It’s not even Halloween yet and everyone seems to have decided the November election is over. Everyone reads the polls. Trump has never led in those, ever – save for a few outliers now and then, months ago – and all the aggregated polls-of-polls now give him a fourteen percent chance of pulling off a win, at best. Most have him at about three percent, or at zero. Trump himself says he will win a “tremendous” victory – an epic Brexit landslide or something – but he says lots of things. The unemployment rate is really forty-two percent. He knows more about ISIS than all the generals. There are millions and millions of hidden Trump voters too embarrassed to tell pollsters that they’re going to vote for him, because they don’t want to be seen as racists or misogynists or whatever – but they’re damned well hidden. Most people shrug. Donald Trump says lots of things about how wonderful he is and how everyone loves him. Lots of ten-year-old boys say such things, and then, facing the real world, grow up. When the kid persists in such talk adults let him talk about his wonderfulness and politely move on to more serious matters. The kid might whine about how unfair that is but suddenly the room is empty. Donald Trump is in that empty room right now.
That means it’s time to talk about what’s next, after the election. It’s time for a Republican reckoning. Jenna Johnson and Karen Tumulty write about one of those:
A growing number of prominent Republican women are worried that as members of their male-dominated party step up to defend Donald Trump against accusations of sexual assault, they are causing irreparable damage to the GOP’s deteriorating relationship with female voters.
They’re feeling a bit guilty:
Trump has faced questions throughout his campaign about his crass comments about women, but concern escalated this month following the release of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted that he had sexually assaulted women and subsequent allegations by 11 women that Trump had inappropriately touched or kissed them. A series of mostly male Republicans have come to Trump’s defense – dismissing the accusers as liars and, some worry, further alienating the female voters that the party desperately needs to survive.
“For next-generation professional women, the party is going to have to do something very, very drastic to change the course of where this candidate has taken us,” said Katie Packer, a deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012. “I think the leaders in our party are going to have to aggressively reject this. Come November 9, they better be prepared to make very strong statements condemning all of Trump’s behavior.”
Key Republican women have decided they won’t participate in this any longer:
A growing number of well-known female Republican strategists and politicians have had it with Trump. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said earlier this month she “cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” Former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, whose looks Trump once mocked, said “Donald Trump does not represent me or my party.” And former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice wrote on Facebook earlier this month: “Enough! Donald Trump should not be President.”
And there was a final precipitating event:
The latest flare-up came Tuesday night, when former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) exploded at Fox News’ Megyn Kelly during an interview, repeatedly shaking his finger at her and accusing her of being “fascinated with sex” because she brought up allegations of sexual assault against Trump. In a scolding tone, Gingrich tried to tell Kelly which words she could or could not use.
Gingrich once had a fascination of his own with Bill Clinton’s sex life, as he was a driving force behind the movement to impeach Clinton following a consensual sexual relationship he had with a young former intern.
That was too much, but that didn’t change much:
Trump and his supporters deemed Gingrich’s interview a victory, with the campaign’s director of social media tweeting that Kelly is “not very smart” and telling his followers: “Watch what happens to her after this election is over.”
“Congratulations, Newt, on last night. That was an amazing interview,” Trump said at a ribbon-cutting at his new hotel in Washington on Wednesday. “We don’t play games, Newt, right?”
Two of the women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct piled on. Juanita Broaddrick tweeted: “Beauty is only skin deep. Megyn Kelly is ugly as hell on the inside.” Paula Jones wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted: “Woohoo, he slammed this nasty heifer!”
And that was far too much:
“Looks like Newt Gingrich just proved my point again,” tweeted Amanda Carpenter, a conservative commentator and former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Carpenter wrote this week in The Washington Post about how her party has left women like her behind by ignoring Trump’s chauvinism that was “well-documented in decades’ worth of publicly available smutty television, radio and print interviews long before he became the nominee.”
“If the GOP has truly convinced itself that openly engaging in sexual assault fantasies is something normal that men do among one another, I have a suggestion. Relocate the Republican National Committee headquarters into a men’s-only locker room,” Carpenter wrote. “Eliminate all pretenses of wanting to let women in.”
