The Democrats: How will they use their new power?
“Democrats are back,” said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com, “and they’re ready to take on Trump.” While not producing the crushing repudiation of President Trump that liberals were hoping for, this week’s midterm elections gave the Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives and the ability to tie him up in knots. It will be “all but impossible” for Democrats to enact any kind of progressive legislation, given the near certainty of Republican obstruction in the Senate and Trump’s veto. But gaining the House gives Democrats the key chairmanships, and subpoena power, they need to conduct “strict oversight of the Trump administration”—a vital constitutional duty in which the current GOP-led House has showed absolutely no interest. Returning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is off the table, said David Corn in MotherJones.com, but come January the White House will likely still be “hit by a wave of investigations and subpoena requests” with no precedent in American history. The House will investigate Trump’s hidden tax returns, payments the Trump Organization is receiving from foreign sources, his shady dealings with Russia, his shameful family-separation policy, and much, much more. Two years into an administration that has made so many Americans fear for the future of their democracy, it’s finally “Trump’s turn to be afraid.”
A blizzard of investigations won’t “be enough for the far left,” said Thomas Del Beccaro in WashingtonExaminer.com. Democrats will almost certainly try to impeach Trump. Despite Pelosi’s qualms, the party’s base, and many of its wealthy donors, will see anything less than a full-bore impeachment effort as cowardly capitulation to a president they truly loathe. Voters would hate the prolonged political chaos caused by impeachment, said David French in NationalReview.com, and would punish Democrats for it, just as they punished Republicans for impeaching President Clinton. But Democrats may not have much choice. If special counsel Robert Mueller produces strong evidence that Trump colluded with Russia or obstructed justice, “it is difficult to imagine a Democratic House resisting progressive demands” to try to remove the president from office.
All in good time, said Ronald Klain in WashingtonPost.com. If Democrats want to make the most of this week’s victory, “not a single subpoena should fly in the first 100 days” of the new Congress. Instead, they should draft and pass a series of pragmatic, common-sense bills on issues with widespread public support: strengthening the Affordable Care Act and lowering premiums; raising the federal minimum wage to $15; employing Americans to repair infrastructure, such as roads and bridges; and granting the “Dreamers” legal status to protect them from deportation. Pass those, and “then dare the Senate and the Trump White House to follow suit.”
The Democrats’ strategy will largely depend on how Trump reacts to sharing power, said Andrew Prokop in Vox.com. He may decide that two years of “all-out warfare” with the Democratic House is exactly what he needs to keep his loyal followers fired up to re-elect him in 2020. Or he might be “tempted by the example of Bill Clinton,” who won a second term by tacking to the center following his own midterm rebuke in 1994. Either way, said The New York Times in an editorial, this upturn in Democrats’ political fortunes comes with “a heavy responsibility.” With Republicans fully bullied into submission by Trump, it now falls to House Democrats alone to restore “some sanity to American politics and a sense of higher, common purpose to American governance.” ■