The Political Forecast: Fasten Your Seatbelts
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this year in politics could be even more consequential than the last one.
From the bombing of Syria to the saga of ex–FBI Director James Comey to a Democrat winning a U.S. Senate race in Alabama, 2017 was an unpredictable political ride. The maestro, of course, was impulsive President Donald Trump, who shattered political norms left and right but was unable to bend the swamp to his will. As we embark on what’s sure to be a turbulent new year, here are OZY’s best guesses at what the future holds.
A Building Problem
Shortly after a December train crash, Trump took the opportunity to declare that a big spending plan to rebuild the nation’s railways, roads, bridges and airports “must be approved quickly.” It won’t be.
The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
One of Trump’s linchpin campaign promises was a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. We here at OZY (among others) have argued that Trump would have been better off launching his legislative agenda in a bipartisan way with infrastructure. Don’t expect it to happen in an election year. If Republicans see the writing on the wall for their majority — and they should — they will press ahead with an agenda they can only pursue in an all-GOP Washington, such as cuts to disability insurance and food stamps. And Democrats won’t want to give the Republicans any momentum.
Though Trump has pledged to release an outline in January, a big public works package is something he can negotiate with “Chuck and Nancy” if the Democrats win big in November, and he’s pivoting toward re-election in 2020.
Democrats Take the House, but Republicans Hold the Senate
Take one part gerrymandering and two parts Democrats clustering in urban areas, and you have Republican structural advantage in the House of Representatives. A bare majority of the country voting for the blue team in 2018 is not enough to return Nancy Pelosi to the speaker’s chair. It’s going to take a substantial margin — and the Democrats will likely get it.
Virginia and New Jersey are blue states, while Republicans fielded a uniquely terrible candidate in Alabama. But in all three places in late 2017, we saw voters eager to register their displeasure with Trump, while the president has yet to show he can rally his base if he’s not on the ballot. The lesson for Democrats is clear, says Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University in New York. “Instead of chasing the working class — which we know is code for ‘white men’ — maybe you should galvanize the people you already have, of which there are many, who have not been recognized, talked to or acknowledged,” Greer says. As we start the year, they are plenty galvanized, and Democrats hold a double-digit polling advantage when voters nationwide are asked who they want to control Congress.
But let’s not get carried away. Democrats are two seats away from Senate control, but they have to defend 10 states that Trump won, while at this point they only have real pickup opportunities in Arizona and Nevada. (Roy Moore ain’t walking through that door in Tennessee and Texas.) While a flip is possible, it’s just not realistic to expect Democrats to run the table in red states like North Dakota, Montana and Indiana — plus the pickups. The bet here is a 51-49 Republican postelection status quo.
Thirty Members of Congress Will Go Down in a #MeToo Earthquake
As we measure the size of the blue electoral wave, so too must we evaluate the wave of men in Congress who will depart because of bad behavior with women. The swiftness of the force-outs is showing that “I will submit to an ethics committee investigation” is no longer an effective delay tactic. And recent names are just the tip of the iceberg.
Expect Congress to institute a simpler and more transparent process to deal with workplace complaints, in the face of enormous pressure. The reckoning could also upend the election predictions lodged above. “The one wild card is some congressional seats that may come up that were unplanned,” says Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and former congressional aide. Sen. Al Franken was shoved aside quickly, but his seat appears safely in Democratic hands. What happens if a swing-state senator finds himself — let’s face it, it’s going to be a “him” — in similar hot water? This year just might test that notion.
Jivanka Makes Aliyah
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, have not had the easiest ride in their first year in Washington. Ivanka’s socially moderate agenda is often sidelined, while Jared is under the thumb of special counsel Robert Mueller for his dances with Russians during the campaign and transition.
Perhaps it’s time for the couple to decamp to Jerusalem. Kushner has taken the lead on brokering Middle East peace, so what better assignment for the faithful Orthodox Jews than as special envoys to the Middle East to seal the ultimate real estate deal? At the very least, the winter weather beats that of D.C.
What’s your prediction for the coming political year? Let us know in the comments.