WHAT AWAITS THE GOP WHEN TRUMP LOSES BIG-TIME AND TAKES THE U.S. SENATE DOWN WITH HIM?
That’s the question posed by longtime legal mastermind Bob LaBrant, who along with former Michigan Gov. John Engler is credited by many with doing more to buttress Republican hegemony in the Great Lakes State over the past four decades than anyone.
But LaBrant, now retired after years as senior vice president of political affairs and legal counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, believes President Donald Trump is going to take a bath at the polls this coming Nov. 3 in a defeat rivaling the drubbing of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Herbert Hoover in 1932.
To be sure, there are four months remaining between now and the general election, but no incumbent president in the modern era of polling has found himself with such unfavorable numbers over such a long period, yet gone on to win re-election. It looks like Trump will either pull off the greatest comeback of all time, or he will be massacred by the voters. If it’s the latter, LaBrant has an answer to his own question:
For Republicans, there will be a quick descent into minority irrelevancy, and it will last a long time. LaBrant believes Republicans need to prepare themselves for decades in the political wilderness, with dire consequences for their party’s goals and objectives.
Here is the likely result, beginning in 2021, of total Democratic Party control, says LaBrant: Dominance of the White House, the U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. Unlike 2009-2010, when this last occurred under President Barack Obama, the initial emphasis will be more on process. Policy, like health care, will wait until after next year’s summer recess.
First off, in 2021 will come the total abolition of the 60-vote filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate using the 2017 Republican precedent on changes to Senate rules on filibustering appointments, where only 50 votes were needed along with a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President (in the Betsy DeVos cabinet nomination, for example).
That change in turn will lead to enacting legislation (no constitutional amendment required) with only 50- 51 votes needed to admit into statehood the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, meaning four more Democratic U.S. Senators. It will also mean five more voting Democratic U.S. Representatives in the U.S. House (the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico each currently has a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House). PLUS, there will be six more Democratic votes cast in the Electoral College beginning in 2024 (the District of Columbia already casts three votes in the Electoral College as a result of the 23rd Amendment ratified in 1961). Special elections will be held in 2021 to fill those newly-created House and Senate seats.
Next up will be legislation to expand the number of justices serving on the U.S. Supreme Court from nine to at least 11 (no constitutional amendment is needed to expand the the size of the federal judiciary). LaBrant predicts Democrats will claim one of these seats is to make up for the seat stolen from Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, and the other would offset the controversial Brett Kavanaugh confirmation vote in 2018.
Political historians will remember that President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to do the same thing back in 1937-38 with his controversial “court-packing” scheme. It backfired, even with both chambers of Congress controlled at the time by Democrats. Roosevelt’s judicial coup was thwarted, and his party suffered substantial defeats in the off-year 1938 Congressional election (but not enough for Democrats to lose control of Congress).
But that was then, this is now, and a complicit news media will give the Democratic president cover in his FDR II power grab. Judicial appointments are likely to be confirmed before the U.S. Supreme Court begins its 2021 term on the first Monday in October. LaBrant thinks Congress will also look at expanding the number of judges serving on each of the 12 circuits that make up the U.S. Court of Appeals (to offset the record number of 53 Trump circuit court of appeals appointments rammed through the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell between 2017-2020).
Democratic reaction to the Age of Trump will have other consequences. A wish list of all Democratic-sponsored legislation, much of it sidelined since the first two years of the Bill Clinton administration, will be capable of enactment without the threat of a Republican filibuster.
Is there anything that can be done by Republicans to avoid this slow-motion train wreck?
Here’s where LaBrant’s dark prognostications look “iffier.” In 1974 it took U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (who had returned to the Senate after his 1964 debacle), Senate Republican leader Hugh Scott, and House Republican Leader John Rhodes going to the White House to tell President Richard Nixon that support for him had collapsed and impeachment was inevitable. Nixon soon resigned.
What could convince Donald Trump and Mike Pence to do an LBJ redux from March, 1968, and promise they will not seek nor will they accept their party’s nomination for president and vice president? Maybe all 53 Republican U.S. Senators led by McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) going to the White House and telling Trump and Pence, like Oliver Cromwell told England’s Rump Parliament in 1653: “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
The Republican National Convention that meets in Charlotte/Jacksonville in August could then start with a clean slate and choose a new leadership team. Who would make up that new tandem? Maybe a governor or other political outsider, hopes LaBrant, and certainly no current U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative who has already “drunk the Kool-Aid and joined the Trump cult, tolerated screwing up the COVID-19 pandemic, refusing to wear a face mask, selling out to Vladimir Putin, remaining mute on Russian bounties paid to the Taliban to kill American soldiers, turning a blind eye to the emoluments clause, trying to govern by Twitter, routinely obstructing justice, and abandoning the doctrine of separation of powers.” In other words, says LaBrant, the quaint concept that “character counts” should be what drives delegates — and it might help if both new nominees are under age 70.
LaBrant isn’t naive. He can’t believe any such nomination drama as described above will happen. But without it, LaBrant is convinced Republicans will have to get used to living in the wilderness. It has happened before. Republicans were in the minority in the U.S. Senate for 26 years from 1955-1981. In the U.S. House, Republicans were in the minority for 40 years from 1955-1995.