The political upheaval that brought Donald Trump to the White House seems to be accelerating. The shocking results of a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives might indicate a paradigm shift that would reshape Congress and sweep away the current Democratic leadership is coming.
“Estes underperformed Trump’s margin by 20.3 points,” FiveThrityEight editor in chief Nate Silver Tweeted on April 12. “If every district behaved like that, Dems would gain 122 (!) House seats next November.”
Silver was referring to Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes; who won the April 11 special election to replace U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R) in Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District. Pompeo has resigned to take over as CIA director.
Republican Almost Loses in Rural Kansas
Political observers were shocked because Estes won by just seven points; Pompeo won reelection in November by 31 points, The Week reported. The results are shocking because the Fourth Congressional District; which includes Wichita, is the kind of place where Republicans are not supposed to have any trouble.
The Fourth District is white; rural, conservative and in the Bible Belt, yet Estes’s Democratic opponent James Thompson came within striking range of victory. It is even the home of the Koch brothers. What’s more interesting is that Thompson is an unapologetic leftist in the mold of Bernie Sanders.
To make matters worse Estes had heavy duty help from the National GOP, The Week’s Ryan Cooper pointed out. President Trump himself recorded a phone message on Estes’ behalf, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) campaigned for him.
To add insult to the injuries, Thompson had little or no support from the national Democratic Party. It only sent $3,000, Vice reported, and no Democratic top guns like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) or Hillary appeared in Kansas to help him.
Will Republicans Lose the House?
This race is important because control of the House is at stake. If Silver prediction comes true, Democrats would have 315 seats in the house – a substantial majority.
The Republicans control 237 seats in the House; while Democrats possess 193, according to the Press Gallery. Under Silver’s scenario the Democrats would have a larger majority than the GOP currently holds.
To make matters more interesting much of that majority would be composed of leftist activists like Thompson the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party. Their first action on taking over would probably be to give centrist Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi (California) the boot.
Fascinating possibilities here include an active effort to impeach Trump, investigations of the president and a radical Speaker of the House; perhaps U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). There would also be strong pushes for radical social policies including a massive expansion of Social Security, basic income and single payer health care. It would definitely mean all out ideological war between radical leftists and the Tea Party.
A real wild card here is the political chameleon known as Donald J. Trump. Would the President fight the new Congress, or try to make some sort of deal with them perhaps sign off on popular but radical social policies in emulation of his icon Richard Nixon.
What does it All Mean?
What lessons can be drawn from the situation in the Fourth District of Kansas and can they be applied nationwide? A few early observations include:
- The establishment Republican conservative agenda of small government, low taxes, benefit cuts and entitlement and regulation roll backs is no longer selling in the heartland. Much of Estes’ unpopularity can be traced to his association with Republican Governor Sam Brownback whose conservative policies are widely opposed, Ryan noted.
- The economy is everything. Between 2012 and 2016 Kansas’s economy grew at a rate of 4.8%, the national economy grew at a rate of 11.9%, The Center for on Budget and Policy Priorities reported. The rate of employment growth in Kansas is lower than the rest of the country – 3.3% compared to 5.9% for the whole nation. This sluggish growth won Kansas for Trump, but it is dragging down the state’s Republican establishment.
- Some Republican policies such as massive tax cuts and slashing government services may have backfired. The unpopularity of Brownback in Kansas; and the failure of fiscal conservatives such as Cruz in the presidential primaries, indicates there is little or no support for such measures among the GOP’s base.
- There is strong grass roots support for the radical leftist positions of Bernie Sanders and company in the heartland. I live in Colorado; next door to Kansas, in a rural area. Yet during last year’s Presidential Election I saw no Hillary bumper stickers; and only a handful of Trump bumper stickers in, but dozens of Sanders bumper stickers on all manner of vehicles. This was in a rural district that is supposedly a Republican stronghold, yet I saw Bernie bumper stickers on everything from broken down old pickup trucks to brand new Mercedes.
- Trump’s coattails might be very short. Just a few months after his victory, the President was of little or no help to a Republican candidate in a very red state.
- The Republicans seem to have a far better on-ground intelligence capability than the Democrats do. They were able to detect the potential upset and position resources to counter it while Democrats did nothing. Part of this might stem from the ponderous bureaucracy at Democratic headquarters.
- There is a major political upheaval brewing in the heartland on the order of the paradigm shift of the 1990s that created today’s Republican majority.
- We might be on the verge of an all-out civil war between radical leftists and centrists that will tear the Democratic Party apart.
- Much like the Republican establishment, the Democratic leadership is on the verge of collapse. This might clear the way for a successful Trump-type insurgency in that party.
- Political polarization is about to get far worse. Think Congress is divided now just wait until the Freedom Caucus is facing off with Speaker Ellison.
- Over the next few years we will see major upsets in Red States as leftist Democrats defeat conservative Republicans.
- The 2018 Congressional elections are going to be a brutal and hard fought political battle in which a lot of money will be spent. Republicans are running scared and Democrats smell blood.
We are living in very interesting times politically. The earthquake that brought Trump to the White House was only the beginning of a tsunami of cataclysmic change that will reshape our entire political landscape.