Did you ever wonder why American government officials and wannabe officials often seem to have a different sense of urgency? It is because we operate on several different political clocks. I’d like to explore the major ones in play today.
First there is the 2022 clock. Every seat in the House of Representatives and in reality the control of the chamber going forward is at stake in November. We are already into primary season, which in gerrymandered districts are often the real election. It will be difficult, but not impossible, for the Democrats to retain control of the chamber next year. Those running for reelection, (which most are), are often more concerned with voters’ near term reaction than doing what is right for America.
The same is true of the Senate but to a lesser degree in that only one-third of the seats are up and, despite what many pundits are saying, I think the Democrats’ chances of retaining control are better, albeit far from a sure thing. Both chambers are equally crucial for legislation but the Senate is more crucial in that it alone confirms presidential nominations.
The Democrats need to keep control of the House to keep the January 6th Committee alive past the new year. So, they have an only slightly different clock that is dependent on the first one. Much of Trump’s strategy is based on the assumption that the Committee will be disbanded in January of 2023 by a Republican controlled House. By that thinking the only clock they have to run out is one ending when this Congress takes its Christmas Break.
American political lore has it that not much substantive legislation takes place in the even numbered (for the House election) years. If you want to kill a pending bill all you have to do at this point is bottle it up in committee for a few more months. Keep in mind that Congress will be out of session about half the time between now and Election Day 2022 anyway.
Joe Biden, like any president in his first term, has a much different personal political clock than congressional members of his own party. His next election is in November of 2024 and the “season” doesn’t really start until after Thanksgiving of 2022 at the very earliest. This is one of the, in my opinion, bad quirks of a non-parliamentary system of representative democracy. The chief executive’s fate is not as closely tied to that of his party’s in the legislative branch. For Biden the 2022 elections are very important; for many members of his party, they are the whole ballgame.
Today we cannot look at these various clocks without thinking of their impact on Donald Trump’s strategy. As previously stated Trump is hoping to run out the clock on the January 6th Committee in short order. There is another factor to consider which has the longest clock. One that expires at noon on January 20, 2025 at the earliest. That is the Justice Department’s clock. Trump appears to be poised to make another run at the White House which among other things would give him immunity against prosecution for his time in office. (I have a lot to say about that but will save it for another time.) Even if the Democrats lose control of both chambers in the new year and they lose the White House in 2024 they still control Justice until the next inauguration.
No matter what clock you want to look at the only thing that counts is if the American electorate turns their clock to Democracy Saving Time.
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