The 2020 Race: Still Tilting Democratic

There has been plenty of attention recently on economic models that show President Donald Trump holding a huge advantage in the 2020 presidential contest. But it’s not that simple.

Like alchemists hunting for the secret recipe that transmutes lead into gold, media personalities, political junkies and veteran analysts seem bewitched by the idea that they can divine the political future. I’m always skeptical of such claims.

I still remember the silliness of an Indiana University sociologist, who knew nothing about politics, arguing in The Washington Post and on television that Twitter could predict elections.

The latest version of this search for prophesy is Steven Rattner’s May 27 New York Times column about “models” that give the president a “formidable 2020 tailwind.”

An earlier Politico piece by Ben White and Steve Shepard teased, “How Trump is on track for a 2020 landslide.”

No matter how many economists, political scientists or investment bankers are involved, predictive models based solely on economic data miss the point because they look at only one aspect of a presidency and only one facet of a presidential election. My column from Sept. 18 last year, “Why it’s NOT the Economy, Stupid,” sought to explain why the economy would not be decisive in the midterms and why it might well be less important than usual next year.

Models predicting a Trump wave strike me as more about clicks and being contrarian than about taking a dispassionate look at the 2020 election.

A second look

In my Jan. 3 column this year, I considered a number of factors — including the impact of the nominees, the economy, recent election results, issue salience, key voting groups and Trump’s performance in office — before calling the race a Toss-up that tilts toward the Democrats.

Now, I thought I’d take another look at where the 2020 race stands, acknowledging again that it’s still very early and the trajectory of the race is likely to change more than once before the Iowa caucuses, let alone Election Day.

In spite of all the Sturm und Drang about the Democratic contest and the media’s suffocating coverage of the 2020 race, not a lot has changed since the start of the year.

Democrats have a number of additions to their field, including the early front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, but the basic shape of their race is holding firm.

Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, and, surprisingly, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg seem to constitute the top tier, with many others hoping to break out during the first debates at the end of this month.

Trump, of course, remains unchanged. He is the same person he has been, and there is no reason to believe that he will change.

Key groups

Party coalition groups (on both sides) are essentially holding, and the recent controversy over abortion, which is almost certain to remain a significant national issue from now to next November, makes it difficult for Trump to expand his support or win back college-educated white women, the election’s crucial swing group.

Not all women favor abortion rights, but the legislative actions taken to restrict abortion in Missouri and Alabama surely elevate the issue and create greater risk for Republican candidates in many suburban areas.

The movement to the GOP of white men without a college degree and the realignment of college-educated voters to the Democrats remain significant stories for the next presidential contest.

Trump’s tough talk on tariffs and immigration resonates well with many of his most loyal supporters, but it clearly has caused some heartburn in rural America, where trade is so important.

Whether tariffs and trade cost Trump a state or two in next year’s elections is now unclear, but the risk surely is greater for the GOP than for Democrats.

From time to time, Trump talks about unemployment in the minority community or the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure, but his overall nationalist, populist message — and decisions taken by various government officials — invariably make it easy for Democrats to paint the administration as insensitive to the less fortunate, beholden to conservative evangelicals, overly protective of the wealthy, and generally uninterested in diversity and tolerance.

Polls generally show Trump’s job approval between 40 percent and 46 percent. At best, that puts him about where he was in 2016, and at worst it shows him at least a few points weaker than he was.

Equally troubling for Republicans, national polls and key state surveys have initially shown Trump trailing Biden and Sanders.

Another four years?

Questions about the Democratic field — and particularly about the party’s eventual nominee — remain unanswered.

Biden’s positioning as a pragmatic liberal is ideal. But it isn’t clear whether he will be his party’s nominee or whether the party will select a more progressive (and riskier) standard-bearer next year.

A strong economy surely gives Trump good talking points and a rationale for re-election, but a clear plurality of Americans (maybe even a majority) now believe the country cannot take another four years of him, no matter how low the employment rate falls.

They are concerned about his character, judgment, intelligence, integrity, churlishness and lack of empathy, as well as the chaos and controversy that follow him.

