk. But it's there.

Another option would be for enough Republicans to just not vote on the matter, avoiding any official accountability while dropping the requirement for House control to a level where the Democrats could win anyway. It will force the Democrats to be more "bipartisan" with Republicans to win enough votes on enough bills to pass, although it gives Democrats the power to set the agendas and control of committees. Problem with this solution: the Freedom Caucus will know exactly what's going on, and they won't forgive or forget when 2018 rolls around.

Thing is, even if Ryan wins his district, all this can still happen: the Far Right among the Republicans will want Ryan's scalp, especially if Trump loses. They will blame the Speaker for failing to "unite" the party behind Trump (no matter how Trump was likely to lose), and still force a leadership crisis to try and get a more "aggressive" Republican to destroy Hillary at all costs. If Trump wins, he will do so despite Ryan's weak non-support... and Trump and his Congressional allies will be vindictive about it.

This is, of course, a What If thought exercise. If Hillary wins the White House and the Republicans keep at least the House, the Republicans may well set aside their internal differences to focus on their shared enemy, and may well keep Ryan in the Speakership position because, quite honestly, they're out of other (relatively sane) options. Ryan would still be willing to let some of the more rabid Congresscritters - Chaffetz in particular - pursue eternal investigations into Hillary's administration while forcing government shutdowns to pressure the Democrats into accepting his evil budget plans.

But the Republicans right now are not a bunch of sane or competent fellows. They're of a mindset desperate for power and control - even considering the power they currently have - and can well lash out in the worst ways if they don't get their way. Taking it out on the Establishment leadership that never crosses the lines that the wingnuts hope to cross is usually how they cause most of their damage.

It just depends on how obsessed the Far Right is with winning at all costs that they mistakenly throw it all all away even if they win just enough... all because they might not win it all.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

It made me really happy when I read that Obama is prioritizing flipping state legislatures ahead of the 2020 census. They got this by thinking ahead, now we need to think ahead.

-Doug in Oakland