The war was on:
Christine Anderson, a Republican pollster, said in an interview that Democrats no longer have to push a “war on women” narrative because it’s playing out on its own thanks to Trump – and comments like those that Gingrich made on Tuesday.
“It’s just one more clueless middle-age-to-older white guy taking to task a woman,” Anderson said. “It’s so unhelpful on every level.”
Democrats can step back. It seems like the Republican War on Women will be fought within the Republican Party:
Trump’s rallies have also been hotbeds of incendiary rhetoric around gender, including popular anti-Clinton T-shirts in many locales proclaiming, “Trump that bitch!”
John Weaver, a GOP consultant who worked on the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said he is stunned by “the misogyny, the lack of understanding of where this country is now” coming from Trump’s campaign.
“If you have a gender gap the size of the Snake River Canyon, why do you trot out Newt Gingrich, and [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani and your nominee to talk about it and further make it worse?” said Weaver, noting that all three men have been married three times. “The only ones I can see who seem to be obsessed about sex in this campaign are those three people.”
President Hillary Clinton will be happy about that, and Michelle Goldberg adds this:
It will be interesting to see whether the sudden apprehension of Republican misogyny leads to a feminist awakening among women on the right. Until now, one major distinction between conservative and liberal women has been that conservative women rarely see their interests as being separate from or opposed to the interests of men. “Conservatives don’t usually engage in identity politics,” wrote Luma Simms in a Federalist piece headlined, “In Supporting Trump, Conservative Men Abandon Conservative Women… Conservative women don’t ask for special privileges, nor for the most part do they draw attention to themselves as women. Because we believe we should be judged on our merits, rarely will you find a conservative woman playing the woman card.”
Simms is no feminist, at least in any way that most feminists would recognize. She sees women primarily as defenders of home and hearth. But the realization that women can’t trust men to look out for them can be a first step in a feminist awakening.
That will make Clinton’s victory sweet and complete:
Now right-wing women are waking up to the shameful contradictions between the rhetoric and action of the men they once considered comrades. We don’t yet know how that will transform politics – only that it will. Feminists have long bemoaned the fact women by and large don’t see themselves as a distinct class. Thanks to Trump, that could be starting to change.
Things will be better after the election, but Greg Sargent says not so fast there:
Will the GOP change in the After Trump (AT) era? This morning, the news is filled with speculative pieces about the battle among Republicans that is likely to unfold over that question, if and when Donald Trump loses the election, possibly by a large margin.
The New York Times reports this morning that Trump allies are actively laying plans to punish the GOP leadership for failing to fully embrace Trumpism – and, crucially, to keep Trumpism’s legacy very much alive as a malevolent and disruptive political force inside the Republican Party. The Times notes that Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is intent on forcing out House Speaker Paul Ryan, while other leading congressional supporters of Trump are warning the GOP leadership not to dare moderate on immigration, which could stir the great Trumpian masses to rise up in rage.
Expect nothing but trouble:
The battle lines will roughly divide between GOP leaders, party strategists, and establishment figures who are urging one set of lessons to be drawn from the defeat (that the party needs to make peace with cultural and demographic change), and Trump supporters who are urging that a very different set of lessons be drawn (that the party must embrace Trump’s species of ethno-nationalism and xenophobic, America First populism). As one congressional expert puts it, “I expect civil war within the GOP after November 8th, as party elites inside and outside of Congress jockey to assign blame and claim the GOP mantle going forward.”
Putting aside the question of whether Ryan really needs to fear the threat of his ouster, all of this is terrible news for those who hope for a more functional opposition party that might be able to work with Hillary Clinton on matters such as immigration reform and fixing the problems with Obamacare.
In short, Hillary Clinton will win and will be unable to govern at all. There’ll be no one for her to work with, as things will probably get worse:
The various interwoven fantasies Trump has played upon – that the GOP leadership’s lack of spine is to blame for the party’s failure to “win” more; that voter fraud is rampant; that dark hordes flooding over the southern border constitute an existential threat to the country – could conceivably be strengthened by a Trump loss.
That’s what happens after the election. Trump loses but actually wins. Clinton wins but actually loses. Nothing at all gets done.
