Monthly Archives: July 2019

Can the Democrats Take Back the Senate Next Year?

For all the talk about whether the Democrats can beat Trump in next year’s presidential election, it needs to be remembered that the congressional elections are just as important.  Back in 2016, when it looked as if Hillary Clinton was going to win the White House, it also looked as if the Democrats could get back their majority in the Senate.  That year, largely because of partisan gerrymandering of the districts, winning the majority in the House was a lost cause for the Democrats.  Somehow, though, two years later in 2018, the Democrats did manage to flip the House, even while the Republicans held onto their majority in the Senate.

In next year’s elections, which many on both sides (or maybe I should say many all across the spectrum) consider to be a battle for the nation’s soul, there are a number of closely watched races.  One-third of the Senate (that is, 33 or 34 seats) must come up for election every two years, but there are some seats where it’s well known that the incumbent, either a Democrat or a Republican, will be secure.  The closely watched races are the ones where both parties have something of a chance.

With that in mind, please take a look at this article from the Washington Post, dated July 12, 2019, reposted by MSN.  Note that in their top ten list of Senate seats likely to change parties, number one is Doug Jones’s seat in Alabama.  Back in 2014, Doug Jones, the Democrat, would not have stood a chance of winning a statewide election in that conservative Deep South state if he had not been up against Roy Moore, a Christian Right fanatic who, at the time, was being accused of having done some less-than-Christian things to young girls back in his younger days.  And even then, the vote was close.

It needs to be remembered that the ideological future of the Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary in general, is at stake.  Which party controls the White House will determine which federal judges get nominated, and which party has a majority in the Senate will determine which federal judges can get confirmed.  Liberals, therefore, care just as much about seeing the Democrats retake the majority in the Senate as they do about who wins the presidential election.  And, I would say, a lot is riding on how voters will feel personally about Donald Trump next year–and that’s anybody’s guess.


UPDATE: Victory for Trump in the Emoluments Case

When a case gets appealed from a federal district court to a circuit court of appeals, the usual procedure is for three of the circuit’s nine judges, drawn at random, to hear the case.   Which judges come up is literally the luck of the draw.  For the parties who were suing Trump for violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, it was very bad luck.

At issue is the fact that many foreign heads of state and other notables, when they visit Washington, stay in Trump’s own hotel.  From the point of view of critics, this is a violation of the clause in the Constitution that says that the president and other officials cannot take gifts or “emoluments” from foreign leaders without the permission of Congress.  The parties bringing the suit were the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, claiming (for standing to sue) that Trump’s hotel was competing unfairly with other hotels in both Washington and Maryland.  In the earlier stage, Maryland also tried to claim that it might not have ratified the Constitution without the assurance of that clause.

Early article on the suit in Politico, June 12, 2017

At the district court level, things were looking pretty good for the plaintiffs as of July of 2018 (article in Politico, July 25, 2018).  But when the case was about to move into discovery (which would have involved Trump’s hotel having to turn over a lot of its records to the plaintiffs for evidence), Trump appealed to the 4th Circuit.  Now came the lottery, and the three judges who were picked were quite decisively sympathetic to Trump’s side.  This was evident back in March when the court heard the arguments (Politico article, March 19, 2019), and now the circuit court has ruled that the plaintiffs don’t have a standing to sue, and the case can’t go forward  (new Politico article, July 10, 2019).

Trump has actually faced quite a number of battles in the federal courts, an example of checks and balances in action.  And in those cases, he wins some and he loses some.  He has won this case.