Whither the House? A Legislative Golden Age? Possibly. Even Greater Wacko-ism? Definitely.

I just read a Bloomberg column by “conservative” writer Ramesh Ponnuru (AEI, National Review) all but awarding Democrats the Presidency AND the Senate?!?  “Republicans accept the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, and they know that her election would probably end their majority in the Senate. But in a year that has upended political expectations, they have clung to one comforting assumption: Their hold on the House is secure.”  He goes on to question the hold on the House.

I’ve been musing around the same, but when did this become “the conventional wisdom?”  It seems a bit premature to award the Senate this early.  Maybe this is best read as a gauge of the despair?  Rational conservatives finally acknowledging “their” party’s take-over by the NASCAR fan base.  I’m guessing a guy named Ramesh Ponnuru doesn’t feel so welcome in the thick of of a NASCAR crowd (or at a Trump rally)…

But he’s right.  The House is definitely the most interesting question out there now.  There are two scenarios.

  1. The Democrats win the House outright.  That seems unlikely.
  2. The Democrats remain in minority, but take a bite out of the Republican majority.  This seems likely and a LOT more interesting…  Oddly enough, it might also usher in productive era for American politics…

Why?  Democrats will ONLY pick off Republican moderates.  The wacko wing of the House comes from districts that will never flip.  That’s why their elected Representatives are wackos – QED.  So any Democratic gains will come in “swing” districts voting out less-than-totally-wacko Republicans.

The end result is (probably) a smaller Republican majority with a larger percentage share of wackos.  As we have all learned in the last few years, that wacko wing is allergic to the actual business of government.  Cue a nihilistic procession of government shutdowns, tilting at windmills (voting down Obamacare) and general grandstanding.  Anything to avoid the actual messy, compromise-laden (ew! ech!)  duties of governing a diverse country with its cross-currents of interests.

So why is a larger wacko wing a good thing?  Because the beleaguered, non-wacko rump of the Republican could start doing deals across the aisle vs dealing (and failing) within “their” own party.  That has arguably already happened.  Very little real governing gets done in the House without Democratic votes these days…  De facto coalition government with Paul Ryan as the pivot point…  

And why could that be a productive era for American politics?  Paul Ryan is a twerp, but he is inclined to actual governance.  He will do deals.  A legislative balance between a resurgently Liberal Senate and a Right-of-Center-But-Not-Wacko coalition in the House.

Whatever passes muster through both Paul Ryan’s and Elizabeth Warren’s meatgrinders is probably going to be finely ground,well seasoned, and reasonably tasty political sausage.  Appetizing to political centrists at least.  A fix to the corporate tax code?  Some obvious tweaks to Social Security?  Real infrastructure investment?  The possibilities seem endless after so many years of obstructionism…

Or the House wackos just take over the asylum.  Then the legislative engine simply grinds to a halt.  Almost today’s status quo, but increasingly damaging if it goes on.  Those roads and bridges will still keep on rotting away….

  • The Democrats could pick off so many Republican moderates that there is no rump wing left to do those deals….
  • The wacko wing could de-throne Ryan & Co in the leadership.  They will most certainly try.  But that could result in a House “Majority” leader elected with votes from the House Minority party.  That event would take today’s de facto coalition government out of the shadows.
  • Ryan’s gets “primaried” and his constituents vote him out a la Eric Cantor.  Also a very real risk….

All interesting, but perhaps overly hopeful.  What is certain that November will yield a MORE extreme, ideological, nihilistic, “Ultra” Republican House.  More wackos, fewer moderates…  The wackos will go deeper into an impotent, foam-flecked rearguard battle against an increasingly diverse, tolerant, and urbanized America.  A battle they are already losing.  NASCAR peaked years ago…

The wackos will also be “the” national face of the Republican party.  Compounding the damage Trump will do to the Party’s standing.  All bad news for thoughtful conservatives out there.  For they will truly lack a home.  They have my sympathy.  But there is no deliverance from a deal with the devil.  The bill for Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” has come due.

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