Dozens of important questions remain unanswered, but the 2020 contest still looks to be more of a referendum on the president than anything else. And because of that, and the polarization evident in the nation, a close race is likely.

Given Trump’s inability to broaden his appeal and the likelihood that Democrats will be more united and energized than they were in 2016, the Democratic ticket deserves to be given a narrow but clear advantage.

“Tilting Democratic” still seems a reasonable rating to me at this early stage of the race.

Note: This column appeared initially in the June 11, 2019 issue of Roll Call.

Will the Supreme Court Save the GOP from Itself on Abortion?

Social conservatives cheering the rash of state laws limiting legal abortion might want to be careful what they wish for.

That’s because Democratic prospects for 2020 are likely to improve as uncertainty about the future of Roe v. Wade grows. And uncertainty will grow as more and more states impose restrictions on legal abortion.

Republicans need a net gain of 18 or 19 seats to win back the House — a difficult task but certainly not an impossible one. And the party can lose a net of three Senate seats (if they keep the White House) and still maintain control of the chamber in 2021.

But magnifying the debate over abortion rights could well put the House out of reach next year for the GOP, put the Senate at much greater risk and further undermine President Donald Trump’s already iffy re-election prospects.

New motivation

Democrats’ successes in 2018 were built on two very different groups — core party supporters, including progressives, minorities and younger Americans; and swing voters, including college-educated whites (especially college-educated white women), who have often been attracted by the GOP’s stances on taxes, spending and business regulation.

Both sets of voters turned out for Democratic House candidates last fall, which is why Democrats gained a net of 40 seats in the chamber.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the same two groups are likely to be motivated by the abortion issue in 2020.

Women went for Hillary Clinton over Trump by 13 points in 2016, 54 percent to 41 percent, largely on the basis of her strength among non-whites. Two years later, the national House exit poll showed Democrats carrying women by an even larger 19 points, 59 percent to 40 percent.

Trump actually carried white women comfortably by 9 points in 2016, 52 percent to 43 percent. Two years later, white women split evenly, 49 percent to 49 percent, wiping out the president’s advantage.

College-educated white women went for Clinton in 2016 by a relatively narrow 7 points, 51 percent to 44 percent. But two years later, Democrats won white women with a college degree by an overwhelming 20 points, 59 percent to 39 percent.

The Democratic surge among college-educated white women was unmistakable, and it did not occur by chance.

White women in general, and college-educated white women in particular, came to dislike Trump’s style and language, as well as elements of his agenda.

Now, with the economy generally strong and swing voters free to think about things other than jobs and interest rates, college-educated women who supported Trump in 2016 but voted Democratic two years later will again feel free to send a message about culture and values, not taxes and government regulation.

The last word?

Obviously, a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe would further elevate abortion as a defining issue in 2020, giving more energy to the abortion rights movement.

Conversely, a Supreme Court decision reaffirming Roe and rejecting the constitutionality of the kind of restrictions on abortion that states are now imposing might actually breed complacency among those who support abortion rights.

But it’s unclear when or whether the nation’s highest court will deal with new state restrictions on abortion before next year’s general election. Given that, supporters of abortion rights are likely to focus on the more “extreme” proposals that seek to circumscribe Roe, just as critics of Roe — including the folks at LifeNews.com — have often portrayed abortion rights activists as supporting infanticide.

The problem for Republicans is that they are likely to go into the 2020 election dragged down by an issue on which they are too easily portrayed as extreme and insensitive to women.

Yes, they will have their arguments assembled as to why that is not the case, but the bigger the issue becomes, the more likely 2020 becomes a fight over culture and values that benefits Democrats, not the party of white evangelicals and white men without a college degree.

Historically, Republicans have benefited from abortion because of the intensity of the support from those who oppose legal abortion. Even though polls generally show more voters back abortion rights, those people don’t vote on the issue, as is illustrated by polling on abortion and Roe v. Wade by Gallup.

The increased salience of abortion as a voting cue is likely to benefit Democrats because it will energize voters who favor abortion rights but have assumed up to now that they are not under serious attack.

The greatest danger for Democrats is that a John Roberts-led Supreme Courts reaffirms Roe and looks unkindly on state restrictions intended to dramatically limit, or eliminate, legal abortion in some states.

