Not so much who becomes president. But which party acts as the watchdog for democracy afterwards.
We have to accept realistically that the House of Representatives is out of the Democrats’ reach. A few seats may be added to their minority but not enough to sweep into the chamber and do anything. This is not terrifying. The House has done almost nothing for six years as a Republican body. As a successor, we expect more of the same.
Paul Ryan is not in any position to unite his membership and mold it into an effective band of brothers. He has to deal with the Freedom Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the Urban Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, and what remains of the original Tea Party Caucus.
If there are a few good souls who manage to slip into the membership with thoughts of actually achieving something grand for their country, the likelihood of any independent action in the face of this caterwauling crowd is slim.
Additionally, the individuals who make up a new class of legislators are usually young, unschooled, idealistic, or not smart enough to realize that their new colleagues have completely different goals than they do, either personal and enriching, or ideological and obstructive. The most pressing decision these people will have to make immediately is which caucus to join.
With a new president in the White House, members of both components of Congress will have to admit to themselves that they are where they are either with his/her help, or without. What follows is the night the day.
Mrs. Clinton, in all likelihood, will want a cooperative, bi-partisan body – at least in her dreams. She may elevate the occasional newbie to demonstrate how sensitive she is to the election just concluded.
Mr. Trump, in all likelihood, will expect that whatever he wants he’ll get, as would any king. The fact that none of us knows what he wants is of no concern. We haven’t known up to this point, and if the country has raised him above his peers (although, of course, he has none), either the country will survive or not.
The Republicans have already not just signaled but said aloud what their role will be: to continue to obstruct whatever the White House wants in terms of personnel and purpose. The nation is used to this, too, so the idea that Hillary in the White House will be a disaster is no more frightening than what Barack Obama has had to face during his terms.
If the nation is comfortable with the real status quo – noise, posturing, rumor, ill-will and insults – it will simply do what it has done for decades and prove the old line about what constitutes madness: trying to do the same thing over and over again without success. (This is where the value of a cracker-jack staff shows most brilliantly. Many Congressional staff members are elegant, intelligent people who know how to keep their back-home boys happy, which goes to explain the traditional return to Congress of incumbents, able or dunce. That, and the idea oft quoted, that “We don’t like so-and-so, but our man (woman) is sensational.” This is a bi-partisan phenomenon.)
We have choices.
A Republican president, Senate, and House. The clean-sweep scenario.
A Republican president with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate.
A Democratic president with a Republican Senate and House.
A Democratic president with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate.
With the nation as divided as it is now, and likely to remain so for the indefinite future, the CHOICE MATTERS.
While Mrs. Clinton has come to stand for life is it has been lived for forty years, and is likely to tiptoe into the future on the toes of her sneakers, the United States perhaps to its surprise can continue to struggle, flail, and disappoint as before.
While Mr. Trump has come to stand for the UNKNOWN – the unschooled, the selfish, a nation no longer willing to play “by the rules,” all bets may be off. In sixteen months, Mr. Trump has spent (it appears to us) absolutely no time learning about diplomacy, race relations, our Armed Forces, our economic history and needs, the trouble spots of the MidEast, the Far East, Eurasia, Latin America, even Africa. If he knows something about Russia, that’s more worrying than calming.
Who can control the Trumpian whirlwind? Not the Republicans, or they would have done so months earlier.
Who can control Mrs. Clinton? The Republicans, especially should both Houses be theirs. (In this case, one can imagine an early move towards impeachment.)
There is only one source of strength, of knowledge and experience, that can control the excesses (should this be necessary) of Mr. Trump. The SENATE.
A quick caution: not every Senator can be viewed as a solon. The Honorables Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, and Mitch McConnell are carrying their own axes with which to attack what has been a handsome, historic elm tree. (Cruz has already vowed to never approve any Supreme Court nominee offered by Mrs. Clinton.)
But there are within the Senate chamber men and women who understand the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Voting Rights acts, health insurance, education, trade, and international cooperation.
Our task in any state in the Union is to search out the party designation of Senators up for re-election, find those with an “R” before or after their names, and then deliberately vote for the (D) below or next to it.
Because if we repopulate the Senate with Republicans, we can only expect more obstreperous inaction and bias. Because, if the nation as a whole really does want change, this is the only way to get it.