guest post by wj
Note: this is not to say that they cannot win a tactical victory, and take over the Senate next week. Apparently they are odds on favorites to do just that.
But let’s look at the possible outcomes of next week’s election:
1)Democrats somehow hold on to their majority, however tenuously.
2)The two parties end up with essentially equal numbers of Senators, with the couple of independents holding the balance of power
In either of those cases, it’s a massive defeat for the GOP, given the way the electoral map looks going in. Everybody has been saying all year that the Republicans are huge (or at least substantial) favorites to take the Senate. If they don’t, there really isn’t any way to spin that as anything but a disaster.
3)The Republicans end up with a small majority in the Senate.
In that case, their base will be expecting massive changes in the law. Over Obamacare. Over gay marriage. Over regulation of business. Over taxes. None of which will happen.
First, because Obama will be able to veto any such bills that manage to get to him.
Second, because Republicans are not going to gut the filibuster, even to get their favorite bills passed (and vetoed) – being all too aware that the electoral map for 2016 means that their majority is likely, absent a black swan event, to be very temporary. And the Democrats are hardly going to sit back and leave bills that they oppose to sail thru. So, the budget may get used to cut financing for a few programs during reconciliation (which already can’t be filibustered). But major changes in the law, unless they are things that some Democrats can be persuaded to support? Nope.
Third, because the Republicans are not exactly in exact accord over exactly what should be done. If you cut taxes, you increase the deficit unless you cut programs. And cutting programs is going to either leave you with a highly motivated opposition in two years; or, worse, expose your base to the reality that any substantial cuts are going to hit programs that they like. If you just repeal Obamacare, as promised, suddenly people discover that some of the things that they liked about it got repealed too. Or else the system doesn’t work any more, because things like the mandate are necessary to make the numbers work.
So either the Republican base is going to be furious, to the point that next time they primary anyone who is even vaguely willing to work with the rest of the country. Or they are going to be despondent to the point of staying home next time. What’s the point of voting, if even when you win you don’t get anything?
4)There is, of course, the outside chance that Republicans win a big enough majority to shut down filibusters and pass legislation over a Presidential veto.
What happens then? Well take a look at places where they have had that opportunity. Check out how the Governor of Kansas is doing in his “experiment” (his word) with real conservatism in state government. Or how the Speaker of the North Carolina House is doing, in a state where Obama is seriously unpopular, in his attempt to reach the Senate – and where his conservative record in the state legislature is a significant issue. Roll that up to the national level, and guess how 2016 plays out. (And that’s ignoring any demographic changes which are occurring.)**
In short, the Republicans’ alternatives look like this:
• Lose the battle this time, when you have the best chance you are going to have for another 6 years.
• Win the battle . . . and in doing so, set your selves up to lose the war.
Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
Politicians tend to be even more focused on the short term than business leaders, so the “long term” (i.e. 2016) implications may not matter to them. But the party’s leaders have to be agonizing over how they will recover – from either a win or a loss.
** I admit that there is a theoretical possibility that the country would see lots of programs cut, even those that benefit them, and decide that they like it on balance after all. But does anyone who actually knows what the Federal budget looks like in detail (e.g. that foreign aid turns out to be a rounding error compared to, for example, Social Security, Medicare, and the military) believe that for a second?