August 22, 2018

GOP will keep House, similar to midterms before first Civil War

An earlier post looked at the history of midterms during disjunctive, end-of-an-era administrations. Unlike the standard pattern of midterms swinging control against the incumbent party of the White House, these midterms almost always began and ended with the White House party in control of Congress as well.

A couple clarifications are in order, though. First, we can ignore the results of Cleveland's midterms, as his admin was more of an interregnum between the Lincoln and McKinley eras, both of which saw the Republicans as the dominant party.

I put Cleveland as an end-of-an-era president because he was the last of the pure laissez-faire presidents before McKinley became a trailblazer against that orthodoxy. But Cleveland was from the opposition of his era -- the Democrats -- and so does not really qualify as a disjunctive president, who must be from the dominant party, representing the disintegration of the dominant coalition of the era. The fact that Cleveland's final midterm saw his party lose control of Congress is more likely due it its status as the opposition party of its era, hence always vulnerable to getting demoted back to second place.

More importantly, I only looked at the disjunctive midterm under Buchanan at the end of the Jacksonian era, when I should have included Pierce's as well. He was the first of the disintegration presidents before the Civil War: the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act under his watch in 1854 was a clear signal of the breakdown of the dominant coalition and the coming end of its rule. It broke the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (before the Jacksonian era, during the Era of Good Feelings), which limited the expansion of slavery in the new territories out West. By allowing slavery in the new territories, all bets were off on the pro and anti-slavery states maintaining their uneasy truce.

Going into the midterms, the disjunctive Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. You might think that the catastrophe of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was signed on May 30, would have dealt the dominant party a severe blow by midterm time. And while the Democrats did lose seats in both chambers, they still held the Senate outright, and held the largest number of seats in the House, albeit a plurality rather than a majority, as the non-Democrats fractured into a number of opposition parties.

Among these, two basic groups cohered -- a realignment coalition that wanted to check or abolish slavery, lead by the Republicans, and a pro-status quo coalition that wanted to emphatically ignore the slavery question, lead by the Know Nothings AKA the American Party. With such divergent goals on the major issue of their time, as the nation was building up to civil war, it was truly as though three factions were vying for control -- the anti-slavery Republicans, the increasingly unhinged Democrats who were now allowing slavery anywhere, and the status quo American Party that wanted to avoid the issue altogether.

In two earlier posts, here and here, I showed how the Russiagaters today are like the American Party (Know Nothings) of the final terms of the Jacksonian era. Their obsession with blaming an external leader -- Putin or the Pope -- for their own electoral failures, was just a rationalization. Their real issue was maintaining the status quo instead of going along with a long overdue realignment, rejecting the extremists of "both sides". The American Party saw both the abolitionists and the secessionists as extremes to be avoided, just as the Russiagaters view the Bernie and Trump camps as extremes to be avoided.

Another parallel is that the American Party initially drew lots of Democrats, who were the dominant and incumbent party, rather than being a pure splinter group from the opposition Whig party. Today, that's like the Russiagaters having a good number of Republicans on their side -- not so much among voters, but among politicians and officials, who are the ones who ultimately allow or delay a realignment. Their shared fixation on Russia is superficial -- they really join forces to prevent Trump from delivering on his populist campaign promises, and to prevent Bernie from doing much the same thing if he were to take over.

And yet, with all those defectors from both the dominant and opposition party who poured into the American Party in the 1854 midterms, they still couldn't crack a majority. In 2018, that may not take the form of separate parties, but there will be a surge in anti-realignment politicians hailing from both the dominant and opposition parties -- Russiagaters from Democrats, and Never Trumpers and anti-tariff Republicans.

Just as in 1854, that won't knock the dominant party into a minority in either house of Congress. Back then, they only had a plurality in the House (but majority in the Senate) because the defections were at the party level, whereas this time around when the parties have stabilized more, it will be more at the sub-party level. That means the GOP will keep both the House and Senate, even though they will lose members in the House and do about even in the Senate.

Why? Just look back at 1854, which is where we're at now in the cycle. There was a disastrous act passed that opened the door to civil war over slavery, and yet the American Party's main campaign theme was to ignore it and try to preserve the status quo? During these kinds of crises that only explode during a disjunctive phase, the opposition must offer radical change to realign the system. But they are too hidebound to offer that much change, at least during a midterm season without a national presidential candidate to spearhead a major realignment movement.

So, while voters remove support from the dominant party, it's not enough to remove them from power because the alternative is not offering major change to a major crisis.

