Trump’s Other Wall

More and more Republicans want to build a wall, but not the one Donald Trump has in mind. Their wall is to protect them from what they increasingly believe will be a humiliating defeat for their presidential nominee and – possibly – catastrophic losses for congressional Republicans

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has sent out a frantic call for deep pocket Republican donors to dig deeper because Trump is putting the House GOP majority in danger. 

Over in the Senate the chances are better for a Democratic takeover.

They live in justifiable fear – which the Democrats call hope – that Trump is an albatross around GOP necks and can cost them their control of Congress and many down-ticket races.

Republicans won those majorities as a result of close attention to the grass roots, focusing on elections of governors and state legislators, the folks who draw up congressional districts in most states. 

For all of Hillary Clinton's talk about working with Congress, there's little she can achieve if the Senate is still controlled by Republican Mitch McConnell (R-KY),  who isn't about to change his approach of the past eight years – block anything and everything the Democratic president wants and then blame the White House for the gridlock in Washington. 

One longtime Democrat put it best: "The R's invented congressional constipation and then blamed it on the Dems and got away with it."

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the latest in a growing number of Republicans to announce they won't vote for Trump. Bret Stephens, a Wall Street Journal editor (and former Jerusalem Post editor), called Trump "a millstone" around Republican necks.

Republicans have a 54-46 majority in the Senate, so a switch of five seats would make Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate.  (Only four would be needed if there's a Democratic vice president to break tie votes.)

The Senate is very much in play, less so the House.  Democrats need a turnover of 30 seats for a simple majority of 218. 

That's no easy task since many more Republicans than Democrats are solidly gerrymandered into safe seats. That's because the GOP has done much better job of focusing on statehouse elections, and it is the governors and legislatures that draw up most of the congressional district lines.

Democrats say they're waking up to the gerrymandering issues and launching a major coordinated campaign effort with the state parties and the Congressional campaign committees to focus on down ticket races this year and preparing for redistricting following the 2020 census.

They have a lot of catching up to do. So far they lack an effective 2020 ground game.  Democrats suffered massive losses in state legislatures, governors' offices and the Congress during the Obama years.

After Mitt Romney's devastating defeat in 2012, the GOP did an "autopsy" of the election and a major finding was the need to reach out to minorities, particularly Hispanics.   Their new standard bearer's racist attacks have energized the white supremacist underground and blasted that strategy to smithereens. The consequences could impact the crucial race for control of Congress.

The Democrats, suffering a string of losses at the congressional level during the Obama years, are a minority in the Congress and a majority in the country.  If they want to be more than the party that wins the White House every eight years or so, they need to do their own autopsy and implement the results by focusing on rebuilding their grass roots.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.