After 2016, nobody will or should take anything for granted, but at this point Joe Biden is strongly favored to beat Donald Trump, quite possibly by a landslide. However, Trump's party may still be in a position to inflict enormous damage on America and the world over the next few years.
For one thing, while Democrats are also favored to take control of the Senate, the odds aren't nearly as high as they are in the presidential race. Why? Because the Senate, which gives the average voter in Wyoming 70 times as much weight as the average voter in California, is a deeply unrepresentative body.
And it looks as if a president who is probably about to become a lame duck — and who lost the popular vote even in 2016 — together with a Senate that represents a minority of the American people is about to install a right-wing supermajority on the Supreme Court.
If you want a preview of how badly this can go, look at what's happening in Wisconsin.
In 2018, Wisconsin voters elected a Democratic governor. A strong majority — 53% — also voted for Democratic legislators. But given the way the state's districts are drawn, Democrats ended up with only 36 out of 99 seats in the state Assembly. And Wisconsin's elected judiciary is also dominated by Republicans.
You probably won't be surprised to hear that the Wisconsin GOP has tried to use its remaining power to undermine Gov. Tony Evers. What you may not know is that this power grab is turning lethal.
You see, Wisconsin is experiencing a frightening coronavirus surge, which looks on track to match the wave that hit Arizona in the summer. Wisconsin's Republican legislature has obstructed Evers' attempts to get control of the pandemic. And on Wednesday a Republican judge blocked an order limiting the number of people who can gather in bars and other public places.
In Wisconsin, then, a party rejected by the voters is nonetheless managing to inflict immense damage. Something similar but far worse could all too easily play out on a national level.
First of all, while Trump has very little chance of winning the popular vote, he might still eke out an Electoral College victory. If he does, it could be the end of American democracy.
A more likely outcome is that Trump loses but Republicans hold the Senate. In that case, we know exactly what will happen: fiscal sabotage on a grand scale. That is, the GOP will suddenly rediscover the evils of government debt and block every effort by a Biden administration to sustain the economy and living standards in the face of a pandemic.
And even if Democrats take both the Senate and the White House, they're now almost certain to face a 6-3 Supreme Court.
And I'd argue that the biggest threat this court will pose is to environmental policy.
Put it this way: Charles Koch is reportedly investing millions trying to get Barrett confirmed. What he's looking for, surely, is a court that will block government regulation of business — and above all a court that will hamstring a Biden administration's efforts to take action against climate change.
Sure enough, during her hearing, Barrett, asked about climate change, uttered the dreaded words, "I'm certainly not a scientist." At this point everyone knows what that means. It's not an expression of humility; it's a signal that the speaker intends to ignore the science and to oppose any attempt to avert the biggest threat facing humanity.
In other words, if a Republican-stacked Supreme Court blocks effective climate policy, it won't just be an outrage, it will be a disaster, for America and the world. So that can't be allowed to happen. Never mind all the talk about norms (which only seem to apply to Democrats, anyway). What's at stake here could be the future of civilization.
The New York Times