That would be a loss on public policy for Republicans going into 2020, but it would be the better electoral outcome for the party.

Note: This column appeared initially in the May 21, 2019 issue of Roll Call.

Oval Office Obsessions from a Crew with Little Experience, Much Ambition

In the 1960 Democratic presidential race, there were a handful of contenders, including Sens. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Stuart Symington of Missouri. Others, including Florida Sen. George Smathers and California Gov. Pat Brown, ran as “favorite sons.”

The 1968 Republican presidential field included former Vice President Richard Nixon, and Govs. George Romney of Michigan, Ronald Reagan of California and Nelson Rockefeller of New York. The GOP contest also featured favorite sons, including Govs. Jim Rhodes of Ohio and John Volpe of Massachusetts.

In those cases and most others, the serious combatants were political heavyweights. Fast-forward to today and the 2020 Democratic field, much like the 2016 GOP field, looks like a laundry list of presidential wannabes, some of whom have been in politics for 15 minutes and done little to establish their campaign or public policy bona fides.

Favorite sons fell out of favor as primaries multiplied and national conventions became nothing more than televised extravaganzas, not places where nominations were decided.

But perhaps the most startling change in presidential contests is the growing number of very junior hopefuls who apparently believe that the only office that matters is the presidency. Many have little or no experience, only mountains of ambition.

Different era

In the current Democratic field, that list includes California Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, who is now serving his fourth term in the House, and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, 40, who’s in his third term. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 38, is serving her fourth term, while Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, 45, is in his ninth. Pete Buttigieg, 37, is finishing his second term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

I know, the current president had no experience when he was elected, and Jimmy Carter proved that an obscure politician can win his party’s nomination if he starts early enough and surprises in an early primary or caucus contest. So, “anything can happen.” We are in a different era.

But the last mayor to be nominated by a major party was DeWitt Clinton in 1812. Then the mayor of New York City, he lost to James Madison.

In fact, no mayor has gone straight to the White House, though some (New Yorkers John Lindsay and Rudy Giuliani) have tried.

The last House member — make that the only House member — ever to go directly to the White House was James Garfield.

Looked at from a very different point of view, the candidacies of recent underprepared hopefuls, from Ben Carson, Gary Bauer and Herman Cain to Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and some in the current Democratic field, say something a bit disturbing about how we now view politics and government. The presidency has become the focal point of American politics at a time when other governmental posts and offices appear increasingly devalued.

The end of earmarks undercut the power of party leaders in Congress, including committee chairs, and the growth of cable television and the internet have created personalities and organizers who compete for influence with the political parties.

The same goes for super PACs, who can create a competitive candidate instantly, no matter his or her lack of experience.

And while Congress is deadlocked over important issues, the president’s executive power seems enhanced.

Both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have governed increasingly via executive order, even disregarding congressional subpoenas.

Different priorities

In contrast to the presidential hopefuls stands the current speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who understands the continued importance of Congress and of her position.

Of course, she grew up in a political family and learned the value of serving in the House for 16 full terms.

Instead of seeing the House as a career and a platform from which to help their districts and the country as a whole, Swalwell, Gabbard, Moulton and to a lesser extent Ryan (who challenged Pelosi for leader after the 2016 elections) have joined the 2020 presidential race.

Obviously, these four House members don’t expect to be nominated. They are running either out of ego or to increase their name identification so they can make some other career move.

But it says something that each believes his or her candidacy for president will be helpful.

The same goes to some extent for the lengthy list of senators and governors running.

Yes, every senator looks into the mirror and sees a future president, but it is still telling that so many current and former senators have, over the last two presidential contests, sought the presidency instead of building seniority in the Senate and moving up the leadership ladder.

This cycle, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, both Texans, have chosen to seek the presidency when they could have been running for other offices that might enable them to make national policy and grow into higher office, as well as help their party perhaps take back the Senate.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, made the same decision Tuesday. (May 14).

Of course, timing is everything. Some politicians in the past waited for the perfect opportunity to run for the White House only to find they missed their chance (Jack Kemp is an obvious example), while others initially dismissed urgings to run only to be convinced that some opportunities come along once in a lifetime (e.g., Barack Obama).

