Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hillary Wins, Nothing Changes

We’re so focused on the presidential race that too many of us actually believes that our chosen candidate can actually implement their respective programs through a highly polarized Congress. Hillary Clinton is currently quite ahead in the polls, so let’s assume she becomes president. She cannot dictate the changes she stands for or the platform she has pledged to implement without getting the relevant legislation through a highly polarized Congress. And that is probably going to be even more brutal that than the conflicts between the Obama administration and that gridlocked body.
It gets worse as a GOP-controlled Congress will oppose her fiercely, marginalize her, prove to the world that she should be nothing more than a one-term president and that the Democrats need to go back to being nothing more than a squeaky minority in Congress. If Hillary wins, the GOP will laser focus on decimating the Dems in the 2018 min-term elections. Every move they make, every grandstand they posture, every deadlock they foment… will be dedicated towards those mid-terms… and that if Hillary wins, it will only be as the lesser of two evils, not because she won with true popular support.
If nothing else, Donald Trump has convinced a sizeable portion of the Republican constituency that the election is rigged, that Hillary is a criminal and she never can or should be recognized as a genuine president, even if she wins in a landslide. He has maintained this position despite his precipitous drop in recent polls. “‘The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on,’ Trump told attendees at a campaign rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on [August 12th]… ‘The only way they can beat it, in my opinion, and I mean this 100 percent, is if in certain sections of the state they cheat,’ he added.”
He’s called for cops to get involved and citizens to “volunteer” to become election “observers.” “Observers” or “intimidators”? You tell me. Voter fraud in the United States is so inconsequential that it isn’t even a slight issue anywhere in the country; there is no real statistical evidence to the contrary at all from any credible source. But whatever else is said and done, these efforts have absolutely marginalized Hillary Clinton in the eyes of too many Americans; if elected, she will never be recognized as president by this large constituency regardless of the vote.
Even with their half-hearted support for Trump, that tea party/Evangelical constituency – especially those elected to Congress – has committed itself to denying Clinton’s legitimacy, well beyond the birther/he’s-a-Muslim movement that haunted Barack Obama. They will ignore and oppose her in a way that may well make the gridlock of recent years look like the “good times” for Democrats.
While the Senate is most certainly up for grabs this year, a shift to a less-than-60-seat-majority for the Democrats – the threshold needed for cloture (the vote required to stop a filibuster) – doesn’t get the bills they want onto the Senate floor for a vote. After all, success for the Dems is winning a simple Senate majority, probably not many more than 54 seats under their most optimistic view. And then there’s the House of Representatives – where all appropriations ($$$$) bills must originate.
Writing for the August 11th Washington Post, James Hohmann observes: “Republicans are almost certain to hold the House. The tea party wing might actually wind up with more leverage, not less, after November. Paul Ryan can afford to lose 29 seats, but even a loss of 15 to 20 seats would make his job as speaker much more difficult. ‘That’s because his losses in November would not likely come from Freedom Caucus members in their deeply conservative districts,’ Paul Kane explains in his column today [8/11/16]. ‘Instead, mainstream Republicans — Ryan’s most loyal allies — would suffer and, therefore, the Freedom Caucus’s size inside the entire Republican Conference would grow.’” Read: even more digging-in gridlock. Shutting the country down, a budget stalemate, becomes increasingly likely.
For all the talk about how Hillary would reshape the Supreme Court, I would not be surprised if the Senate buries anyone she nominates into a perpetual deadlock… for her entire term in office. The only thing that might alleviate that potential is the thought that the “blockers” might get punished in the 2018 mid-terms, an election the GOP needs further to send a savage message to Ms. Clinton.
For all of Clinton’s pledges to rewrite the tax code to make the rich pay their “fair share” and to punish corporations for sending jobs overseas, getting any form of tax increase through a GOP-blocking Congress is a rather complete non-starter. Massive new investments in infrastructure (which even Trump supports) and money to fund students’ access to higher education as well as dealing with the burden of student loans require rather full cooperation from a very unwilling Congress.
Hohmann writes: “One man’s ‘infrastructure’ is another man’s ‘stimulus package.’ Because Trump is also promising ‘infrastructure,’ and it polls especially well with non-college-educated white men, Republicans have stuck to hitting Clinton on character and trust. But once the election is over, you can take it to the bank that they will begin messaging on Clinton’s infrastructure plan the same way they did on Obama’s stimulus package. Remember all the jokes about shovel-ready jobs? And that was in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” It ain’t happening.
Hohmann adds: “Congress could not even pass a relatively small, emergency appropriation to fight the Zika Virus after Republicans attached poison-pill riders. Keep in mind: A) This is during an election year. B) Republicans are fighting to save their majority. C) There’s an outbreak in Florida, the single most important swing state. D) There have been alarming stories about women giving birth to deformed babies. Let’s be real. If these mothers could not spur action, how will construction workers in hard hats do it?
“… Bigger picture, and perhaps most importantly, a new president will not be able to break the gridlock that grips Washington without systemic change… Over cocktails and coffees this August recess, lawmakers and leadership aides from the establishment wings of both parties have been buzzing about a depressing Atlantic cover story entitled: ‘How American politics went insane; it happened gradually – and until the U.S. figures out how to the treat the problem, it will only get worse.’
“Jonathan Rauch [Brookings Institution senior fellow and frequent contributor to The Atlantic] argues that Trump didn’t cause the chaos, but the chaos caused Trump. ‘Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around,’ he writes. ‘Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.’
And exactly how do you change the system with a constitutional amendment process that is the most difficult to implement of any developed democracy on earth? You only have to look at the 27thAmendment to the Constitution, a rather simple proposal to ban Congress from voting themselves an immediate raise (the amendment only allows them to grant raises to future seatings of Congress… there has to be an intervening election). It was proposed in 1789. It only passed in 1992. 203 years! And if you cannot amend the constitution, do you really think a Congress committed to intractability is going to vote for rules changes in Congress that takes that power away?
I’m Peter Dekom, and if you think you’ve seen governmental dysfunction in our recent Congressional efforts, you ain’t seen nuffin’ yet!

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