George Will: Vote Democrat this fall if you care about your country

Man, I’m not sure I’m ready for Woke George Will. I’ve barely come to grips with the reality of Woke Bill Kristol.

I understand his disgust at the disgusting thing the GOP has become and his impulse to fire off the loudest rhetorical airhorn he can find right in its ear to try to wake it. But voting for the party of open borders and anytime abortion? Of national handgun bans?

This amounts nearly to asking that we burn the village to save it.

The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them…

The Republican-controlled Congress, which waited for Trump to undo by unilateral decree the border folly they could have prevented by actually legislating, is an advertisement for the unimportance of Republican control…

In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him. A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate’s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House. And to those who say, “But the judges, the judges!” the answer is: Article III institutions are not more important than those of Articles I and II combined.

I don’t know what he means when he says Republicans could have prevented child separation at the border by legislating. The filibuster is what it is and Schumer made clear that he wouldn’t work with them to rescue Trump from the corner he’d painted himself into. Any bipartisan effort to compromise would have gotten hung up anyway on what to do with reunited families. Republicans would have demanded family detention during the asylum application process, which happens to be the latest thing Democrats have deemed a crime against humanity. Will’s letting his contempt for Trump blind him — not entirely, but a bit — to Democrats’ own contemptibility.

What he’d say to my point about burning the village to save it, I assume, is that there’s no way to get a fire going when government is divided. With Trump in the White House, Democratic control poses no risk because Trump can use his veto to douse any liberal legislative flames. Perhaps. But there are risks to electing a Democratic Congress that Will either didn’t consider or simply dismissed. Start with this thread from Dan McLaughlin:

Steve Bannon would be quite happy with a mass purge of Republican incumbents. (He’s described himself to people as a “Leninist” so he’s cool with purges.) The biggest political problem faced by Bannon and his populist fellow travelers is duplicating Trump’s success at the congressional level. The closest he came to doing so, Roy Moore in Alabama, was a fiasco, so much so that even Trump has swung around to backing establishment Republicans in primaries this year in the name of electability. If you want a National Front GOP, you need to dislodge a lot of Republican incumbents, and dislodging incumbents is hard. The Will plan, which is aimed at sending a wake-up call to the party, would ironically make it easier for Bannonites to grow their numbers in Congress in years ahead by dislodging those incumbents in November.

But it’s worse than that. Trump has governed as a conservative so far (with a few distressing exceptions) but that may be because he’s let Ryan and McConnell drive policy for the most part. Replace them with Pelosi and Schumer and the results are unpredictable. Trump is a man who wants “wins” above all else, as his grip-and-grin with Kim Jong Un reminded us. It’s hard to imagine him standing pat for two long years, vetoing everything the new Democratic Congress brings to him, knowing that he’ll need to face voters in 2020 and provide a list of accomplishments. Trump is a dealmaker, not an ideologue. Would he sign a DREAM amnesty or some liberal health-care reform in the name of notching a “win,” believing (rightly) that his fans will cheer for him no matter what he does? Quite possibly, yeah. In which case, Will’s point that divided government will surely produce paralysis isn’t true. If Pelosi lights the match, Trump might be willing to provide some tinder, particularly if you could convince him that doing so would be popular.

Another problem. The Senate map this fall is as favorable to Republicans as the party could hope for, so much so that the GOP is favored to pick up seats notwithstanding the grim outlook in the House. The maps in 2020 and 2022 are much more favorable to Democrats, however, which is bad news for Republicans if Trump wins a second term and disastrous news if he doesn’t. Even if Democrats retake the House, the GOP needs a good night in the Senate this November to pad its majority ahead of expected losses in the next two cycles. If it doesn’t, it could be looking at another filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the not-distant future. The Will plan would make that more likely.

Even impeachment is overrated as a justification for electing Democrats. The odds that Trump will be impeached if Pelosi is in charge of the House obviously are higher than if Republicans remain in control, but still not particularly high for the simple reason that 67 votes in the Senate to remove the president from office is a pipe dream. Pelosi won’t want to gamble political capital on an impeachment process destined to lead nowhere. She’s a legislator, the quarterback of the ObamaCare effort in 2010. She’d rather play it safe politically and try to beat Trump in 2020 than pull the pin on a grenade. What you’ll certainly get from a Democratic House is more oversight of Trump, which is good news to anti-Trumpers but also of limited political effect, really. Which voters are apt to be persuaded by House committees sorting through POTUS’s conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause violations? Modern American politics is a death struggle over culture; for many, ethics is an acceptable casualty.

One more thing:

It would be much easier to make the case for voting for Democratic if Democrats acted like they wanted Republicans voting for them. In a saner world, a war on the right between centrists and populists would lead Democrats to move a bit to the right themselves, opportunistically, to try to pry loose a few of those right-leaning centrists. In the world we live in, Democrats are moving left. They’ve never been more radical on immigration. To the extent that their orthodoxy on hot buttons like guns and abortion has changed, it’s shifted towards maximum liberalization of the latter and maximum restriction of the former. The left’s calculation appears to be that it would be both immoral to compromise with the center-right and unnecessary, on the theory that Bernie Would Have Won and the solution to Democratic electoral problems is simply a purer socialism than Hillary Clinton ever would have condoned. The party’s leftward momentum, progressives would tell you, isn’t just the right thing to do politically, it’s the right thing to do electorally. And so they’re offering the center-right precisely nothing to get them to cross the aisle. How can Republican voters accept an invitation that hasn’t been made?

If Will finds voting for Trump’s GOP unconscionable, the solution is simple: Stay home. Voting for the lesser of two evils is always dispiriting but especially so when the evils seem less “lesser” than they have in the past. Take the day off and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that the country will continue to decline no matter the outcome. “Subsidize something and you’ll get more of it,” as the saying goes. The same rule applies to “lesser evil” elections.