While there are other avenues for government service besides the presidency, increasingly ambitious political hopefuls choose the presidential route, regardless of whether they possess the experience and maturity to be successful chief executives.

That has made for bloated presidential fields, obligatory media coverage of second- and third-tier hopefuls and the sense that only the presidency matters.

That is unfortunate.

Note: This column appeared initially in the May 14, 2019 issue of Roll Call. 

Biden, Unions and the Politics of 2020

Shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he received his first union endorsement. “I couldn’t be more proud to have the International Association of Fire Fighters on my team,” Biden tweeted in response. “Unions built the middle class in this country — and as President, I’ll fight to strengthen them and grow the backbone of this country.”

As CNN noted, “Biden has long enjoyed close ties to labor groups and often attributes his political ascent to unions, referring to them as the ones who ‘brung me to the dance.’” But while Biden’s strength among working-class voters is one reason some observers see him as potentially able to win back Democrats who defected to Donald Trump in 2016, his initial comments about the IAFF endorsement at least raise a question about priorities and strategy.

Biden was born in 1942 and was first elected to the Senate in 1972. Unions were a strong economic force then, and they carried significant political clout, with large, politically active memberships and financial muscle. But the percentage of American workers belonging to unions peaked in the mid-1940s and has been falling ever since.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.5 percent of wage and salary workers were members of unions in 2018. Many of them were in government, so union membership among private-sector workers was a microscopic 6.4 percent.

Of course, the distribution of union members around the country is not uniform. Most union members live in states that are already normally Democratic.

Of the 11 states where union membership in 2018 constituted at least 15 percent of the employed, Hillary Clinton carried nine: New York (23.8 percent), Hawaii (21.3), Washington (18.8), Connecticut (16.9), New Jersey (16.2), Rhode Island (16.1), California (15.5), Minnesota (15.2) and Illinois (15.0).

Trump won two of them, Alaska (18.1) and Michigan (15.6), which is normally a Democratic state.

Union membership as a percentage of all employed stood slightly above the national average in one key swing state, Pennsylvania (12.0), but it was well below the national average in three other states that could decide the presidency in 2020: Wisconsin (8.3), Florida (5.6) and North Carolina (3.4).

Appeals to unions and union members may be effective in many already rock-solid liberal and Democratic states — making unions still relevant in Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses — but it is hard to see how organized labor will change the political equation for 2020.

Of course, in a general election against Trump, Biden’s pro-union, pro-working-class message could appeal to some Americans who are not union members (or union households) but have a favorable view of unions.

An April 25-May 1, 2018, survey by the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of adults had a very or somewhat favorable view of labor unions, while only 33 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable view of them.

And when Pew followed up by noting the decline in union membership and asking whether that development has been “mostly good” or “mostly bad” for working people, 51 percent said “mostly bad” and 35 percent said “mostly good.”

Trump surely will run on the economy, and a Democratic nominee who is too far to the left on the issue, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would make it easy for the president to argue that Democrats will drive the economy into a ditch.

Biden should be more difficult to paint with that broad brush.

But it’s difficult to believe that any Democrat is going to win the White House by focusing on the economy — not with an April national unemployment rate of 3.6 percent and strong gross domestic product growth.

No wonder 51 percent of respondents told the April 26-May 1 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that they approved of Trump’s handling of the economy.

Instead, the Democrats’ best path next year appears to be on cultural issues and non-economic concerns, including health care, gun control and climate change, as well as the president’s personality and character issues, and “change.”

Those issues energized core Democratic groups and swing voters in 2018.

The question is how Biden addresses those concerns and whether Democratic voters can get excited about him and his agenda.

Unions surely continue to be a part of the Democratic coalition, and any Democratic nominee who can improve on Hillary Clinton’s showing with blue-collar workers and whites without a college degree will be formidable next year.

But Democrats are probably better off trying to turn out their 2018 coalition again in 2020 than trying to recreate the non-college/working-class coalition they relied on before Trump. And that may require Biden to be the proverbial old dog who learns new tricks. He’ll need to avoid falling into old patterns and relying on old messages, even as he appreciates those who initially brought him to the dance.

