2019 is shaping up to be an ugly year.
I’m looking at the most recent polling for the House races next month, for what polling numbers are worth. Conventional wisdom says that Democrats will take the House and the Republicans will hang on to the Senate.
No one knows for sure but we’re three and a half weeks away from finding out. Either way, 2019 is shaping up to be ugly no matter what happens.
On one hand, if Democrats win the House, they’ll take over the Ethics, Intelligence, and Judiciary committees, ensuring constant investigations and subpoenas aimed at impeaching President Trump and fomenting public unrest.
They’re going to shackle the president’s agenda far worse than the Republican House did during the Obama administration, and turn Trump into a lame duck president ahead of 2020. If Democrats win the House, impeachment is a near certainty. The Mueller investigation is ongoing and despite months of reporting of its imminent completion, it could still drag on for months. The mood from Democrats right now leads me to believe they’re going to investigate every nook and cranny of Trump Inc., regardless of what Mueller finds. And they’ll have the Mueller findings to help them along.
On the other hand, if the Democrats fail to take the House, we’ll see growing calls that, in addition to the sitting administration being illegitimate, the sitting Congress is unrepresentative of the American People. Between the already sporadic violence and how unhinged the far left has become, it’s not outside the scope of possibility that we see organized political violence as a result. There’s a good chance that we see an organized resistance movement develop, beyond the political resistance movement of today. If the mid-terms don’t push the far left over the edge, another four years of President Trump in November 2020 will.
Regardless of how the mid-terms play out, 2019 is going to be ugly.
How can we know? Because Democrats are planning to make 2019 an ugly, brutal year.
Let’s start with the latest news from the Clintons, who are going on a 13-city tour to “provide a unique perspective on the past, and remarkable insight into where we go from here.”
This may be the Clintons’ last attempt to remain relevant as they try to lead their part of the Democratic Party and remain influential, and there’s speculation that Hillary will run again in 2020. That’s still on the table. Just last month, Hillary Clinton was setting the tone for her upcoming tour. Via Twitter, she published a 10-part series:
On the day after the election, I hoped my fears for our country’s future were overblown. They were not.
Donald Trump refuses to be subject to the law. The legitimacy of our elections is in doubt. The president is waging war on the truth. The administration is undermining the national unity that makes democracy possible. And then there’s the breathtaking corruption.
There is a tendency, when talking about these things, to wring our hands about “both sides.” But the truth is that this is not a symmetrical problem.
We should be clear about this: The increasing radicalism and irresponsibility of the Republican Party, including decades of demeaning government, demonizing Democrats, and debasing norms, is what gave us Donald Trump.
Whether it was stealing a Supreme Court seat, gerrymandering congressional districts to disenfranchise African Americans, or muzzling government climate scientists, Republicans were undermining American democracy long before Trump made it to the Oval Office.
With our democracy in crisis and our institutions and traditions under siege, we need to do everything we can to fight back. Here’s how.
First: We’ve got to mobilize turnout in the midterms. There are fantastic candidates all over the country who’ll do great things, and we could finally see some congressional oversight of the White House.
Then, we need to do some housecleaning. Just as Nixon’s abuses of power led to reforms, post-Trump all future presidential candidates should be required by law to release their tax returns. They also should not be exempt from ethics requirements and conflict-of-interest rules.
We need to improve and protect our elections, from instituting paper ballot backups to repairing the Voting Rights Act, getting secret money out of politics, and—you won’t be surprised to hear my support for this—abolishing the Electoral College.
Above all, we need to find a way to restitch our fraying social fabric and rekindle our civic spirit. We need to bring back civics education in our schools. We need systemic economic reforms that reduce inequality and give a strong voice to working families.
This sure seems like the makings of a campaign platform, if not for Hillary then for her backed candidate.
I emboldened three parts of this series. First, Hillary Clinton says that our elections may be illegitimate, a dog whistle to her readers that the Trump administration is illegitimate. The strength of any election is that voters respect the free and fair outcome. My highest concern for the 2016 election was a failed election — a digital repeat of the 2000 “hanging chad” incident, major disruptions to voting on election day, or something else that would cause results to be legitimately rejected by some voters. Though not quite as sharp as I feared, there are Americans who absolutely view the Trump administration as illegitimate and that’s a slippery slope because there may well be reasons for the right wing of the country to view the next Democratic president as illegitimate. After two or more general election results seen as illegitimate, we’re at risk of every election outcome being seen as illegitimate. That’s a death knell for “democracy” and the country as we know it.
Second, Clinton accuses the Republican Senate of denying then-president Obama a Supreme Court pick — which is actually a legitimate complaint. Denying the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court was a serious escalation on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That erosion of established political norms wasn’t just an act of hardball politics, it was open political warfare that allows Democrats to pursue openly the same scorched earth policies. That’s part of why the Kavanaugh fight was so ridiculous and brutal. This week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) warned again that if the Democrats take back the House, they’d impeach Justice Kavanaugh. Whether or not that’s plausible, opening a lengthy investigation and calling for Kavanaugh to recuse himself from Supreme Court decisions is a distinct possibility to sideline Kavanaugh’s presence on the court. Furthermore, the Democrats will have ample opportunity to cast doubt on the legitimacy of future Supreme Court decisions. This paves the way for groups of people, or even entire states, to ignore Supreme Court rulings.
