Although we have many reasons to be optimistic about the 2020 election, there is one particular battle in which we would be wise instead to accept defeat upfront—even if said defeat is still a year-and-a-half away.
We are right to continue focusing on the fight to hold—and perhaps even increase—the Republican majority in the Senate and to keep President Trump in the White House for another four years. But as nice as it would be to take the majority again in the House, we must be prepared to acknowledge that this will not happen.
Notwithstanding President Trump’s genius plan to pigeonhole the entire Democratic Party as racist, socialist, and un-American—courtesy of the four vile congresswomen known as “the squad”—the fact remains that the U.S. House of Representatives is most likely too far gone, for multiple reasons.
The “Best-Case” Scenario
As the president continues to use the four radical congresswomen to frame the whole party as shifting too far to the left for most Americans, our focus has to be on the so-called moderate Democrats who were key in the party’s retaking of the lower chamber in the 2018 midterms. Some of them have even complained (anonymously) of the threat that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) presents to their re-election chances next year.
And it’s true. While the Democrats did benefit greatly from flipping 18 districts previously held by Republicans yet voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats never would have taken the majority without an additional 23 seats that also voted for Trump.
Those 23 districts, for reference, are as follows (with 2016 percentages included):
- Georgia 6th: 48-47
- Illinois 14th: 49-45
- Iowa 1st: 49-45
- Iowa 3rd: 48-45
- Maine 2nd: 51-41
- Michigan 8th: 51-44
- Michigan 11th: 50-45
- Minnesota 2nd: 46-45
- Nevada 3rd: 48-47
- New Hampshire 1st: 48-47
- New Jersey 3rd: 51-45
- New Jersey 11th: 54-44
- New Mexico 2nd: 50-40
- New York 11th: 54-44
- New York 19th: 51-44
- New York 22nd: 55-39
- North Carolina 9th: 54-42
- Oklahoma 5th: 53-40
- Pennsylvania 17th: 54-43 (prior to the forced redrawing of the state’s congressional map in 2018)
- South Carolina 1st: 54-40
- Utah 4th: 39-32
- Virginia 2nd: 48-45
- Virginia 7th: 50-44
This is the primary reason why far more Democratic-held seats are ranked as “tossups” for 2020 than Republican-held seats; the majority party is always on defense, and this cycle is no different. As it stands now, there are far more Democrats in Trump districts (31) than there are Republicans in Clinton districts (just three). Out of those 31, eight are decidedly safer than the remaining 23, as they were elected either during or before the 2016 election. Unlike the Republicans who survived 2016 in districts that were carried by Clinton but went on to lose in 2018, the Democrats in Trump districts proved to be much more resilient. Barring some retirements, this likely will not change in 2020.
While it does make sense for the GOP to target these 23 seats, it’s safe to say that at least a handful more seats out of the 199 that they currently hold may very well be in danger of flipping blue in 2020, such as Georgia’s 7th congressional district (incumbent Rod Woodall is retiring), Texas’s 23rd (incumbent Will Hurd only barely won re-election last time, with 49 percent of the vote), and Michigan’s 3rd (where incumbent Justin Amash abandoned the Republican Party to become an independent, setting up for a three-way race next year).
But let’s just assume, for a moment, the hypothetical “best-case” scenario: Republicans manage to hold every single seat they currently have and flip all 23 seats in question.
The result would be a majority of 222. That’s just four seats above the minimum threshold of 218.
No Meaningful Majority
If there’s one thing that has been proven about the modern Republican Party, it’s that they never have a majority, even when they do have a majority.
Just look back at the track record of the 115th Congress, with both houses under Republican control. They failed multiple times to pass Obamacare repeal, could never agree on a solution to the immigration crisis, and only barely passed tax cuts by the skin of their teeth.
Most of these failures rested not on the House, where the Republicans had a 23-seat majority, but in the Senate, where the Republicans initially held only a two-seat majority, then reduced to a one-seat majority after the Alabama special election. It was in that chamber where Obamacare repeal died, and where Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by one of the narrowest margins in history.
Now the Republican Senate enjoys a healthier majority of 53 seats out of 100, especially with the departures of such traitorous “Republicans” as Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and John McCain. But imagine, if you will, a post-2020 scenario where the Republicans hold a majority in the House that’s every bit as razor-thin as their Senate majority was during the 115th Congress.
The horror. The horror.
A four-seat majority in the House would truly be more of a plurality than a real majority, especially when you consider the much larger proportion of anti-Trump Republicans.
As it stands now, there are at least 20 Republicans who have proven to be completely unreliable in regards to many key items of the president’s agenda. This is evident by the tallies of Republicans who have, either intermittently or repeatedly, voted against the president’s national emergency declaration, voted against funding the border wall, voted for several Democrat-backed proposals of amnesty for illegal aliens, voted against the tax cut bill, or most recently, voted to condemn the president as “racist.”
Taking these various votes into account, the top 20 most egregious offenders are:
- Dan Bacon (Nebraska 2nd)
- Susan Brooks (Indiana 5th)
- Ken Buck (Colorado 4th)
- Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida 25th)
- Will Hurd (Texas 23rd)
- Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania 1st)
- Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin 8th)
- Jaime Herrera Beutler (Washington 3rd)
- Dusty Johnson (South Dakota)
- John Katko (New York 24th)
- Pete King (New York 2nd)
- Thomas Massie (Kentucky 4th)
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington 5th)
- Dan Newhouse (Washington 4th)
- Francis Rooney (Florida 19th)
- Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin 5th)
- Chris Smith (New Jersey 4th)
- Elise Stefanik (New York 21st)
- Fred Upton (Michigan 6th)
- Greg Walden (Oregon 2nd)
All it would take, after a hypothetical best-case scenario in the 2020 elections, is just four out of any of these 20 going turncoat and denying the new, much smaller Republican majority any substantive victories. Seems like a slim reed of hope to invest much effort in grasping.
Just as the 2018 elections ended up being about rooting out as many anti-Trump Republicans as possible, so, too, may 2020 serve the same purpose. The only way to alleviate any fear of such McCain-style backstabbing in the lower chamber is if primary challengers topple as many of the anti-Trumpers as possible so that no would-be Brutus remains within the 117th Congress.
If the Republicans, by some miracle, manage to retake the House, then all the more power to them. But if they don’t (the more likely outcome), then 2020 could still prove an ideological victory if not an electoral one, in the strengthening and unifying of the minority party, so that it may be better prepared for the day when it does finally reclaim the majority.
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