That’s already being planned, as David Weigel reports here:
Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years come January probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
Clinton’s first term will start out, on the first day, with multiple congressional investigations that will never end:
If Republicans retain control of the House, something that GOP-friendly maps make possible even in the event of a Trump loss, Clinton will become the first president since George H. W. Bush to immediately face a House Oversight Committee controlled by the opposition party. (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama lost Congress later in their presidencies.)
And other Republican leaders say they support Chaffetz’ efforts – raising the specter of more partisan acrimony between them and the White House for the next four years.
“The rigorous oversight conducted by House Republicans has already brought to light troubling developments in the [Hillary] Clinton email scandal,” the office of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The speaker supports [Oversight’s] investigative efforts following where the evidence leads, especially where it shows the need for changes in the law.”
And the Oversight Committee may not be the only House panel ready for partisan battle. While the Select Committee on Benghazi appears to have finished its work, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a committee member who says Clinton might have perjured herself on questions about her email, said recently that he wants the committee to continue.
On the campaign trail, Republicans running for every office confidently talk about Clinton facing criminal charges one day.
This is quite simple:
If she wins, Clinton would enter office with low favorability ratings and only one-third of voters considering her “honest and trustworthy.” As a result, Republicans are not inclined to give her a political honeymoon. To many of them, a Clinton victory would mean that Trump threw away an election that anyone else could have won.
These guys will more than make up for Trump’s loss, and here’s a sad and useless lament:
Several Clinton allies recoiled when asked about Chaffetz’ plans for 2017. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said Chaffetz threatened to “ignore the public’s clear desire for the two parties to work together,” and he and others accused Chaffetz of wasting taxpayer money chasing old stories.
“It’s clear Congressman Chaffetz is ready to spend resources on additional worthless political investigations that will, again, come up with nothing,” said David Brock, a former Clinton foe who now runs the pro-Clinton political action committee American Bridge and its affiliates.
Of course those investigations will come up with nothing. They know that. They just want Clinton to know she really lost this thing, although Kevin Drum adds this:
It is sure sounding like the Republican Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past eight years. If this is how things go, they’re planning to double down on total obstruction starting on Day One – or even before that for Chaffetz. Then in 2020 they’ll wonder yet again why they have such a hard time winning the presidency. I wonder if it will ever occur to them that getting nothing done just isn’t a winning argument for a majority of Americans.
They don’t seem to believe that. Getting nothing done might be a wining argument one day. Just because that hasn’t worked for the past eight years, well, that doesn’t mean it won’t work, one day. They’re a hopeful lot.
But that’s only half of it. Burgess Everett reports this:
In a vintage return to his confrontational style, Sen. Ted Cruz indicated that Republicans could seek to block a Democratic president from filling the vacant Supreme Court seat indefinitely.
After staking his endorsement of Donald Trump on a list of potential conservative Supreme Court nominees, Cruz said on Wednesday that there is precedent to limiting the Supreme Court to just eight justices. Last week, Cruz’s colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), suggested the GOP should confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to avoid having to swallow a more liberal nominee under Hillary Clinton.
As is his nature, Cruz took a harder line when asked how Republicans would handle a potential Clinton nominee while campaigning in Colorado for Darryl Glenn, a longshot candidate for the Senate.
“There will be plenty of time for debate on that issue… There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have,” Cruz said, in remarks first reported by The Washington Post.
They said let the voters decide who gets to name the next Supreme Court justice. The voters decided. Now they’re saying the voters are stupid, but they have a problem on their hands:
An indefinite GOP blockade of a Supreme Court nominee would almost certainly lead to erosion in the Senate’s supermajority requirement. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has already suggested lowering the bar for Supreme Court nominee from 60 votes to a simple majority. Under Reid, Democrats changed the Senate rules to allow all nominees but Supreme Court appointments to be approved by a majority vote.
“We need to treat it like the constitutional crisis it will be if Democrats don’t take back the Senate majority,” Reid said on Wednesday night in an email to members of the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The Supreme Court could dwindle to 7, then maybe 6, Justices. It would turn our Justice system and our democracy on its head. The Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves.”
