Will dog catch car in Tuesday voting?
That’s what a seasoned moderate Republican thinks it will look like if his party recaptures the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 2.
If it also recaptures the U.S. Senate, it will be, “Dog catches bus.”
He thinks a GOP victory in the House is likely. If he’s right – and most seasoned prognosticators think he is -- he predicts his party will demonstrate so thoroughly its inability to govern that American voters will be as eager to get the Republicans out in 2012 as they were the Democrats in 2010.
There is something of a precedent. That “Dog catches car” line was in fact the first line of a column in November of 1994, just after the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, captured the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.
It came from a moderate-conservative Democrat, a lobbyist and former legislator and gubernatorial aide. He predicted that if the rebellious Republicans indeed passed much of what they called their “Contract With America,” they would generate so much heat and animosity that they wouldn’t last too long.
That proved correct, particularly with respect to Gingrich. Although he was elected speaker of the House by his colleagues, he had to step aside after two two-year terms, at the behest of members of his own party.
This came after a showdown with then-President Bill Clinton over the budget had resulted in a shutdown of the government – for which Gingrich was blamed.
Clinton won re-election in 1996, and in early 1997, Gingrich was fined $300,000 on an ethics violation, by his Democratic and Republican colleagues, with an overwhelming vote of 395 to 28.
Republicans lost five House seats in the 1998 election, narrowly keeping a majority. Three days later, Gingrich resigned as speaker, and from the House.
Our moderate Republican thinks a similar scenario can happen again. Republican Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is likely to become speaker if the GOP reclaims the House. He calls Boehner and Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “political hacks,” who will be unable to provide the leadership necessary in a difficult time.
None other than Newt Gingrich describes the chaos likely to result if he and our Texas moderate Republican are right about their predictions of a Republican victory.
“The Republicans are going to have a fascinating challenge,” Gingrich said on National Public Radio recently. “John Boehner will probably have at least 80 and maybe 100 freshmen, counting the ones who will replace Republican retirees.
“They’re all going to be more anti-Washington. They’re all going to be more anti-spending. They’re all going to think they were elected from back home to lecture the Republican leadership on its failings,” Gingrich said.
Then comes the rub, he continued.
The new lawmakers will probably choose to vote against any new spending, and maybe some old spending. But if they do that, then the only way to fund continuing government programs is by raising the federal debt ceiling.
If they instead vote to raise the debt ceiling, they will draw the wrath of the “It’s All Bad” Tea Partiers who sent them to Washington in the first place. But if they don’t, the government once more could face shutdown.
This will be about as pretty as the meltdown likely to hit the Texas Legislature that convenes in January.
Lawmakers will try to figure out how to fill a $21 billion budget hole; decide whether and how to continue important agencies going through Sunset review – including the Texas departments of Transportation and Insurance, the Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Public Utility Commission.
Other agencies up for review include the embattled Texas Youth Commission, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Workers’ Compensation agency, and the Texas Water Development Board.
And of course, when they’re not busy trying to get into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the legislators will be drawing new districts, not just for themselves, but also for the Texas congressional delegation.
If you think the TV version of “Survivor” is brutal, just keep an eye on this.
Our Texas moderate Republican predicts that an added danger for the Republicans is that a third-party movement – possibly the Tea Party – will be viable in the 2012 election cycle.
That will divide the Republicans, he forecast, and leave running room for the Democrats – including in Texas.
A reminder: there are plenty of other political races on the ballot besides congress, governor and lieutenant governor. If you haven’t already voted, bone up on some of those down-ballot contests before you do.
You can get an on-line voter’s guide from the Texas League of Women Voters at http://www.lwvtexas. org/Voters%20Guide/2010%20GEVG_English. pdf.
Longtime Texas political columnist Dave McNeely, who retired from the Austin American-Statesman in 2004, writes a weekly column on Texas politics for three dozen Texas newspapers. With longtime Dallas journalist and author Jim Henderson, McNeely is the author of “Bob Bullock: God Bless Texas.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 458-2963.