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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Realistic Look at Consequences of a GOP Senate Takeover

We’re starting to see more warnings in various media about the likely consequences of Republicans winning majority control of the U.S. Senate on November 4. It’s not a pretty picture, as a couple of posts TDS has noted (here and here) explain. This Baltimore Sun editorial also does a good job of laying out what it would likely mean:

…It would be a mistake to assume that a Republican-held Senate would not be able to assert its will on public policy in a meaningful way. It might not be able to pass game-changing legislation high on the GOP wish list — a complete dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, for instance — but it might be able to nibble at the edges or put vulnerable Democrats on the spot. In the case of Obamacare, the targets are clear — go after the tax on medical devices, the employer mandate or other unpopular elements in the program. The strategy would be to weaken Obamacare, put it deeply in the red or make it so dysfunctional that eventually a repeal would seem like an act of euthanasia.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are a number of controversial policies that have been bottled up in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid that would suddenly come to the fore. Expect a lot of attacks on the regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and its Clean Air Act-related rules that seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and on Dodd-Frank restrictions that the Wall Street crowd really despises like executive pay disclosures and the Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from certain speculative investments…
Think House investigations into the Obama administration have been endless? A GOP Senate would almost certainly join the fray and likely put 2016 Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton in its sights. Political confrontations don’t require 60 votes, just a hearing room and a lot of network cameras. Benghazi and “Fast and Furious” will only be an appetizer…
…Meanwhile, you can be assured that President Obama can forget about meaningful appointments, particularly on the federal bench. Even as a political minority and despite changes in Senate rules, the GOP had succeeded in stalling judicial appointments; now, the wait will be endless — or at least for the remainder of the term.
Republicans will also be able to make inroads in the budget — or at least in the spending bills that take the place of an actual budget — to shape government policy, de-funding Obama initiatives they don’t like much. Legislation will also be offered to score political points (a practice both parties embrace) with an eye toward 2016. But instead of green energy initiatives or immigration reform, as the Democrats pushed, it will now be approval of the Keystone Pipeline or the rejection of curbs on NSA spying or refusing to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

It is a sobering assessment, and it would be good if swing voters would do some serious thinking about it, beyond simply making their choices based on particular candidates in individual races. Party is important, which is something that often gets obscured in the voting booth. Unfortunately, many Americans quickly dismiss party support with assertions along the lines of “I vote the candidate, not the party,” as if they were boldly affirming their individuality.
In reality, however, such voters are merely affirming a shallow understanding of the consequences of political parties in the U.S. They are over-trusting in false equivalence memes about there being no difference between the parties and ignoring the reality that the majority party sets the agenda and runs the committees.
The Sun editorial and similar posts which have recently been published are good antidotes for those who get their political information from print media and the internet. But television still rules with too many voters, so it would be good if more major TV news shows would step up and show the American people why a Republican takeover of congress would further institutionalize gridlock — and worse.

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