Sunday, November 20, 2016

Could Liberals' Hope in a Trump Presidency Lie With Mitch McConnell?

The Democratic Party anointed a candidate that couldn't beat a clown (apparently). While the Dems lost the White House, they also couldn't convince anyone to vote for a Democratic Senate, and obviously lost the gerrymandered House. That leaves the Presidency and both chambers of Congress in Republican control, and liberals chasing nightmares every time they close their eyes. With a conservative agenda ready to go and at least one Supreme Court seat to be filled in the coming years, could Mitch McConnell give Democrats their best hope of slowing down the upcoming onslaught of Republican policies?

McConnell has been a reclusive man this election, hiding an assumed disdain for Donald Trump in favor of a prototypical candidate. He avoided the cable news circuit and campaigns alike, utilizing his time to privately fundraise for Congressional Republicans. But now that he raised enough money to buy the Senate, he faces a problem: being responsible for governance. While the Senate leader never demonstrated an interest in working to develop smart policy or pass a responsible budget, he succeeded wildly in obstructing President Obama and running against his objectives.

McConnell seemed happy to play the role of obstructionist, and fundraised well doing it. Unfortunately, the goalposts have moved. Trump has demonstrated zero interest in policy development, suggesting he'll sign whatever Congress sends up as long as it can be sold as a big idea. If something goes wrong, or there's something McConnell doesn't want to do (fully repeal Obamacare?), there's only one place America (as well as Trump, assumedly) will point the finger - at Congress. Unless, that is, McConnell can create an alternative place to deposit blame. Whither the obstructionists?

Democrats eliminated many filibuster rules regarding Presidential appointments out of necessity, after Republicans in the Senate minority refused to allow anyone to be confirmed regardless of their merits because partisanship. It'll be hard for McConnell to sell his conference on reinstating that power, but filibusters of legislation will remain. So Senate Republican will to confirm Trump appointees (maybe a couple Republican will demonstrate the courage to oppose those appointees that refuse to uphold the constitution, but we'll see), but Democrats will retain the power to impede controversial legislation. And though the filibuster can technically be eliminated, McConnell would be strategically smart not to infringe on the ability to use it.

Democratic opposition via filibuster is important to both sides. Democrats need small victories and the ability to claim they're fighting the machine. Republicans need an opposition to fundraise against (expect this e-mail in your inbox soon: "We could fix healthcare if only those dastardly Democrats would stop trying to shove their death panels down our throats! Won't you donate $25 today to help America show those liberals we won't stand for their bullying ways?") McConnell has shown himself as a politician first. A smart politician would open the system to Democrats to obstruct a legislative agenda, and give Republicans something to run on in 2018. We'll see if liberals are (un)lucky enough for this to happen.