While it is understandable and inevitable that the 2020 presidential
race will receive top voter and media attention, there will be other
critical and vital election contests next year --- and they should not
be, even now so early in the cycle, overlooked.
I particularly call attention to the races for one-third of the U.S
senate seats, and consequently, control of that body. Control of the
U.S. house will also be at stake, as well as state governorships and
control of state legislatures --- each of which are very important ---
but it might be that the outcome of the U.S. senate races will have
the most impact in 2021 and beyond.
Whether Donald Trump is re-elected next year or he is replaced by
the eventual Democratic nominee, the control of the U.S. senate
will be key to the exercise of presidential power in the next term.
There are several permutations.The two which will produce the
least drama and conflict would be a Republican sweep or a
Democratic sweep of the executive and legislative branches. Under
those circumstances, executive branch appointments, including
judges, would proceed relatively unimpeded. With the historic
tensions between these two branches, and the divided policy
factions in each party, legislative action might not go that smoothly,
but there would not likely be the stalemate that now exists with
the current divided Congress.
Another set of permutations exist should the new (or re-elected)
president be of a different party that controls the senate. With
new rules, begun under Democrat Harry Reid and expanded under
Republican Mitch McConnell, a simple and consistent senate
majority is a decisive factor in cabinet, sub-cabinet, judicial and
other presidential appointments being approved. Until a “nuclear
option rule was adopted, Democrats were able to hold up any of
President Trump’s appointments, and often did so. A Democratic
president in 2021 might well have the same experience with a
GOP-controlled senate. Conversely, should Mr. Trump win
re-election, but his party lose control of the senate, he could face
a stone wall blocking many of his appointments, particularly for
the U.S. supreme court and lower court federal judges.
Much of the nation’s day-to-day business occurs at the local and
state level, so I do not mean to minimize the impact of elections
of governors and state legislators. Nor do I mean to diminish the
work of the U.S. house. Under Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
the current U.S. house has often been an effective counterpuncher
to he White House. But Mrs. Pelosi, like GOP Speaker Paul Ryan
before her, faces divisions within her own caucus that reduce the
ability of that body often to act successfully.
Republicans only narrowly control the U.S. senate today (53-47).
Almost twice as many GOP incumbents than Democratic
incumbents are up for re-election in 2020 --- although relatively
few incumbents in either party are now vulnerable. Many senate
races are already well underway, but many others could see new
retirements or challengers.
Presidential politics, especially in this phase, present more drama
than even highly competitive individual senate races, but that does
not reduce their importance to what will happen at the ballot box
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.