Alan Zendell, November 12, 2018
Now that the Democrats have won back the House, what are they going to do with their majority? The Party’s performance in recent decades isn’t encouraging.
Nancy Pelosi, if she becomes Speaker, must quickly determine the House’s course for the next two years. She has three basic approaches from which to choose. She can attempt to negotiate bipartisan legislation with Trump and the Senate, obstruct the president’s agenda, or go down the path of investigating Trump with an eye toward impeachment. Whichever she chooses there can be no waffling. Once she picks a strategy she’ll have no choice but to see it through.
Above all, she must never trust anything Trump says, publicly or privately, and not rise to the bait he throws out with his tweets and hate-mongering rallies. Chaos is his friend. He will lie and mislead as he always has, his primary goal being disrupting the opposition and convincing himself that he won. Nothing else matters to Trump. He’s a master at it, and he prosecutes every objective with ruthless obsession.
The question of whether to pursue bipartisan objectives is complex. On one hand, the new House will contain a number of eager Progressives looking to make a mark, and Pelosi herself needs to have legislative wins to provide momentum for 2020. She’d love to be able to take credit for ending Congressional deadlock, but she can’t get too carried away with fantasies.
Trump cares not at all about bipartisan solutions. He won’t take any position that angers his base, and he has carefully honed that third of the country’s electorate to despise Progressivism. He will never voluntarily back off on his appeals to racism and his attempts to keep immigrants out so America will remain dominated by white money. He’ll never compromise on any significant issue unless he is compelled to by the courts or he senses cracks in his own party.
The worst thing Pelosi can do is invest her majority in long, drawn out attempts to create legislation based on assurances from Trump. If she makes that mistake, it will be election season 2020 before she knows it and the Democrats will have no record to run on.
As to obstructing Trump’s agenda, Trump has and will blame Democrats for everything that doesn’t get passed, whether or not there’s any truth to support him. The 2018 election wave established that a significant majority of Americans are already wise to that tactic, so Pelosi really has little to lose. On the positive side, she received her majority because the key voters who were the difference in the 2016 election stated clearly that they don’t like the directions Trump is taking us.
Many voters, myself among them, saw this election as an opportunity to prevent Trump from doing any more damage to our American value system. That includes restoring the EPA’s role in protecting the environment, halting efforts to further dismantle the health care safety net, and standing firm against the erosion of women’s rights.
It also includes fighting against the continued destruction of our international relationships. Congress has a lot to say about trade and diplomacy, about borders and immigration and preserving America’s role as a safe haven for the oppressed. Specifically, the House can prevent the spectacle of thousands of troops patrolling our border with Mexico simply by taking positive action to refuse to fund it.
Finally, Pelosi must determine what portion of her limited resources to divert to investigating the president. No doubt, it would be immensely gratifying to obtain access to his tax and financial records and show a pervasive pattern of conflict of interest with his foreign investments. Likewise to embarrass him over revelations of improper, possible illegal actions during his election campaign. More than half the country would love to dance on his political grave the way he did last week when Republicans who distanced themselves from him were defeated. It would feel great for a while, but what would the endgame be?
If the objective is to cow the president, Pelosi should forget it. Donald Trump is absolutely shameless. He will never back down unless he’s defeated by cohesive bipartisan disapproval or a sharp rebuke from the courts. And if her objective is impeachment, she should seriously rethink that.
The Mitch McConnell, Republican dominated Senate would only convict the president if the Mueller investigation found evidence of serious criminal behavior and clear cooperation with foreign governments during the election campaign. It took a delegation of senior Republicans led by Barry Goldwater to convince Richard Nixon that he could not remain in office. And if his party begins to turn on him? Whenever Trump senses threat he turns into a feral animal. I can’t imagine that the resulting spectacle would be good for the country.
I wish the new Speaker well. Her decisions may determine our political future for decades.