I didn’t watch the mid-term election coverage last night. My wife and I went to a movie instead: The Maze Runner. Those were our choices: MCNBC,or Maze Runner. Two post-apocalyptic dystopias. Hey, at least, in Alabama, the voters’ initiative banning the imposition of Sharia law passed. (Just in time, before Obama could impose it). Betcha anything the veiled cheerleaders are why Mississippi State beat The Tide.
As a liberal Democrat, of course, gallows humor is pretty much the order of the day. The Republicans now have a mandate: to not let ISIS behead too many of us, and to stop the spread of Ebola. The reality is, this was a low-turnout midterm election, coinciding with some foreign policy setbacks, and a really scary but not actually dangerous disease outbreak. Old white people got scared, and voted. Minorities had stuff to do.
Right now, here’s what national politics looks like. The Republicans control the House, Democrats control the Senate. So the House passes lots of bills, which the Senate doesn’t so much as even consider. And the Senate passes lots of other bills, which the House also ignores. As a result nothing gets done. President Obama does some small-scale governing, within the limits of existing legislation; other than that, bupkus. That’s the status quo. It’s going to change.
(And in the Maze Runner, these kids, all male, live in a community surrounded by massive stone walls. They have tools, a forest, the means to survive. They’ve created a nice little community for themselves. An opening in the walls leads to a series of mazes, which they’ve been mapping. But the mazes change nightly, and nobody has survived in the mazes past sundown. It’s a stable, but dangerous society. A new kid shows up once a month, along with some supplies. But nothing really changes, not really. They have a community, rules, a leader; they vote on things like chores. Stasis.)
So the Republicans now control the Senate, in addition to the House. What will this mean?
Three possible scenarios:
First, a lot of the screwier House bills that right now get passed and then go nowhere are now going to be passed by the Senate, which won’t mean much, because President Obama will simply veto them. In fact, President Obama could set a new record for vetoes. Deadlock will continue, and nothing will get solved; there’ll just be a different mechanism for inaction. I do think that the anti-Obama rhetoric we’ve enjoyed so much the last six years could ramp up exponentially. The cries of tyranny! and dictatorship! and monarchist! that the crazier elements on the Right are so fond of will increase in volume and passion. We’re going to see more bills introduced to rescind Obamacare, for example. Only now, instead of Harry Reid ignoring those bills, Obama will simply veto. Ugly as American politics has been, and racist and vicious and vile, it’s now likely to get worse, and much much more personal. Good thing Obama’s got a thick skin. (I think it would be really cool if he vetoed some of those bills from the golf course). I also think impeachment is a possibility, not that Obama’s done anything to get impeached for, but they’ll come up with something. That will fail too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
(And in The Maze Runner, a new kid, Thomas, shows up, and actually kills one of the horrid spider creatures that guard the mazes. This freaks everyone out; change is scary.)
On the other hand, I rather suspect that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner would very much like to, you know, govern. They have two years to prove that Republicans can actually pass a legislative agenda. There’s stuff they can do. Not every bill out there is idiotic. They could pass a highway bill, for one thing, and probably will. That’s something that needs to be done, it’s not a tough fix, and there’ll be bi-partisan support for at least something that fixes infrastructure. It’s not likely to be a particularly good highway bill–they could possibly include some kind of anti-union provision for federal contracting–but there’ll be tremendous pressure on Obama to sign it. And if it’s not horrible, he probably will.
I watched Reince Priebus on Jon Stewart last night, and he said ‘we’ll be able to force Obama to work with us. We have that power now.’ But President Obama’s always been willing to work with Republicans, as long as what they propose isn’t completely crazy.
(And in The Mazerunner, suddenly, a girl shows up, the first non-male addition to their community. This terrifies everyone. Thomas also discovers that the maze has in fact been completely mapped, and that killing the spider creature is the key to opening a door to the outside. A way to escape is open to them all. Even more terrifying; the more conservative community members are about ready to kill Thomas. Also the girl.)
Priebus said something else that terrified me, though. He said ‘now we can really get this economy going.’ Thing is, we know what Republicans want to do economically. It’ll be more of their Holy Economic Trinity: tax cuts for rich people, spending cuts for poor people, and deregulation. Oh, and probably increases in the most bloated part of the budget; defense spending. Which leads me to my third point: budgeting could get really really nasty. As awful as budget battles have been up to now, they’re particularly going to get worse now. The Tea Party smells blood. We’re in for an awful two years.
(In The Mazerunner, the spider creatures attack, and many of the kids are killed. And they escape, and more of them die. And when they find their way out of the maze, what they discover isn’t particularly triumphant or good, but more death and destruction).
Which of these three scenarios is it going to be? Tea Party triumphalism, leading to massive numbers of Presidential vetoes? Sensible compromise, and some good legislation–a highway bill, immigration policy, education initiatives? Or some bruising budgetary battles? The answer is, all three. We’re in for a tough two years.
(The Mazerunner is the first movie in a trilogy. The next two movies, telling the rest of the story, haven’t been made yet. I could cheat and read the novels, but kind of don’t want to).
And then, gazing into my crystal ball, Hillary Clinton will be elected easily, and quickly become one of the most consequential Presidents in history. And the Tea Party could, once and for all, slink back to the margins of history, joining the No-Nothings and radical anti-Masons. So, silver lining, maybe. The Mazerunner kids do get out, though to what end? Uncertain, and possibly a little bleak. As with America itself, this fine chilly Wednesday.