On election night a slightly blue tide started as a ripple when the news outlets reported that the Democrats captured the House. Several days later the momentous tidal wave crested. Democrats flipped more than three-dozen House seats, creating the largest Democratic shift since the post-Watergate-Nixon scandal more than four decades ago.
In California, Democrats swept all congressional seats in Orange County, thanks in part to the local phone banking and letter-writing efforts of volunteers at many United Democratic headquarters around the state.
President Trump’s pernicious antics sank the GOP. In the aftermath, Trump unraveled. He spun the delusion that a GOP pick up of two Senate seats was vindication of his administration.
All groups within the Democratic Party now credit themselves for the victory. Each side has its own proposals for traveling the road ahead.
Let’s be careful when moving forward and remember the adage, “Victory has a thousand fathers — defeat is always a bastard child.”
Forty-four years ago, the inspirational issue to voters was the impeachment of President Nixon for his criminal acts while in office. The House voted to impeach. Nixon resigned before the Senate could conduct a trial. The post-Watergate Democratic landslide followed. Today, many Democrats salivate for a repeat of history.
While impeachment appears attractive and appropriate, the lessons of history might counsel enthusiastic Democrats to be careful of what they wish.
If Trump is forced to resign, Mike Pence, a real Republican, will ascend to the presidency. Pence will then pick someone in his own image as vice president, such as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. This could create an eight-year Republican succession, assuming a Pence-Haley Republican ticket in 2020.
In January, Democratic control of the House will immunize our country from further Republican legislative assaults. Obamacare will survive. Social Security and Medicare will be protected. Anti-choice legislation will not pass the Democratic backstop. The House will retain Democratic values even if a few turncoat Democrats occasionally vote the other way.
While Trump has been the most reprehensible of presidents, the cost of surgically removing this malignancy is greater than keeping it contained.
The investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into foreign interference in Trump’s election serves as a containment vessel for Trump’s excesses. In the next few weeks Mueller might maintain a low profile, delaying release of the findings until the new Congress is seated.
Once Mueller’s report becomes public the congressional investigative process will proceed under the direction of the House Intelligence Committee, with Rep. Adam Schiff as chair, and New York’s Jarrod Nadler as chair of the Judiciary Committee.
This leaves Trump in office to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind” while the Democrats get organized for 2020.
Locally, re-elected Congressional Democrats Schiff, Judy Chu, Jimmy Gomez and Brad Sherman will accumulate another important year of seniority, enhancing their prospects for key committee appointments. Freshman Democrat Gil Cisneros (Covina) will lay the first brick in his seniority foundation. Assuming the Democrats find a successful presidential candidate in 2020, these local representatives will be in line for still greater clout in Washington. Time is on their side.
Democrats can use the next two years to redefine themselves, incorporating lessons learned from their Electoral College defeat of 2016. The 2020 Democratic National Committee will insist on greater control of resource allocation than the DNC had in 2016. Important Democratic strongholds like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin will not be neglected in 2020. The DNC will press the presidential nominee to reflect the pulse of the party base.
The campaign of 2016 was a fertile ground for new ideas blossoming in the Democratic ranks. Important new concepts that old-line Democrats had ignored were shown to resonate with the voters. The 2020 Democrats will reflect these new values such as tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and an end to the death penalty. The Democrats will support rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. Obamacare will incorporate the concept of “Medicare for All” by adding a “Choose Medicare” public option to Obamacare mandatory health insurance. Private insurers will compete with Medicare in the marketplace.
A new vision is on the horizon, but the final coat of paint is still being applied.
Let’s allow the paint to dry.
The authors are founding members of the Pasadena Foothills Democratic Club. They are members of the California Democratic Party State Central Committee.