Conventional wisdom is that American voters have come to their senses. A blue wave will rush over the political beach in November, washing away the stain of Donald Trump. That could easily happen. The Republicans’ best talking point, the robust economy, could be derailed by Trump’s ill-advised trade policy. The out-of-power party usually does well in the first mid-term of a new presidency. Polling has become progressively less reliable, but numerous polls indicate that Democrats have an enthusiasm edge. The same media that confidently predicted Hillary’s victory are now touting a fund raising edge for the Democrats. The edge is less that touted, but there appears to be a slight edge. That could be eroded by reduced support from their most reliable major donor — public sector labor unions. The recent Supreme Court decision has them scrambling to shore up their membership.
In amongst the euphoria, it is possible to miss the shape of the wave. What will the wave look like and how will it affect our political future?
San Francisco is a good place to look for the future of the Democratic party. Hillary won 90% of the vote and Jill got some of the rest. Clear evidence of a Democratic stronghold. But it’s not. San Francisco is a two party town-Progressive and More Progressive. More Progressive is currently working for voting rights for undocumented citizens (also known as illegal aliens in other parts of the country), all-sexes-welcome bathroom signage, and the eradication of the scourge of plastic drinking straws. The national Democratic party is rapidly evolving into Progressive and More Progressive. More Progressive has a huge edge in momentum and enthusiasm.
The problem with More Progressive is that their voters tend to bunch up. My analysis says that a More Progressive candidate could win a Senate seat in 12–14 states. Democrats in the other states have an ugly choice. They can vote the party line, and have their voting records used as a club to beat them, or they can vote against some More Progressive agenda items and doom their chances of becoming law. Our pesky Constitution allocates two Senators to each state, even the square ones. More Progressives are going to have a hard time winning a majority in the Senate any time soon.
The problem for House seats is less severe, but similar. Outside of New England and coastal urban enclaves, where they win seats with overwhelming majorities, More Progressives have a hard time competing. That problem is exacerbated by the fact that Republicans have total control of 26 states, giving them power to draw favorable district boundaries, and effective veto of the process in at least 10 more states. The Democrats controlled the House for 50 years by sitting at the feet of Phil Burton, the guru of the gentle art of gerry mander. Now that the Republicans, with the aid of technology, have perfected the process, there are cries for “reform”. It may come, but slowly. Iowa drew some very coherent lines (square state; square districts). California appointed a commission of amateurs who were supposed to use data to draw districts. The Democrats worked the data so they got 66% of the state’s legislative seats with 55% of the vote. Even if the process is truly reformed, the bunching up problem will not go away. More Progressives will continue to cluster around latte shops, shunning Dunkin’ Donuts.
So, my prediction is that a bifurcated Democratic party has a 50/50 chance of capturing the House, and almost no chance in the Senate. Where will that lead?
A Democratic House could make lots of hay by using its subpoena power to embarrass the administration, but it will not confine itself to embarrassment. The More Progressives have already introduced articles of impeachment and will do so again the day the new Congress is seated. There will be tremendous pressure on all Democrats to vote yes.
We will then be faced with a trial in the Senate, chaired by John Roberts. Barring a Trump catastrophe that sticks, or Mueller evidence of some actual crime, there is not a chance in hell that enough senators will vote for a conviction to get the job done. The polls tell us that 28% of the electorate “strongly support” Trump. His overall approval rating is now up to 45%. Lots of those voters will respond very adversely to an impeachment process. It could get very ugly.