The China Virus’s Side Effects: The 2020 Election
Guest Contribution by Larry Schweikart, America’s History Teacher
In September 2019 I wrote that the suicide of the House was complete when it began pursuing a meaningless and infantile impeachment of President Donald Trump. This suicide was, I argued, largely due to the fact that throughout the Bush and Obama years, the House had yielded much of its constitutional authority over it’s greatest stipulated power: the budget. Once that was gone, its very purpose for existing was called into question. When Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat hatchet gang spent the entire first year in power in a game of “get Trump”—while Trump continued to issue executive order after executive order and/or make end runs through the court system he had largely packed by then, the House’s historic role was pretty much finished.
I argued that the wave of Republicans resigning or not running for reelection was a sign that even though they may have held out hopes of winning, it would be meaningless. The House could no longer really do much. It had become the American version of the House of Lords, while, inversely, the US Senate—with its confirmation powers—had become the true place where “it’s happening.”
Now we approach the 2020 elections in the midst of the Corona Virus, better known as the China Virus or Wuhan Flu. Even in the wake of the Democrat House meltdown, not a great deal has changed. Republicans can point to evening the generic ballot, and even leading in some surveys—which in normal times would mean a landslide House victory. And there have been solid candidates recruited for many of the races that flipped in 2018, including both TX seats, OK5, the NJ seats, and the NM seat. Collectively (by my math) these races with candidates who stand to win amount to at most 10 seats.
That would leave the Republicans about eight short of flipping. One piece of extremely encouraging news comes from the CA38 race, where a Republican will win and flip that California state house seat, thanks to that state’s “jungle primary” where the top two vote getters run off in the general. In this case, the Democrats bungled it and allowed the GOP to place 1-2. In November, up to five of the CA US House seats look flippable.
But there are broad headwinds against the GOP. The lesser of these, fundraising, is lagging because of two factors. First is the fact that in most races, candidates aren’t decided yet, and fundraising for a primary is usually harder than against a Democrat. But the second involves the China Virus.
By pushing back so many primaries—as occurred in Virginia this week—Republicans won’t get those candidates until still later in 2020. But the China Virus also slams fundraising. Who can give to House candidates if you are unemployed, concerned about the mortgage, etc.?
On a broader scale, however, the Republicans have a bigger problem. How do you campaign against a House that has done nothing? In “normal” times, that might be an easy task. But in impeachment/China Virus times? It becomes difficult for candidates to say what they would have done differently. Of course, not vote for impeachment. But what else? Since there have been no major issues on which to take a stand (as contrasted with 1994 when the House Bank, term limits, and bringing items to the floor for a vote were key voting issues), it becomes almost impossible to define a candidate differently than the incumbent. Will “I wouldn’t have voted to impeach President Trump” be enough? Probably not.
How do you campaign for a seat that has been rendered nearly meaningless by Pelosi? This is why dog-catcher races are won with totals in the hundreds—because the position is in the overall big picture so insignificant that only family and friends vote. Over a one and a half year period—again, working from a foundation already handed her by the Republicans in the Obama era—Pelosi has made voting for a House seat less meaningful than ever.
There is a little light at the end of the tunnel. Most Democrat incumbents in the “flipped” seats are underwater in their polling. In the Senate races, John James in Michigan is polling better than his opponent. But all incumbents will fare better in this shutdown as their opponents are pre-empted from campaigning at all. For Martha McSally and Cory Gardner, that is good news. The GOP should keep the Senate, and it is entirely possible now that the balance will not change even if both McSally and Gardner lose due to flips from Alabama and Michigan.
It is, ironically, also good news for President Trump. Joe Biden is in lockup—although it is unclear if he is hurt by being in front of people or not—and his approval ratings in handling the crisis are, so far, extremely good. Last week, he went up in every major poll ranging from a whopping 54% approval in the best to 46% in the worse, for an average of over 47%. (He was elected in 2016 with a 46% approval.) Campaigning against Trump’s handling of the China Virus policies is tricky, and Biden already has seen how difficult it is to claim Trump should be doing something different.
Which brings us to “a” likely scenario for 2020: Trump will win convincingly, if not with an outright landslide (probably in the neighborhood of 320-340 electoral votes, adding Minnesota and New Hampshire to his 2016 list). The Republicans will hold the Senate at close to the present margin. But it is entirely possible the Democrats will narrowly hang on to the House. If that happens, they will be incapable of restraining themselves from once again seeking to impeach President Trump on baseless charges. It’s all they know. And they cannot present any true legislation that would in any way advance the nation’s interests because that would rebound to Trump.
Look for two more years of stonewalling from a House seeing its influence and power eroding; more confirmations from the Senate for Trump judges (because, without the House, that’s all the Senate will have); and Trump continuing to work through executive orders and the judiciary with a split House/Senate incapable of stopping him. It is absolutely not what our Founders wanted. But when one branch of government completely abdicates its role, it’s what we get.
Larry Schweikart is a retired professor of history, the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States, and the president of the Wild World of History, a history curriculum site for homeschoolers and educators (www.wildworldofhistory.com)
That is all.
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