With Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropping out of the race to become Speaker of the House, the level of chaos in Congress has hit a new height. It’s hard to imagine what comes next in this intractable situation as nearly every option has become open – including the longshot possibility that a bi-partisan group of centrists might soon be in charge.
Will this open the floodgates and see something get done or will the gridlock become even more set in stone for the next year? Like the weather, everyone likes to complain about it but no one seems to do anything about it. But next year could be the year that Democrats actually do something and take control – of both the Senate and the House. This is actually possible if we seize the moment.
The race to replace Boehner (R-OH) has become a rather gentlemanly affair, at least in the sense that everyone sane is bowing softly and pointing to someone else to take it. The unruly bunch that has ruled Congress with a tiny minority of about 40, the “Freedom Caucus”, won’t allow the “Hastert Rule” to continue to function at all. That is the rule set by former Speaker (and soon convict) Dennis Hastert (R-IL) that all bills have to have a majority of the majority party to proceed.
There is no majority of Republicans behind anything but posturing, so this rule has maintained that posturing is all that can be done.
This is, of course, horrible for getting anything done in this time when reform of many laws is necessary to keep up with changing times and perhaps even balance the budget, should an actual budget ever be written again. Congress, as it now stands, is incapable of getting anything done.
Driving that point home is the natural work for the Democrats who have been given a huge opening. Let’s run down the top three seats voters will face when they enter the voting booth in a bit over a year.
President – As we discussed before, the improving economy and the realities of the Electoral College give the Democrats a big advantage for President in 2016. The better the economy the better their chances. It all depends on who is nominated and how that person looks going into the race. However, the chaos of too many candidates on the Republican side makes it less likely that there will be big money left for the general election.
Look for – early wins by genuine outsiders like Carson, Trump, and Fiorina. Carson in particular could do very well in Iowa and South Carolina if evangelicals rally around him in a crowded field where less than 30% might make a “win”. Also look for Democrats to bring clarity to the field, which would be their big opening if the Republican money is blown before they can define the eventual nominee in a negative light.
Senate – The class of 2010 is up for re-election, and of the 34 who are running 24 are Republicans. Some are in states that are vulnerable, particularly Mark Kirk (R-IL) who will likely face Rep Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). All it takes is a switch of 4 seats for the Senate to go back to being in the hands of Democrats, assuming they win the Presidency. Curiously, the key Senate races line up very well with the key Presidential states – Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Of these 11 states all but North Carolina went for Obama in 2012 and 9 of these seats are held by Republicans currently.
Look for – A big stumble in the Presidential race will have coat-tails this time without any doubt. For these races, it really is all about the money – and a lot will be spent on them. General Republican disarray will squash that advantage leaving them with a series of races where the odds are long and they can’t do much about it. The current odds at predictit.org give the Republicans a 50/50 chance of keeping the Senate, but that will change as the betting money moves to the Democrats.
House – The longshot for the Democrats is actually in play if the chaos of this Fall keeps on for another year. In the election of 2012 a small majority of Americans, 50.5%, actually voted for Democrats in the House elections. The way districts are carved up the Republicans have a big advantage and the vast majority of seats in the House can be considered “safe”. But by using the spreadsheet provided by FairVote at this link you can see that if this moves to a vote of 53% Democrat overall the House is actually in play.
Look for – If the Speaker election becomes a disaster and the House can’t get anything done there is an opening for the Democrats. Then, it’s up to them to make use of it. It’s still a longshot but the chance is there. It will take a lot to come true but it is a possibility.
Overall – The best hope for any true American is that the House finds a way to bring itself to order and is capable of getting things done one way or the other. Failing that, the opening is there for the Democratic Party to make use of the chaos and take complete control of the federal government once again.
Chaos isn’t good for anyone unless you want to be rid of Republicans once and for all. We have chaos right now, but exactly where it goes in this year when the excitement favors outsiders is a whole different level of meta-chaos. It’s then up to we Democrats to do something about it. That’s what to really watch for.