If that seems unlikely, remember that during the disjunctive Hoover admin, the GOP began with full control of government after the 1928 election, and despite the Great Depression exploding during late 1929, they still held onto full control of the White House and both houses of Congress after the 1930 midterms. After the Great Depression! The opposition Democrats were not offering the New Deal programs just yet, so what good were they going to be in saving the country from the collapsing economy? The GOP lost plenty of seats, but not enough to lose majority status.

This year's opposition Democrats are not offering enough of a radical change to counter the escalation of militarism, the record widening trade deficits and de-industrialization, soaring numbers of cheap labor immigrants, falling real wages and deteriorating standard of living, and last-ditch inflation of the bubble economy by cutting taxes without paying for them, leading to yet another record year for our national debt. So while voters will not be pleased with the GOP's performance so far, they will not transfer power to the Democrats.

The big story is the rise of the Bernie candidates, just as 1854 saw the first-ever explosion of the realigning Republicans. They began with no one in the Senate before 1854, and picked up 3 (out of 62). And they began with only 4 in the House and ended with 37 (out of 118). Whether they're affiliated with Our Revolution, Justice Democrats, the Democratic Socialists of America, or are their own economic populist and anti-imperialist, these candidates are the clear wave of the future.

The bad news is that it's looking more and more like we're headed for the Civil War parallels, where there will be two disjunctive terms instead of only one. Just as there were Pierce and Buchanan, we're going to have to suffer through both the Trump and the Pence/Haley admins before populist realignment. The opposition Democrats are just as fragmented as the Whigs during the 1850s, and it is the psychotic centrists who will spoil the election of 2020 just as they did in 1856, by running a former big wig of the opposition whose sole campaign theme will be preserving the status quo and ignoring the big issues that are coming to an explosive head.

In 1856, the "ignore the big problems" campaign was led by a former president of the opposition party, Fillmore, but technically he was only elected to the vice presidency, and ascended to the presidency on the death of his senior running mate, Taylor. If history repeats itself, that leaves the last guy who got elected vice president for the opposition -- Joe Biden, whose sole campaign theme will be "Why can't we just go back to 2012?"

In a three-way battle between Bernie, Biden, and whoever the Republican is, the GOP will win by an even wider margin than in 2016, owing to the vote-splitting effect among the opposition, just as the disjunctive Democrat Buchanan won by an even wider margin in 1856 than his predecessor did in 1852, again due to the psychotic centrist splitting the vote among the opposition.

For now I'm keeping the chances of this "two disjunctive terms" scenario below 50%, but when the Democrats fail to pick up either house of Congress in the midterms, I will raise it above 50% if the psychotic centrists double down on ignoring the major issues and offering only the status quo, at a time when it is rapidly disintegrating. When the status quo was strong, during the '90s, it was feasible to offer their take on the status quo and win. But by now, Reaganism is dead, and they must offer a wholly different system -- at least as radically different as the system that Trump campaigned on in 2016.

This is not a general feature of disjunctive phases -- every other time there was a shift of regimes, the disjunctive phases lasted only one term. But at a time of soaring partisan polarization, as we last saw during the 1850s, the stubbornness and hyper-competitiveness applies even within the party, not just between them. Not only is bipartisanship dead, partisanship itself is coming undone -- now political solidarity and collective action only scale up to the level of a faction or wing within a party.


  1. "Pence/Haley admins before populist realignment"

    We've come too far and are not going back. Absolutely not, shudder! Rand Paul would be more likely: anti-imperialist, but out of step on everything else populist.

  2. Rand would get blocked by GOPe, and Trump would go along. For over the past year, he has never promoted someone the Establishment didn't want, who would be more in the populist / anti-globalist direction.

    Lighthizer, Navarro, and Ross were good initial picks, but with no follow-up or results. Sessions was agreeable with populism and anti-globalism, then he got stuck at DoJ where he can't deliver on those goals, and where Trump does nothing but excoriate him anyway.

    His more recent picks are absolute trash -- Pompeo and Bolton. If anything, more neocon than even the GOPe would prefer.

    Rand and Trump are friendly on a personal level, so Trump may think he "supports" Rand based on all relationships being personal. But in the real world, power is institutional, and actors are members of a collective coalition, not a couple of individuals chatting it up on the golf course.

    Trump would throw Rand under the bus during a contentious primary where the Establishment told Trump to support Pence, Haley, or whoever else they wanted. He's surrendered to them awhile ago, just bitches and moans about it, signaling that he just wants this whole mess to be over with and get back to his own lifestyle again. Not dig in and fight the Establishment, meaning his own party.

    Plus, Rand is a nutjob on economics -- ideological libertarian. As the recession is in full force, he'll be saying we the government to stay neutered on the sidelines rather than intervene in any way. The real response is intervene on behalf of the people, rather than on behalf of the 1% like Obama's team did.