This column appeared initially in the May 7 issue of Roll Call.

Arthur Finkelstein Reprised with GOP’s ‘Socialists’ Cries

If you’re on any Republican list, you’ve undoubtedly received emails from one of the GOP campaign committees or a Capitol Hill communications staffer calling the Democrats “socialists.” To those of us who were around in the 1980s and 1990s, that’s nothing new. We remember the late GOP campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein’s strategy: Call your opponent a liberal again and again until voters believe it.

Finkelstein’s style was “unmistakable,” wrote Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post in 1996, “an avalanche of attack ads painting Democrats as ‘liberal,’ ‘ultraliberal,’ ‘embarrassingly liberal’ and ‘unbelievably liberal.’”

Each cycle, Finkelstein returned to his name-calling strategy, and each cycle, political reporters and handicappers rolled their eyes and snickered at his ads, which were as shallow and superficial as they were predictable. They were all about labeling and demonizing.

But in Finkelstein’s case, shallow didn’t necessarily mean ineffective. “Liberal” became a pejorative, and Finkelstein took advantage of that.

The consultant, who died in 2017, worked for a long list of high-profile and successful Republicans and conservatives, including Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Connie Mack of Florida, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Alfonse M. D’Amato of New York. He also worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After a while, Finkelstein’s strategy grew stale. Democrats wisely nominated a politically moderate Southerner in 1992 in Bill Clinton, and 12 consecutive years in the White House left the GOP with enough baggage to hand the presidency to the Democrats (albeit with a little help from Ross Perot).

Still, it’s undeniable that the liberal label has been an albatross around the necks of Democratic nominees for decades.

A successful strategy

Now, Republicans have raised the stakes by trying to brand the entire Democratic Party as advocating “socialism.”

Of course, the Democratic Party is a long way from being socialist, but the election of a few high-profile, self-declared Democratic socialists has given Republicans the hook they need to portray the entire party as “socialist.”

Defining Democrats as “liberals,” “progressives” or “socialists” is likely to continue to be a successful strategy for the GOP.

February’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found only 23 percent of respondents identified themselves as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal,” compared to 38 percent who embraced the “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative” labels.

Of course, those numbers reflect how people see themselves, not where they actually fall on the ideological scale. But since people are more likely to pick a category they like over one with negative connotations, it is surely relevant that a strong plurality chose the conservative label over the liberal one.

As always, there is another side to the coin. The same February NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey asked respondents whether government should do “more things” (usually seen as a more liberal response) or whether it was already doing “too many things,” (the normally more conservative answer).

A surprising 55 percent of respondents said government should do more compared to only 41 percent who said it should do less. In fact, attitudes seem to be changing.

While Gallup recently found Americans age 30 and older continue to have a much more favorable view of capitalism than socialism, those aged 18-29 have a more favorable view of socialism.

The right response

In the near term, Democrats need to figure out how to respond to the GOP’s attempts at branding the party of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden.

Do they merely laugh off the “socialism” charge, aggressively dismiss the characterization or look for a way to fight back, possibly by turning the tables on the party of Donald Trump, Steve King, Mike Pence and Sean Hannity?

One possible but very risky approach would be to link Trump and his party to an extreme form of conservative populism: fascism. But few Democratic candidates or officeholders would want to get into a name-calling war with the president, and equating Trump and GOP with fascism would likely be seen as demagoguery.

Fascism is such a loaded word — evoking images of Mussolini and Hitler — that it could generate a backlash, putting the Democrats on the defensive. The obvious answer is to create and repeatedly use a new term, possibly “Trumpism,” that describes the president’s attributes and behavior, from his narcissism and problem telling the truth to his crude language, his appointments of unqualified people and his demeaning of opponents. It would include his gentle treatment of dictators, especially compared with his attitude toward America’s allies, and his efforts to undermine key American institutions when it suits his purposes.

Of course, instead of looking for a new label to define the GOP, Democrats could simply fall back on their traditional attacks – including charging that Republican policies are dividing the country and are hurting children, seniors, women and racial minorities. Depending on where the economy is, those more traditional attacks might well be enough to keep Republicans on the defensive.

