Monday, November 7, 2016

The Day After Tomorrow - Where Will You Be

Republican strategy began over twenty years ago to be a multi-pronged approach to
(1) preach smaller government, meaning minimal Federal government, while
(2) fomenting anger and resentment using right wing media to garner and maintain political support,
(3) avoiding serious consideration of legitimate political issues.
Today, with the logical result being Trumpism, the new strategy becomes trying to contain the caged animal they created, while fostering development of an effectively Confederation form of government within a nominally Federal republic, almost a shadow government.  The Supreme Court will be diminished because no justices will be confirmed while Clinton is president, if the Senate is Republican. Congress will be tied up in meaningless investigations in the House and endless confirmation hearings with no intention to approve SC justices or other Federal judges. No federal laws. No treaties. The weakening of the Presidency and Supreme Court will make the Congress preeminent, with democracy weakened by voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the poisoning of political discourse with constant fact denial. The goal is de facto confederation, just as confederation in the form of the Confederacy was the goal in 1861. The difference being in 1861 the Union was not along for the ride.

Republican officeholders will predictably deny the obstructionist strategy, but the goal could not be clearer from their actions. They will accuse the president of acting illegally and, yes, they will search for excuses to impeach the president in the House. The biggest surprise would be no impeachment of Hillary Clinton.  Most likely the next two years will be consumed by the building of a case against her (actual case yet to be determined), with the goal of impeachment and trial in the lame duck session following the 2018 midterm elections.

In theory, as the NYT editorializes "Senate Democrats would have an obligation to consider and vote on his [Trump's] nominees" sounds proper, but is that realistic? Republicans long ago reduced the functioning of the federal government to an exercise in game theory. McConnell's announcement that the Senate would never consider the president's Supreme Court nominee means in the iterative game, Democrats are expected to cooperate in the interest of preserving democracy, (because that is what dos Dems do) while Republicans continue to refuse to cooperate because that achieves the government they want. Watch for the Republican strategy to escalate as they seek "facts" to support disqualification of nominees - judges, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, in order to draw out the process indefinitely.

(1) Clinton wins and is able to assume the presidency without obstruction January 20, 2017,
(2) the House is controlled by Republicans, and
(3) the Senate is 50-50 or so.

What to expect:
December 9, one month away, is a critical date for Congress to approve a budget to extend funding through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2017, or for a shorter period of time. The most likely outcome will be approval of a continuing resolution to fund the government for three months or so. Republicans will then have the opportunity to stall out the federal government early in Clinton's first months in office.

Merrick Garland will not be approved by the Senate in the current 2016 term, even though he is at least as moderate as any likely Clinton appointee and some Senate Republicans favor approving his nomination now because he is older than the typical nominee. However, due to the Republican need to effect policy on contentious social issues and voting strategy in the courts rather than through legislation, the Supreme Court nomination approval process will become more of a scorched earth strategy than ever. Stalling on nominations also ties up the Senate, taking positive energy away from legislating, thus achieving that goal.

Whether or not the House will continue to hold the purely symbolic votes repeal the Affordable Act is difficult to predict. House leaders may hold a small number of such votes, but may try to keep the total spanning multiple Congresses below 100 times (unless it is already over 100).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg will resign from the Supreme Court, but will try to wait for completion of the approval process for the current open seat. If no justice is approved due to obstruction by Republicans in the Senate, she will face a tough choice, but may resign anyway at a critical moment in the approval process, hoping to apply political pressure on the Republicans. So she may resign effective with the end of the term on June 30, 2017. Alternatively, she or another justice may pass away unexpectedly.

The Republican Party will continue to be torn by internal dissension, but Republican leaders will do whatever it takes to hold together their coalition without compromising with Democrats except in the most extreme cases. If Ryan remains as Speaker, he is likely to suffer the same fate as Boehner, but that may take a year or two to play out.

Some analysts predict that House Democrats could reach a consensus with a small group of moderate Republicans to make the House a functioning body and offset the power of the most extreme Republican members. Unfortunately, the House will likely have a smaller, more conservative Republican majority, making accommodation with Democrats less likely.

If Trump loses, as expected, we may see severe resistance to the will of the people. No predictions on where that goes. Simultaneously, several Senate races could be so close that a recount is automatic or requested by the candidate with fewer votes. This scenario could leave the control of the Senate in doubt for weeks after the election.

We will hear concerns about "legitimacy" frequently over the next four years in discussions about the functioning of the presidency and the courts.

No predictions if Trump wins.

Why no predictions if Trump wins?
(1) Trump is so extreme. He might act consisten with the conduct of his campaign, but he may not.
(2) Based on accuracy in the past, we lean toward the Sam Wang forecast model:
As of November 7, 2:07PM EST:Snapshot (221 state polls): Clinton 313, Trump 225 Electoral Votes    Meta-margin: Clinton +2.7%
Clinton Nov. win probability: random drift >99%, Bayesian >99%
Senate snapshot (48 polls): Dem+Ind: 50, GOP: 50, Meta-margin: D +0.7%, Nov. control probability: Dem. 79%
These result do not consider potential impact of voter suppression efforts in states like North Carolina and Arizona. We shall see...

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