I hesitate to call this a new era in politics because so far it’s been no more disruptive than other periods of political calamity in U.S. history. The Whiskey Rebellion (1791-1794), Secession and the War Between the States, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, and basically all three terms of FDR (failed court packing plan, gold confiscation, the social security ponzi scheme, and Japanese-American internment, among other things) come to mind. A return to political norms is possible (history shows that time tends to heal most wounds) but pending a moderation of the two parties, it’s honestly difficult to see a path forward to a “return to normalcy” right now. Unless the post-Trump era is marked by moderate politicians who disrupt the growing risk of far left/far right pendulum swings of American politics, we’ll weather political instability which has a higher likelihood of worsening than improving. Throw in a financial crisis and global recession in the next several years, and it’s very plausible America sees its first “democratic socialist” president in the next decade.
Lastly, Clinton says that we should abolish the electoral college. Since this series of tweets, numerous prominent Democrats, including one reporter for the New York Times, have questioned the viability of the election process. Specifically, they want to adopt a majority popular vote, which makes their elections much easier once amnesty is pushed through and creates millions of new voters. Clinton talks specifically of post-Trump reforms, so we should expect a Democrat-led government to punch through reforms that make successful elections for Republicans much more difficult in the future. This is scorched earth, after all. As I’ve outlined for a couple years now, amnesty and, more specifically, turning Texas blue, is likely to relegate the GOP to a regional party. Without carrying Texas in the electoral college, there is no Republican president. It’s not outlandish to say that post-Trump Democratic reforms could turn the U.S. into a one-party system, which does not bode well for the country’s viability.
And then there’s the video of a speech made by former Attorney General Eric Holder. He tells a room of Democrats:
[Republicans] have used the power that they have gotten for all the wrong things. They want to keep themselves in power… It’s time for us as Democrats to be as tough as they are, to be as dedicated as they are, to be as committed as they are… Michelle [Obama] says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ [Applause.] No. No. When they go low, we kick ’em. [Applause] That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.
Let’s just say that this statement has only political connotations, and my concern remains that this “new Democratic Party” doesn’t want a peaceful competition of ideas and a balance of power, but a neutered Republican Party incapable of threatening Democratic supremacy in America. That’s what they had in Mitt Romney and John McCain, their preferred flavor of milquetoast Republicans. And after all, that’s what’s amnesty is all about: ensuring the lasting supremacy of the Democratic Party.
Elements of both parties want one party rule; it’s just that Democrats can achieve that through semi-legal means (amnesty), while Republicans can’t. In my mind, that’s why Democrats are so fearful of Republican fascism, because this could be the GOP’s last straw. As extreme as it sounds, I’m not sure that the GOP can survive in presidential elections after amnesty, which is likely to happen just as soon as the Democrats take the House, Senate, and White House. Just look at what mass immigration and amnesty did in California, a once solidly Republican state. This isn’t just the Democrats’ game plan, this could be the future of the American political landscape.
Meanwhile, Hillary established the Clinton paradigm when she commented recently on civility:
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about… Until [the Democrats take back the House and/or Senate], the only thing the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength… So when you’re dealing with an ideological party that is driven by the lust for power… you can be civil, but you can’t overcome what they intend to do unless you overcome elections.”
The central hallmark of low intensity conflict is action below conventional war but above peaceful competition. We’ve had some pretty low lows in politics, but this period does seem to have escalated above peaceful competition between Republicans and Democrats. Fundamentally, there’s nothing inherently wrong with winning elections to stop an opposing party’s agenda. But when politics becomes subject to rule bending and breaking — the erosion of political norms often referred to as “guardrails” in civil society — we’re no longer seeing peaceful political competition. We can go as far back as gerrymandering, IRS targeting of conservative groups, and the show stopping of Merrick Garland as three prominent examples. And if that’s truly the case — that we’ve devolved into sustained open political warfare — then the country may well be stuck in a low intensity conflict at continual risk of organized political violence.
Looking forward to the next 12 months, I fear the convergence of two major trends: incivility in politics that breeds political violence and a recession that puts 10-25% of Americans out of work. It’s entirely possible that we arrive at this juncture of American history in 2020. Since the Democrats plan to make 2019 disruptive, there’s no reason to believe that 2020 would be any calmer. As ugly as the past two years have been, there are reasons to believe that 2019 and 2020 will be worse.
Always Out Front,
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While researching the culture of violence in American politics, I stumbled across an article by Yoav Fromer entitled ‘Why the American Left gave up on political violence…And why the Right increasingly embraces it.’ Fromer teaches history and politics in Tel Aviv.
The article is useless to me because it is so heavily biased that even my terriers would find it laughable But…I have had on-line discussions with many who do believe it, stating that their violence against all things White, Republican, and Trump is both necessary and justified. Only a fool would foresee some beautiful Kumbaya Moment when we embrace as brothers and toast marshmallows around the campfire.