    Only way Rand could go anywhere is as a defector to the Bernie side -- where Bernie would tackle domestic issues, and Rand foreign policy. That would be an interesting turn, but would not take place as part of a GOP victory in the executive branch.

    1. Maybe you're onto something with this evolution you predict; personally I've been asking myself lately if I'm on the Right anymore. I'm not on the Left, but I just don't relate to conservatives on the race and immigration stuff nor the Social Darwinism.

      On the other hand, there seems to be a clear trajectory on the Republican side against imperialism starting with Ron Paul in '08 and I can't imagine that being knocked off...

  3. The only trajectory is more imperialism for the GOP. Voters may not want it, but they don't matter. It's the elite sectors of society who control a party for their own material interests -- and the people get cut in on the action if their job flows from the patronage of those elite sectors in power.

    The main sector controlling the GOP is the military -- zero chance they will realign away from imperialism. Not unless the military gets dislodged from the GOP coalition, and absorbed into the Democrats' coalition like it was during the New Deal / Great Society era.

    Dems might be able to pick off agriculture from the GOP coalition, and with it some of the Plains states. But the military? Not happening. They'd have to pick off the South -- ha!

    The whole "paleocon" anti-imperialist thing is a throwback to when the Democrats had the Solid South, and hence were the militarist party, and the GOP were the isolationist party. Or when the Southern-based Dems' opposition were the Whigs, the Whigs were the anti-military expansion party.

    Paleocons will never have any influence in the GOP as long as the South is part of their coalition, and they will have to try realigning the Democrats, whose elite sectors have no interest in war -- in fact, an interest in *preventing* war, since that would drive up the debt or require printing a shitload of money, either of which would erode the value of the finance sectors' assets.

  4. That's one way the Bernie era won't resemble the New Deal era: the military and the South will be out of the dominant party's coalition. It will be more like the Lincoln era, reconstructing a nation that had been torn in half by the previous dominant party -- the Jacksonians, and the Reaganites.

    Not coincidentally, both the Jacksonians and Reaganites had the South but not the Northeast in their electoral coalition. The Jacksonians could sometimes swing some Mid-Atlantic states, but not the broad Northeast, and not on a reliable basis. Ditto for the Reaganites -- Reagan and Bush Sr. got them, and Trump won back PA, but on the whole the Northeast has been for the opposition.

    The only other period when the dominant party had both the South and Northeast was the Jeffersonian era -- like the New Deal, it saw falling inequality and falling polarization, bringing a nation together by incorporating the South into the mainstream.

    The Federalist era before that was dominated by the Northeast, thus akin to the Lincoln era or the soon to be Bernie era.

  5. When the dominant coalition is the South without the Northeast, the zeitgeist is splitting the nation apart, inequality, militarism, and therefore globalism. Profits over people. The Jacksonians, then the Reaganites.

    When the dominant coalition is the Northeast alone, without the South, the zeitgeist is internally focused, building up what had been broken by civil war.

    The Federalists reconstructed the nation after it was torn between revolutionaries and loyalists. The Lincolnians reconstructed the nation after the Jacksonians drove a wedge between North and South over slavery. And the Bernie-ites will rebuild what the Reaganites have destroyed -- especially rebuilding the Rust Belt instead of the Sun Belt, which plays a role akin to the plantation South of the pre-First Civil War period.

    When the dominant coalition includes both the Northeast and the South, it's after a reconstruction period when only the Northeast was dominant. It's a period of harmony, and it takes the form of the stern Northeastern father allowing the wayward Southern son back into the family.

    The zeitgeist then is letting all elite sectors get a little bit of what they want, but not so much that it comes at the expense of other sectors. So there's a little bit of globalism, expansion, and militarism, to appease the South, but not so much that it runs rampart and ruins the nation all over again. And there's a little lining the coffers of the Northern banks, but it's heavily regulated by a strong national / central bank to make sure that sector doesn't go off the deep end either.

  6. "It's a period of harmony, and it takes the form of the stern Northeastern father allowing the wayward Southern son back into the family"

    Haha! In the current climate it might be best to avoid punishment metaphors.

  7. I hope this is not too far off topic, but it is a little related... I've felt for a few months that only a few people really know everything that has gone on with Russiagate, which isn't really an accurate term for whatever *it* is, and that Trump is some director of a movie that he already knows the ending to, even if the middle is unknown.
    He literally said, "stay tuned" the other day. Besides that he's president, you see whom he has spoken with and add that Sy Hersh told an interviewer recently that he suspects Trump knows about what's really going on, whatever that means...
    Related, I guess, because of the differing factions and how inconvenient and unwelcomed parts of the story, whatever this story turns out to be, are to various ones resulting in a frustrating morass.

