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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Washingtonian, Hunter Spears interviews Ron Elving, American University professor and a Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, who explains “Don’t Worry, Trump Isn’t Going to Become the Next Speaker of the House. Probably!“: “Article 1 [of the Constitution] says, “the House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” That’s the only guidance we get. It doesn’t say [the Speaker] has to be a member, but I think it’s just a presumption that it would be. But, in all the rules that Congress has adopted in 200 and some years, they’ve never specified that the speaker had to be a member of the House….It’s like the pope being a Catholic—I’m not sure that there’s anything in the Vatican’s protocols that says “oh and by the way, the pope should be a Catholic.” It’s not like they’re just going to pick Taylor Swift, it has to be a cardinal!….Trump would have to get virtually all the Republicans on board for that, and I could see getting half or two-thirds if some of them hold their nose—but not all. Some may not want to anger the Trump supporters in their districts, but there are 20-some Republicans from districts that actually voted for Biden….I don’t think the average Republican wants to play a hand in giving Trump the power to shut down the government. Even if all of them did back him, their majority is so slim it’s almost a non-majority. If an elevator door didn’t open or a taxi driver got lost, they might not get the votes….At the end of our conversation, Elving suggested we take a look at clause 10 (b) of rule XXIII in the official Rules of the House of Representatives. The clause reads:

a member … who has been indicted for or otherwise formally charged with criminal conduct in any Federal, State, or local court punishable as a felony for which a sentence of two or more years’ imprisonment may be imposed should … step aside from any conference leadership position until judicial or executive proceedings result in an acquittal or the charges are dismissed or reduced.

So if Republicans did want Trump as speaker, they might have to address the above first.” So, probably not gonna happen. And that’s actually a little good news for Republicans, who would have an even tougher time of being taken seriously as adults going into 2024 with the Trump follies running the House.

The other Fantasy Island scenario I’ve heard being bandied about is the Democrats, plus a very small handful of Republican House members electing Liz Cheney as the next Speaker. It’s a lovely thought, which would call attention to the GOP’s embarrassing character problem, which is one reason why it probably won’t happen. Being sane and having some integrity, Cheney likely wouldn’t want the job. Would you want to spend the next couple of years herding bellowing and whiny Republicans into a working majority? Plus, there is a high probability that the next speaker will also get canned in short order, given the belligerent nihilism of the MAGA crowd. And there is close to a zero chance that the House will pass any legislation that gives the Republicans any bragging rights. Not a lot of upside for Ms. Cheney, who currently enjoys the respect of millions of Americans across the political spectrum. Why trade that to front for the worst shite show in U.S. political history? Worry more about her running for president than speaker. At NBC News, Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur have a little roundup of some more realistic possibilities for the next Speaker, including: Majority Leader Steve Scalise; Majority whip Tom Emmer; Garret Graves; Patrick Henry; Elise Stefanik; Jim Jordan; Tom Cole and a few wild cards. Most of them are Trump grovelers and it’s hard to envision the Republicans emerging from this debacle with a modicum of dignity that will earn the respect of swing voters. Still, Democrats would be wise to plan strategy around one of them getting the Speaker’s gavel. And dare we hope that this sorry affair may help Dems win a House majority next year?

J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball offers some astute observation of the GOP House meltdown, including: “We doubt there is much actual political fallout here, but one thing to monitor going forward is how much more dysfunctional the House becomes. The chances of a shutdown, which McCarthy narrowly avoided thanks to Democratic votes over the weekend, just shot up, as we are going to be doing the shutdown dance again in November and the new GOP speaker (assuming there is one) may need to take a harder line in an attempt to satiate his most insatiable members. It may be that this speaker gets a reprieve from some of the hardliners simply because he or she is not McCarthy. Democrats, meanwhile, declined to throw McCarthy a lifeline during the motion to vacate, opting en masse to vote with the Republican rebels. The Democrats seemed legitimately angry at McCarthy for offering them less than nothing for their support, which he clearly needed (or he just needed some Democrats to vote present on the motion to vacate, allowing loyal Republicans to deliver a majority of those voting)….Democrats also will likely relish the continued turbulence on the Republican side. That said, there are risks to them, too. Yes, it would probably be easy to blame Republicans for a future shutdown, but an extended one that has an impact on the economy could have repercussions for the president, too….One final point: Despite his rocky rise to the top and short tenure as Speaker, McCarthy had been a prodigious fundraiser for House Republicans. Over the last several cycles, Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC he was aligned with, emerged as one of the most formidable outside spending groups in House races. With McCarthy out, there may be some negative effects on GOP fundraising.”

Meanwhile, Cooper Burton reports that “The Supreme Court starts its new term with dismal approval ratings” at FiveThirtyEight: “Numbers from a new average we built (similar to our presidential approval tracker) to track approval of the Supreme Court over time show that the court remains extremely unpopular with the American public: At the time of publication, an average of 38 percent of Americans approved of the job the Supreme Court is doing while 54 percent disapproved, for an average net approval rating of -16 percentage points. (Be on the lookout for a full launch of the tracker soon.)….The court’s net approval rating at the beginning of September was the lowest since our tracker began in December 2020. Other metrics besides approval, like favorability and confidence, have also registered record lows. In a Pew Research survey from July, the court’s favorability was the lowest since they began asking the question back in 1987. And 62 percent of adults in an April Marist/NPR/PBS NewsHour poll said that they had not very much or no confidence at all in the Supreme Court….some of the justices themselves have expressed concern over both the perception and reality of the court’s ideological divides. Add that to the steady stream of ethics scandals that have continued to trickle out since April, and you get the recipe for an unhappy public — in our average, the court’s net approval rating has fallen 17 points since it began releasing the biggest opinions of the term in May, despite the data showing public agreement with most of those decisions.” Democrats should keep pointing out that this is a Republican-dominated Supreme Court, and Republicans violated long-standing Senate agreements so they could pack the Court. The most realistic way to change it is to elect a landslide Democratic majority next year – one which can implement reforms to restore the Supreme Court’s credibility.

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