So here we are, with only one more week to make and to hear the prognostications and forecasts. I have a four-part essay question for commenters. Feel free to address any or all of the parts. I’ll give some of my thoughts to get the ball rolling.
- What would you view as the worst likely outcome? What are both the short-term and long-term implications of that?
- What would you view as the best likely outcome? Again, what would the effects of that be, for the nation, over the next few years and beyond?
- What do you see as the most likely outcome? Presumably, it would like somewhere between the best and the worst – unless you believe that the worst (or the best) is truly about to happen.
- Finally – go for fantasy. Set aside what is likely. Engage in total speculation. What would you truly want, if all the stars lined up properly? What is your science fiction utopia? Where would that lead the country and the world?
Clearly, what you see depends on where you stand, so concepts like worst and best are going to be relative. The “likely” questions are asking about realistic outcome, not simply imaginary ones (ex: The Other Guys win 100% of the seats! That’s not gonna happen.) In other words, out of the things that actually have a shot at coming true, what would be the worst / best / most likely outcome from your point of view?
Keep this in mind – the latest AP poll showed nearly a third of likely voters say they might change their minds in the final week. This means, quite literally, that anything at all can happen. Contrary to anything you’ve heard, the die has not yet been cast.
I don’t believe the Republicans have a realistic shot at winning the Senate, not in best or worst. The do have a chance to pick up a large number of Governorships, perhaps as many as 80 House seats, and a goodly (badly?) number of seats in various State legislatures. On the low end, I’d say maybe 5 seats in the Senate, maybe 25 or 30 in the House. On the high side, like I said, maybe as many as 80 in the House, maybe 7 in the Senate. Most likely, the Republicans have a good shot at taking the House, but I don’t think they’ll have a large majority – maybe they’ll end up with perhaps 225 seats.
I haven’t looked at the Governor or State legislature seats enough to have much of an opinion there. Maybe some commenters will have some data for us. I am convinced Minnesota is about to have a Democratic Governor.
Winning the House – especially if it’s by a wide margin – will embolden the Republicans, particularly the radical base (i.e., the Tea Party). Short term, if Republicans get a majority there by whatever margin, it would mean total stagnation at the Federal level. The economy would suffer markedly. A lot of the agenda that Democrats were elected on in 2008 will languish. There will be endless investigations and committee hearings in the House, and maybe even someone trying to invent articles of impeachment, just on general principle.
As we get closer to 2012, I’d expect the public to become increasingly disillusioned at a do-nothing Congress. I’d expect them to begin seeing more of the results of the 111th Congress from before the Republican takeover of the House. I’d expect them to start becoming horrified at the obstructionism and radical nastiness that the newly-elected far-right legislators will bring to our political conversation. I’d expect a backlash against all that in 2012.
If the Democrats maintain a majority in the House, I’d expect to see the Senate change its filibuster rules. There wouldn’t be much point in doing so if the Republicans take the House, since very little acceptable legislation will be coming from the House anyway, and the Senate will be unlikely to take that step if they don’t see good reason for it. Now, a smart political operative might do it anyway, so the public can see the sort of legislation the Democrats would pass if they could. But that’s pretty risky, and since changing the filibuster rules opens the Democrats to some nasty Republican spin, I don’t expect them to be that brave.
State legislatures may be a very long-lasting issue. Whoever wins a large number of Governorships and State seats, particularly in swing states, will have an enormous impact on the composition of Congress for the next decade. Less attention has been given this issue than it deserves. Worst case, the Republicans pick up several undeserved seats in 2012 because of redistricting. Best case, the Democrats do.
One of the reasons why control of the Senate is so important is that there could be one, maybe even two, more vacancies on the in the next two years. With a Republican Senate, I shudder to think of the difficulties of getting anyone confirmed. are already holding up over a hundred judiciary appointments. I would not put it past Tea Party Senators to simply refuse to allow even hearings on an Obama SCOTUS nomination, regardless of who he puts forward. But with a slim majority, SCOTUS nominees may be allowed to come up for a vote. And if not, this could be the death of the filibuster.
I’ll save my sci-fi fantasy, and some really long-term speculation, for another article. In the meantime — share your best and worst, your most likely and perhaps some wild speculation.