If the Democrats retake the Senate they’ll change that supermajority rule. If they don’t take back the Senate there will be hell to pay anyway, and there was already one crack in the Republican wall:
Wednesday, Justice Clarence Thomas lamented that the broken confirmation process was a sign of larger problems. Speaking to The Heritage Foundation to mark 25 years on the Supreme Court, Thomas did not cite the Garland blockade but noted a decline in civil behavior.
“We have decided,” he said according to The Associated Press, “that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don’t think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.”
Hey! This was the guy who sexually harassed Anita Hill and got away with it! He was supposed to be one of them!
That may not matter, as David Weigel reports:
Several conservative legal writers have argued that the threat of a Clinton presidency should get Republicans thinking about a long-term blockade on nominees. Last week, in National Review, Minneapolis law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen argued that a new Congress should pass a law shrinking the Supreme Court from nine to six seats. “A smaller court means diminished judicial activism,” Paulsen wrote. “As the Court’s size shrinks, activist majorities become mathematically harder to put together. Four votes out of seven is harder to achieve than five of nine.”
On Wednesday, in an essay in the Federalist, Cato Institute legal scholar Ilya Shapiro went further, suggesting that Republicans refuse to appoint any high court nominees put forward by Clinton.
“As a matter of constitutional law, the Senate is fully within its powers to let the Supreme Court die out, literally,” Shapiro wrote. “I’m not sure such a position is politically tenable – barring some extraordinary circumstance like overwhelming public opinion against the legitimacy of the sitting president – but it’s definitely constitutional.”
The blogger BooMan isn’t so sure about that:
Of course, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court many months ago and no one has cast a single vote for or against him, even procedurally. It’s uncontroversial that senators can vote against a nominee. It’s understood that the filibuster is an established device that can be used by a minority in the Senate to block a vote. What’s controversial is the idea that committee chairmen would deny nominees a hearing and at least a vote in committee on whether to recommend those nominees to the full Senate.
Shapiro isn’t saying that Garland or all of Clinton’s nominees are morally unfit to serve. He’s saying that they’ll rule in a way that he doesn’t like.
This is a problem:
If, for some reason, a political party decided to never confirm anyone new to the Supreme Court, eventually it would have no members. They could also refuse to appropriate any money to the Supreme Court and kill it that way. I think it’s fair to say that the Constitution implies that this should not be done. But, of course, the Supreme Court has no obvious way to defend itself from these kinds of attacks. The Executive Branch can veto any spending bills that don’t fund the judiciary, but they can’t force the Congress to keep the government open and funded.
It’s ultimately up to the voters to replace a party that wants to behave this way. And I think that’s what they’d do.
That may be a bit too hopeful. Questions will be asked. Why do we even need a judicial branch anyway? The Constitution says we have to have one, but there are ways around that without amending anything. Good guys with guns will take care of the bad guys with guns. Why do we need more than that?
As for Merrick Garland, Kevin Drum sees the Republican problem:
Will Republicans go along and confirm him? On the one hand, they’ve said they won’t, and their base (i.e., talk radio) will go ballistic if they renege on that promise. On the other hand, in the real world (i.e., not talk radio) they know perfectly well that Garland is the best they’re going to get. If they hold out, Clinton will nominate someone more liberal, and Harry Reid has already promised that if they go into endless obstruction mode, Democrats will nuke the filibuster and confirm Clinton’s choice.
So here’s where this leaves them. If they break their promise, they’ll be tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but crumble at the first sign of Democratic opposition. If they keep their promise, they’ll… be tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but always have some lame excuse for losing. We don’t control every branch of government. What could we do? What a bunch of whiners.
In other words, talk radio is going to scorch them no matter what happens. This means that if they’re smart, they’ll go ahead and confirm Garland. It’s their least bad option.
That doesn’t mean it will happen.
There are other factors:
Fear of the base is powerful in the Republican Party. Still, the GOP leadership has some decisions to make, and how they’re going to handle the Tea Party faction is one of their most important ones. There’s not much question that they have to take them on sometime. The only question is whether November 9 will be the time.
On that day, by the way, Hillary Clinton will be president. Everyone knows that. She will have won, but it will be a useless win. No one wins anymore.