Chemistry is the Answer by Al Sikes

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Chemistry is the answer. No not the chemistry DuPont talks about, but the chemistry that serves up damnably complicated politics and governance in the 21st Century.

How has the political chemistry changed as the Super Bowl of politics looms?

Notwithstanding President Trump’s boasts, if I was his political advisor, the light in the White House would be yellow not green.

The Democrats captured the House of Representatives, a far more representative picture of voter preference. The US Senate map could not have been more favorable for Republicans; the truer test of popularity was in the House races.

And, I presume the Mueller investigation will wrap up soon and while I don’t anticipate findings that will lead to impeachment, the report will not be a valentine to the President. In the House leadership, newly formed, will be a number of Members who will use the report to maximum advantage unless they overplay their hand, which is quite likely.

Final thought on Republican chemistry. Mitt Romney was elected to represent Utah in the Senate. He will not be just another Senator. Watch the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, when it comes to confirmation fights. Listen to Romney and Nicki Haley and Ben Sasse when it comes to voices aimed at the Party’s brand in 2024, if not earlier.

The Democrats certainly didn’t win in the way they hoped. One very positive development for Trump is that the makeup of the Senate is more favorable for getting his nominees confirmed. In this regard, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the loser. He worked hard to enforce caucus discipline on the Judge Kavanaugh vote and the red state Senators who yielded lost their seats in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, and North Dakota.

Also the Democrats got a look at coastal progressive dogma in more centrist States. In Florida the progressive message lost on the State level as it did in Texas and other red States. In Texas Beto O’Rourke was a much better US Senate candidate than the incumbent Ted Cruz, but couldn’t overcome his “progressive” message.

The Democrats were as Winston Churchill observed “a pudding without a theme” unless being against Trump is a theme. In the next few months they are going to have to choose between hard left and left of center narratives. If their most aggressive and vocal leaders—Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and others define the “pudding” then I would bet on Trump in 2020.

The Republicans need to find the chemistry that allows them to be more than the Trump Party. The enormous gap the Party faces among female voters points to the Party’s downfall if it is all in on Trump. And that is just in the short-term; long-term being all in on Trump points to the Party being a minority party because it will have no purchase with the majority when it is made up of minorities.

The Democrats—well they have to find a theme that does not remind voters that social engineering incurs enormous expense and mostly doesn’t work. And both Parties have to figure out how to solve the fiscal debacle that is forecast by the enormous deficits we face. Commentator after commentator said the economic news was Trump’s greatest advantage. At some point commentators have to learn that balance sheets are important.

Finally, polling tended to be all over the place and frequently wrong. The industry faces profound problems. People don’t answer phones any longer. Voting in most States precedes polling forecasts by weeks. And as people learn more and more about their loss of privacy, I suspect fewer and fewer are interested in one more window into their private affairs.

The one thing that is certain is that the next Presidential election will be entertaining, but not edifying. And chemistry, well, expect a mixing of combustible elements that scare the hell out of us.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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