Right now, Capitol Hill is gripped with a fear even greater than the fear of what Trump may say or do next that will put them into a vulnerable, politically risky, publicly toxic position. They are not fearing how a vote on His Lowness’ tax cut giveaway will affect their careers, nor how they will be perceived for their stance in a pending government shutdown, they are fearing the “ghost of gripness past.” A respected major media organization is promising a soon to come expose of at least 20 members of congress over sexual misconduct allegations.
One thing about the current sexual conduct scandal in Washington, the GOP can’t claim that it’s a blatant, liberal media biased hit job on Republicans. So far, the three Republican congressmen, Trent Franks, Joe Barton, and Jake Farenthold have been matched by Democratic congressmen John Conyers, Ruben Kihuen, and Democratic Senator Al Franken. But this is already turning into a political minefield, as last week Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal both had to fight off hoax claims of sexual misconduct. Schumer even went to the length of turning his case over to authorities, lending credence to the falsity of the claim since filing a false police report is a crime. Nonetheless, we are at the edge of an extremely slippery slope, trying to balance the right of the accusers to be heard and receive fair treatment with the responsibility of accountability for the accuracy of the claims before punishing the accused.
But there are several reasons to deduce that regardless of the eventual by party breakdown of the incumbent losses to sexual misconduct allegations, the Democrats should benefit from the roiling of the congressional waters. For one thing, there is both history, and the current circumstances. Historically, a new administration normally loses seats in the first midterm election following their rise to power. Only three times in history has the party controlling the White House picked up seats in the first midterms. And never should history be more likely to repeat itself, Trump is wildly unpopular, and the GOP has proven to be paralyzed, unable to use their sole control of government to get anything useful or popular done. The winds are definitely in their faces to start with, even under ideal conditions.
Another factor will most likely be motivation. Resistance to Cotton Candy Head has not only invigorated the progressive base, it has demoralized the conservative base. Alabama is a perfect example. Democratic strongholds showed up to vote at 75-80% of the level of the 2016 Presidential election, this is unheard of for an off year special election. GOP districts were only coming out at levels in the low to mid 50’s, and even there Moore won by lower margins than Trump did, so not only were fewer Republicans showing up for Moore, more Democrats were showing up in those districts to vote. Last week, Rachel Maddow showed that in 6 special elections in Iowa for state seats since the 2016 election, Democrats were a minimum +30 in each one of them. While they didn’t win the seats, think of all of the districts nationwide where GOP incumbents won by 10 points or less. Loathing for Trump seems unlikely to abate in the next 11 months, so one can project that this may be a continuing problem for the GOP. And one more motivating factor. Democratic recruitment is up. For practically the first time since the Ark came to rest, there will be a Democratic challenger for every congressional seat in Texas. This is being repeated nationwide, as was evidenced in the Virginia state elections. There are no longer any truly “safe” seats, where a GOP incumbent can ride out a terrible cycle by running unopposed. They will have to face the voters and defend their records.
Third will be the primaries. Democratic vacancies will produce likely feisty primaries, but mostly with intelligent candidates with sound ideas. This will not be the case in a majority of GOP primaries. Steve Bannon has promised a scorched earth primary season in the GOP, and open seats, without a well funded, high name recognition candidate will be fertile ground. Primaries are normally decided by the party’s deepest “base”, and the Trump base is a very dark bunch indeed. There are going to be at least some Bannon backed loonies who prevail in these primaries, This will lead to races with an ideological mouth breather on the GOP side depressing sane GOP voters even more while Democratic support is elevated. Advantage Democrats.
The last thing is party perception. When it comes to these sexual misconduct allegations, so far at least, the Democratic party has been the party of conscience and action. Pelosi was late to the dance on Conyers, as was Schumer on Franken, but both eventually demanded that they go, and they did. Paul Ryan’s denunciations have been even later, and more muted.The total moral bankruptcy of the GOP in swinging back to endorse and fund Roy Moore late in the game to try to save the seat after previously rejecting him showed their true colors to American women, and it’s going to come back to bite them in the ass. Moore’s strident, insulting denials of the allegations grated, and were a prescient reminder of the Groper in Chief in the White House. Trump has more credible, documented allegations of sexual assault against him than any other candidate or incumbent by far, and the longer it remains front and center, and the longer the GOP refuses to even investigate and hold hearings on the matter, the more it cements the opposition of women not only to him, but to the entire GOP party as well.
The ultimate matter here is a fair hearing for, and justice for the women who have actually suffered harm from these acts, as are the rights of the accused to only be acted against when the allegations are credible and have sufficient merit.. But politics is politics, and that’s the battlefield this particular war is being waged on, so the repercussions of that war have to be considered. And right now, it looks like the Democrats are on the offensive, and the Republican defenses appear to be crumbling. Don’t touch that dial.