Less than a Month Left

With Trump on the ropes, what are the prospects for a useful government in the near future?

It’s been a long and dark and stormy election. Trump came, he saw, he conquered the Republican Party, and set his sights on the country. As the race stands, it doesn’t look like Trump will get there (being a creep doesn’t play well).

But when the smoke clears, we still have a country that has business to figure out, and that’s all the harder when the Republicans remain locked between the establishment and the fringe, as they do and will. Gridlock in Congress isn’t exactly a partisan problem, but a subpartisan problem. Many Republicans would (begrudgingly) work with the Democrats if not for the likes of Tea Partiers and Freedom Caucusers.

And their primary season only highlighted that rift. Trump maybe widened it a bit, but mostly just made clear that it’s a very real issue. But either the rift has to completely break open, or it has to be sealed, if we are to move to actually have a functioning government again.

If the Democrats take the majority in either chamber (though particularly the Senate), the Republicans that aren’t in favor of dissolving the government probably breathe a sigh of relief. They can use their lack of leverage to afford sufficient compromise and see business get done. But if the government remains wholly divided, they end up where we are today: scared of governing themselves out of office.

Either way, there’s still the fallout from this election to deal with. Given their autopsy from 2012, this still means the Republicans probably do nothing. They won’t moderate their positions, try to move toward the center, or anything that would approach a positive development. They’ll just blame Trump as a flawed candidate and pretend that Jeb or Marco or Ted would have done it up right.

On the other hand, Clinton may snake-charm the Republicans into actually getting some things done anyway. Her husband’s terms were marked by a real drive to do business in a way that we haven’t seen since (with a few fleeting exceptions), and one expects that Hillary Clinton will push for the same sort of action.

The main impediment to this will be the same problem this election poses: what do you do with the wet blankets? Trump’s a wet blanket on this election in the same way that the Freedom Caucus is on the ability to move government forward (even if it means making compromises). The usual strategy for the Republicans to shift on issues would be:

  1. Amidst a muted protest, the Democrats pass a bill (say, immigration reform).
  2. The Republicans shut up about the bill.
  3. After a few years, they accept the new status quo and don’t get hammered for it.

Basically the opposite of what they did with the Affordable Care Act.

But with the wet blankets, they will constantly bitch and moan about the issue, try to shut down the government, work to have their allies primaried, and so on. And in order for someone like Paul Ryan to even gain the speakership, he has to give them some concessions (i.e., a microphone for them to yell into).

Probably, if they gave the Freedom Caucus the speakership, it wouldn’t take long for them to bungle it enough that it would return to a moderate. But the problem is the further damage that would inflict.

The real brass ring may be a 218-217 Congress, favoring the Republicans, with some moderate(s) threatening to go Democrat if the FC doesn’t FO. We probably won’t get that lucky, so we’ll just have to hope Hillary Clinton can motivate legislative action like her husband did.


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