  8. Trump famously never plans, and has no power of his own in the political realm, so he is not a director of any kind. He improvises everything, and is reliant on the GOP Establishment to get anything done.

    They cut him a little slack on tariffs and meeting with "Chairman Kim," as long as he ramps up the military waste budget, destroys Russia in practice if not in rhetoric, and rubber stamps whoever the Federalist Society chooses for judiciary appointments.

    The only reason he looks like he can see the future is that it's dead simple to predict, and the class of people tasked with seeing and predicting the obvious have completely lost their minds.

    Impeachment or de facto removal from office only strikes presidents who are in the opposition of their historical period. Johnson was a Democrat during the Lincoln era, Nixon a Republican during the New Deal era, and Clinton a Democrat during the Reagan era.

    As is the case with all dominant party presidents, Trump enjoys his fellow dominant party controlling Congress -- which will not change with the midterms, especially the Senate where removal actually happens (2/3 majority required). So there will be no impeachment from the legislature.

    Also the case with all dominant party presidents, Trump enjoys the Supreme Court being on his side -- because the dominant party staffs the judiciary with its people, via cooperation between the executive and legislative bodies, both of which get taken over by the dominant party of an era. That's what makes it the dominant party. So the Supreme Court will serve as a second layer of protection.

    All these clueless liberal morons think that the three bodies of government are independent of each other. Wrong: they are all controlled by the dominant party, regardless of who temporarily occupies the office. All three bodies coordinate their division-of-labor tasks toward the shared goals of the dominant party that controls them.

    The only reason Trump looks like he's aware of something that most people are not, is that everyone is so fucking stupid and crazy due to their seething partisan hatred over-cooking their brain with revenge fantasies.

    It's no different than the Valerie Plame affair. Dubya was not a genius director there -- he was just another dominant party president who faced zero threat over whatever his enemies were plotting.

    Because the opposition is so weak, their only real threat is assassination of the dominant party presidents -- Lincoln, McKinley, FDR and JFK, Reagan. Even that doesn't change anything.

  9. "The only reason Trump looks like he's aware of something that most people are not, is that everyone is so fucking stupid and crazy due to their seething partisan hatred over-cooking their brain with revenge fantasies."

    Ha ha! I don't mean to imply 8D chess or something Earth shattering, it's just a feeling and I think it might have to do with the Podesta emails as well as something Sy has alluded to that he will write about in the future, but says he absolutely cannot talk about right now. An Intel thing, basically. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. In any event, it seems that some conservatives, and seemingly Trump, believe they can bank on anti-Trump Russiagate hysteria to help in the midterms and this seems extremely wrongheaded to me, but the man did beat 16 or 17 Republicans and the establishment candidate uber alles so what do I know.

    1. I believe you completely that Trump has nothing to fear and I'm not in the least concerned. It's his capital.

    2. Ugh, I've taken this too far off topic... But the GOPe refusal to change plus this mind-warping hysteria of the Russiagaters explains why they're doing this -and if you're correct with your prediction- why it might succeed.

  10. OT: corporate Republicans pretend to act tough on immigration then don't enforce the bill and/or fill them with loopholes:

  11. Drudge's top pic of McCain shows massive gayface, lol. Rictus smile showing lower row of teeth, the way preadolescent children smile (male homos as neotenous / pedomorphic, psychologically stunted in the "ewww, girls are yucky" stage of development).

    Yeah, everyone knows what a corrupt war-mongering Saudi puppet he was. But why the stern insistence on obscuring the fact that he was an obvious, barely closeted fag?

    Libs / leftists should use it to call out his hypocrisy, either for being in the closet, or for siding with the boo-hiss anti-gay party.

    Cons / rightists should use it to call out the failure of the conservative movement and party, if that is one of the most powerful leaders it produces. Nothing more conservative than getting stuffed up the butt by Lindsey Graham's AIDS-rotted winky. Jesus Christ in heaven.

    Not that it's a causal factor in how awful he / his party / his movement are, but it's a correlation that no one will overlook in the future, looking back on this period. So many degenerate homos in the top leadership of the nation, during a so-called conservative era led by the party of Reagan. What a total fucking joke.

    As far as sexual deviance goes, we had a far more normal political culture during the New Deal and Great Society era. We've devolved back to the Gilded Age / Fin de siecle zeitgeist.


    1. I'm sorry your girlfriend turned out to be CIA (Oh, God, I'm dying!!!):

      "John McCain’s legacy represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service. As an intern, I learned a lot about the power of humanity in government through his deep friendship with Sen. Kennedy. He meant so much, to so many. My prayers are with his family."

      Also, calling for investigations! Into Trump-Russia!!

      Sorry, please forgive me, I couldn't resist!


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