Perhaps the best way for Democrats to push back against the socialist label is the simplest — to nominate a pragmatic progressive who, on an issue or two, deviates from liberal orthodoxy and is more concerned with self-discipline, integrity, tolerance, and the ability to unite opponents of Donald Trump than with mere ideological purity.

That would make the GOP’s “socialism” charge both hollow and ineffective.

This column appeared initially in the April 30, 2019 issue of Roll Call.

What if Trump-Haley deadlocks with Buttigieg-Biden in 2020? Anything’s possible

Hanging chads and an election decided by the United States Supreme Court (2000). The election of the first black president (2008). Sarah Palin (2008). The 2010 midterm tsunami (Republicans gain 63 House seats). The nomination of the first woman for president by a major party (2016). The election of Donald Trump (2016). Russian bots interfering in the election (2016). The realignment of white men without a college degree (2016). The realignment of white, college-educated women (2018). Lose the popular vote, win the Electoral College — twice (2000, 2016).

The political world has been turned on its head more than once over the last two decades. The uncommon becomes ordinary. The bizarre, commonplace. Why should it stop now?

It’s time to think that the unthinkable is actually inevitable, so here is what I guarantee will happen during next year’s campaign and election. The Electoral College will deadlock, with both the Trump-Haley ticket and the Buttigieg-Biden ticket receiving 269 electoral votes.

Oh, wait, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

How it happens

Running on a message of decency, change and tolerance for people with names difficult to pronounce, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg sweeps the first four Democratic contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and virtually wraps up the nomination on Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020).

Buttigieg initially decides on California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate, but switches at the last minute to Joe Biden to add maturity and both foreign policy and vice-presidential experience to the ticket — but only after Biden promises to stop hugging people and smelling their hair.

Not wanting to be shown up by Buttigieg, President Donald Trump — whose re-election campaign slogan is “But what about Hillary’s e-mails?” — pulls his own last-minute surprise, replacing Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador.

Trump predicts that this move will help him win women, immigrants, people of color, Indian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Jewish voters.

With his head tilted and his eyes fixated on Trump during the president’s announcement, Pence praises the decision as “brilliant” and offers to become Trump’s personal butler for his second term.

Pence is openly disappointed when told that Jerry Falwell Jr. already has that job. But Trump isn’t done yet.

Fearful that selecting Haley will upset most of the old white men in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump promises to name Sebastian Gorka as secretary of State in his second term.

Upon hearing the news, CNN immediately pre-empts its “regular programing” of eight-person panels proclaiming Trump insane for special 12-person panels proclaiming the president insane.

After the convention, Trump announces that even though his re-election is certain, he is appointing Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Vladimir Putin as senior campaign advisers.

Over at Fox News, Sean Hannity calls the move “another example of Donald Trump’s brilliance and the mainstream media’s bias and stupidity.”

It gets better

But as it turns out, the Electoral College deadlock is just the first in a series of dramatic events following Election Day.

The 12th Amendment of the Constitution stipulates that the House of Representatives will pick the president if the Electoral College is unable to elect one. But the 2020 election produces a House in which each party controls 25 state delegations, thereby deadlocking the House until one state flips — or until Hell freezes over.

Over in the Senate, which picks the next vice-president if the Electoral College is deadlocked, Republicans are stunned to find out not only that Texas Sen. John Cornyn has lost his recount, but also that Beto O’Rourke’s victory has cost the GOP its majority.

The 50-50 deadlock in the chamber prevents the Senate from electing the next vice president, who would be the acting president. Given the deadlock, Trump announces that he is using his executive powers to declare a national emergency.

His first decision is to offer a special “fifth night free” for foreign diplomats staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

With the presidential election in limbo, the House and Senate unable to organize, and Stacey Abrams still insisting that she should be the governor of Georgia, the four House and Senate leaders publicly invite former British Prime Minister Theresa May to negotiate a deal to keep the United States in the United States.

From the 16th green at the Trump National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago, the president tells reporters that he opposes the step, though he notes that his father, Fred, was born in England.

On to 2024, America.

Thiis column appeared initially in the April 10, 2019 issue of Roll Call.