Saturday, August 13, 2016

Time to Take the Hill

Just because Hillary Clinton is paranoid about right-wingers doesn’t mean they’re not out to get her. And just because Donald Trump is the media’s loudest critic doesn’t mean it isn’t biased.  That center-left bias was on display again this week, when the New York Times scooped the world on a possible Clinton pay-to-play scandal and yet buried its story on page 10.   

If you’re not familiar with the Times’ pay-to-play story, don’t worry about it.  Thanks to both Trump and the media, you don’t have to think about Hillary Clinton until her inauguration.   We really have just one Presidential candidate on the ballot this year, and America is prepared to vote for any qualified candidate who opposes him.  Constitutionally qualified, that is.  Whoever you are, if you’re 35, a 14-year resident of the U.S., and a natural born citizen, you’d probably be the favorite in this upcoming election.   By November, you see, Donald Trump will have alienated well over half of the electorate, and you’d probably be smart enough to spend the campaign season at a national park in Utah or the Florida Keys, rather than kissing babies in Youngstown.  Why go out of your way to campaign when your opponent apparently doesn’t want the job?

I hear a lot of Democrats talk about how “nervous” they are that Trump will win.   My suggestion is that they do something more productive and worry about their blood pressure.  (Then, at least, their worries might come true.)  I just came back from my second trip to the Midwest this summer.  Most of the people I spoke to were white, and many were Republicans.  Still, Trump’s popularity among this group is dismal, and a number of the Republicans I spoke to plan on voting for his Democratic opponent, even if they have to hold their nose while doing it.  

If I spoke to a Democrat, I’d hear about what a dangerous idiot Trump is, and how Hillary should be a decent President.  If I spoke to a Republican, I might hear some complaints about Hillary, but that would soon be followed by a “this is when he crossed the line for me” anecdote about Trump.  Whether these labels are true or not, in politics perception is reality, and “insanity” trumps “dishonesty” when it comes to choosing who to vote against.   

To be sure, the people I spent time with in Indiana and Wisconsin were college educated, and that’s why I wasn’t seeing too many Trump supporters.  In truth, I do know college-educated Trump supporters – died-in-the-wool Republicans all -- but they are outliers.  Hillary should take that demographic by a comfortable margin.  She should also take the non-college-educated African-American and Hispanic- American communities.  And I suspect she’ll do OK with white women who lack a college degree.  It’s only the non-college-educated white males who will go big for Trump, and that’s just not large enough a group to win the general election.  In short, the Fat Lady may not yet be singing, but if you turn on the news any morning and listen to the craziness Trump said the day before, you can see her warming up.

So yes, I’ll go out on the limb in saying with extreme confidence that for the sixth out of seven Presidential elections, the Democratic candidate will get the most votes, and for the fifth out of seven, that candidate will win the White House.  This victory will carry with it great significance not only for the executive branch of the government, but also the judicial branch.  In those two respects, you really can’t overestimate its importance.

Why then do I keep shaking my head about the third branch?  I’m referring to the so-called “people’s” branch, the one with the sole power to make laws.   Notably, the Washington Post op-ed page took a break from its customary all-Trump bashing-all-the-time philosophy to include a piece by James Downie entitled “A missed chance to take back the House.”   Downie argues that, with a likely train wreck on the top of the ticket for the GOP, the Democrats were given a golden opportunity to contest a large number of House seats, but in many races they haven’t bothered to put legitimate contenders on the ballot.  So now they face what is likely to be a significant House majority in the next Congress as well as midterm elections in 2018, in which the turnover is invariably lower, thereby favoring Republicans.    How then can Democrats possibly implement a progressive agenda?  

A GOP-controlled House is alone capable of continuing the gridlock that has plagued our government for years.  And it may continue to get plenty of help from the Senate.  I’m not going to predict that the GOP will hold on to its Senate majority in 2016, but I will repeat Downie’s admonition that in 2018, only eight Republican Senators will face re-election as compared to 23 Democrats.  Moreover, in such swing states as Ohio and Florida, the incumbent GOP Senators are currently ahead in the polls, even though Trump himself is trailing.  I suspect that part of the reason is that the Republican donors have decided to put all their eggs in the Capitol Hill basket and are already writing off the White House.  So while the Democrats are still fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Trump is demonized and Hillary prevails in all the swing states, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio are maintaining their leads in crucial Senate races.   

Perhaps some Democratic supporters have so given up on Congress as an institution that they’ve stopped caring so much about who holds the majority on the Hill.  Perhaps these Democrats would be more than satisfied with a progressive President and a progressive judiciary; that way, they figure, at least our basic protections will be preserved and we won’t get involved in any more Iraq Wars.  But allow me to remind my sheepish friends that global warming is worsening by the day, the distribution of wealth is gradually reaching Dickensian proportions, and a new generation of children is poised to enter adulthood with crippling debt.   These problems won’t get addressed without proactivity from Capitol Hill.   And no number of inaugural balls or progressive Supreme Court opinions will alter that fact.  

It’s time for the Democrats to take a cue from the GOP donors and re-direct our attention a bit.  Every House race and Senate race matters.   That’s where we need to focus.  Trust me, you don’t have to worry about Hillary.  Trump has made sure of that. 

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