So it’s settled then? Both left and right want a blue wave this fall?
To think, some people say there’s no common ground between the parties anymore.
I’d guess that this theory is 60 percent earnest and 40 percent just a way for Trump’s handlers to prepare him mentally for losing the House. He really does seem to believe that a red wave is as likely as a blue one, if not more so, all historical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. How do you stave off a looming presidential freakout over a disappointing election? Simple: Convince him that it’s not a disappointment. Losing big in November means winning big in 2020.
There’s a new way of demonstrating loyalty to Donald Trump and his Republican Party: Claiming that the president could not only survive an impeachment effort, but that it would guarantee his victory in 2020…
Proponents of the go-for-broke scenario argue that Trump’s at his best when his back is against the wall, and that a move to impeach would both rally the base and make the president sympathetic to moderate voters. Some scoff at the notion that there’s anything for Trump to fear from Democratic investigators on Capitol Hill, especially given the threat he’s already facing from special counsel Robert Mueller, and suggested that the House doesn’t matter as long as Republicans retain the Senate.
It dovetails with the growing conviction in Republican circles that the president could use congressional gridlock under a Democratic House majority as a personal battering ram, offering it up as the picture of Washington intransigence as he vies for reelection — rather than having to answer for the ongoing inability of a slim and fractious Republican majority to move a comprehensive agenda through the Hill.
If you thought the case for Trump was negative in 2016 (i.e. “Keep Hillary out of the White House at all costs”), imagine how negative it’ll be if Dems grab the House this year and are poised in 2020 to retake the Senate, when they’ll be facing a highly favorable map. Trump may be the lone remaining obstacle to a total Democratic takeover of government. It’ll be “Save the Court!” all over again, this time on steroids.
It’s possible that Democrats will overreach by trying to impeach him on dubious grounds if they recapture the House. Pelosi is forever batting away questions about impeachment when she’s asked about it, remembering how that worked out for the GOP in 1998 and knowing that a legit impeachment threat is the surest way to get Republicans to turn out to vote. But amid all the comparisons to 1998, it must matter why a president’s being impeached, no? It can’t be that impeachment efforts are per se political losers no matter the grounds. If Pelosi’s caucus comes after Trump for having once boinked Stormy Daniels and then lied about it, sure, the public will see that as frivolous and unworthy of public resources and side with him. If they come after him because Mueller produces evidence that he was working with Russia to release the Podesta emails at politically opportune moments in 2016, that’s different. Even if he survives that impeachment attempt, which he likely would thanks to Senate Republicans, which party is more likely to face a backlash?
The idea that he might benefit from a Democratic House even if they *don’t* impeach him is interesting, though. In that scenario, Dems decline to go nuclear but instead spend most of their time hassling him with oversight investigations, regular committee hearings, and so forth. Why might that benefit Trump? Because, say some of his supporters, two long years of bitter partisan gridlock would echo his 2016 message that “the swamp” does nothing productive for the American people. Here he is, trying to make America great again, and all the House Democratic majority can do is chatter about “emoluments” or whatever. No doubt that’s exactly how Trump would campaign in 2020, but the wrinkle in that message is that the do-nothing gridlock in this case would have happened on his watch as president. The guy who swore he was going to go to Washington and upend business as usual will have been proven a failure, hamstrung by his inability to fulfill that promise. Why would swing voters want to give him a second chance? If you’re going to campaign as a “Green Lantern” candidate for president, which Trump did emphatically two years ago, you need to show some evidence of super powers in squelching your opponents once elected.
The strongest case that Trump might benefit from a Democratic House is one not seen in the Politico piece because it’s not one that conservative Trump cheerleaders want to consider. Namely, it’d give him a chance to pass some centrist compromise packages that might be more agreeable to him personally and to many in his base than the usual Ryan/McConnell conservative dogma is. Because Trump’s support is so strong among his devout fans, he could deliver some (emphasis: some) Republican backing for bills that a GOP president with a thinner base couldn’t. Infrastructure, entitlements, even immigration — he could make some deals and notch a few, ahem, “wins.” Ironically, it wouldn’t be Trump himself who’s the main stumbling block to that; it would be House Democrats, who’d risk enraging their own Resistance base by compromising with him on anything. Better to refuse all grand bargains and obstruct the White House, they’d say, in hopes that voters will reward you with total control of government in 2016. (It worked for the GOP in 2014 and 2016!) There’ll be no deals with Pelosi — at least not unless and until Trump’s second term. If, when the dust settles in 2021, he’s still president and Team Blue is in charge of one or both chambers of Congress, maybe they’ll talk.
Which, actually, is one of the best reasons to worry about four more years. If there’s any chance of Trump drifting back towards his centrist/Democratic roots, those chances will peak once he no longer needs to worry about making right-wing voters happy.
Exit question: If the House does flip this fall, how is Trump most likely to spin it? A Twitter pal suggested this morning that he’ll end up blaming House Republicans somehow for not embracing him more tightly. (Which is what he did after Ed Gillespie lost his election for governor of Virginia.) “I wanted to campaign for them but they didn’t want me! If I had, we would have won!” For every problem, the Trumpy solution is and can only be “More Trump.” I don’t think that’ll be his main argument, though, since it would imply that Democrats won the election fair and square, via a strategic error by Republicans. Any apparent popular rebuke of Trump or people closely associated with Trump will necessarily be spun as illegitimate. I’d guess he’ll end up claiming that illegal immigrant voters were the difference, or that Russia intervened on behalf of Democrats this time.