You know, if I had to guess, I’d say that well over half of America doesn’t really like their job. But whatever the reason that they hate their job, they’re stuck with it. The uncertainty of finding a new job, the household disruption, the worry about the healthcare that a new job will bring, all are powerful reasons to stay put and just put up with it.
Now, imagine that you have a job that pays a six figure salary, has a Cadillac healthcare plan, a generous pension program, and unlimited opportunity to pick up spare change on the side. And best of all, if you don’t get caught on camera sneaking into a motel room with a furry quadraped wearing fishnet stockings, your job is basically good for life. It would take some sky high dissatisfaction rating to make you walk away from a gig like that, right?
Welcome to the world of being a Republican member of the House of Representatives. There are already nine GOP incumbents that have announced their retirement from congress after this term, including five from the state of Texas alone. They are on pace to break the record number of GOP legislators that threw up their hands and cried uncle in 2018, from the high paying, basically part-time gig I described above.
WTF?!? As in 2018, almost all of them are multi-term incumbents who have decided that being a portable gas bag with no discernible record of accomplishment just isn’t much fun anymore. And little wonder. In 2018, the GOP incumbents who survived the bloodletting went for the first time in eight years from being a member of the majority, to being in the minority. And unlike the Senate, where a soulless ghoul with no morals can cause unlimited trouble, there is almost nothing a party in the minority in the House can do to disrupt the flow of the majority.
As it stands right now, the GOP is taking solace that only 3 of the retiring incumbents are in what are perceived to be “competitive districts.” The remainder are retiring from districts that have recently been rated as R+10 or more, meaning that they feel those seats are most likely safe from harm of flipping. It also likely means that the retiring incumbents don’t care very much for the company they’re keeping these days, and also see little chance of returning to the majority in 2020.
But there are two small potential problems with the Republicans’ feeling of confidence in holding onto those seats. The first is the numbers themselves. While the majority of sudden vacancies are in R+10 or better districts, one needs to keep in mind that starting with the special elections in 2017, and continuing on through the scheduled off-year elections of 2017, and the 2018 midterms, the Democrats tended very strongly to overperform by about +12-15 over their previous cycle performance in the same districts. This means that many of those seats may not be as safe as the GOP imagines them to be, especially with the shifting demographics in the last year of a 10-year-old redistricting map.
The second reason is the candidates themselves. Almost all of the retiring incumbents are mainline, establishment GOP House members. Either they see the sands shifting under their feet in the district, like Texas congressman Will Hurd, or they can no longer stomach being publicly associated with the lunatic antics of Glorious Bleater. But if six figure incumbents are willing to walk away, there is little chance of another establishment Republican stepping into the fray, and taking a full body immersion into Trump’s cesspool. Which means that the replacement candidates are highly likely to be other walking, talking toadstools forged in the image of The Mango Messiah.
There are three very good reasons why incumbents in the House enjoy a 94.6% retention rating. They have universal name recognition in the district, and are a known entity. They have an effective district campaign infrastructure already in place, and they have an already established donor network up and running. These three factors make it very difficult for an insurgent opponent to knock an incumbent who isn’t caught on camera strangling nuns off of his perch.
But in these suddenly open districts, the GOP loses their home field advantage. They have to find what they hope is a replacement candidate that is acceptable to the district voters, pimp up his name recognition, provide the logistical support to get their campaign operation up and running, and step in with funding to make up for donor shortfalls. And as the GOP learned in 2018, the more unexpected vacancies you have, the more thinly the finite amount of resources have to be spread around the map.In several cases in 2018, the GOP pulled funding from what appeared to be competitive districts they felt slipping away, in order to put the funds elsewhere, where it might do more good.
In 2018, this was a tremendous advantage for the Democrats, and it should be one in 2020 as well. In 2018, the candidates that ran ran with organic, grassroots support, were largely self organized. The DCCC had to offer only limited support for them to get up and running. Unlike their GOP counterparts, whether incumbent or freshman, the Democratic candidates knocked on doors, went to coffee shops, stood around supermarkets, and held town halls. They built their name recognition the old fashioned way, by sweat equity. And by refusing to take corporate or PAC contributions, they pledged their loyalty to their constituents, earning their loyalty and support back, and in most cases out fund-raised entrenched GOP incumbents by 3-4 to 1.
The poli-sci professor who first projected the blue wave of 2018, and nailed it to the wall while everybody else was wringing their hands, said afterwards that the Democrats actually left 18 potential pickups laying on the table, either through inexperience, or mismanagement. You can bet that the Democrats learned from those mistakes, and will be back stronger than ever. And while the Democrats are offering fresh new faces, with real world solutions to real world issues, what is the GOP offering? A bunch of radical, toadying, racist little Mini-Me’s running around spouting the approved Mango Messiah gibberish. Thin gruel indeed in districts already suffering from “Trump fatigue.”
My advice, which combined with $3.75 will get you a Vente Mocha Latte from Starbucks? Don’t pay any attention to the congressional projections and polls until the last month of the campaign. In 2018, it was gratifying to see how many R+8-12 seats went from “Strong GOP,” to “Lean GOP,” to “Toss up” in the Cook Political Report as the election neared. And that was with less than two full years of Trump tomfoolery. If the economy starts to go south, especially in the farm belt, with farmer support already eroding for Trump, you could see another flood of GOP retirements in the House, and with it, more cherries ripe for the picking. And of House seats start going blue, what do you think that those votes are going to mean for the Senate seats up ballot? Don’t touch that dial.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen