Okay, we’re calling it. As of this moment, it is virtually guaranteed that Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States. She has an almost insurmountable delegate lead over her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders, and even if she should lose every remaining primary and caucus, the Dems’ lack of winner-take-all states makes the chances of Bernie overtaking her in pledged delegates vanishingly slim.
And then, of course, there’s the ongoing disaster that is the Republican primary race. The elephants basically have three choices right now: run with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket and lose; deny Trump, the highest vote-getter by far, the nomination at a contested convention, run somebody else and lose (with The Donald mounting a third-party bid) or break the GOP in half by supporting a “moderate” third-party candidate and lose. There are seriously no other options, and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying sufficiently close attention.
And now that we’ve got that settled, we can focus on the more interesting question. Namely, what does a Clinton victory look like, and how will it affect the other races on the ballot, both in Virginia and nationwide? If the Republicans completely surrender to Trump (a distinct possibility) and offer only token resistance before giving him the keys to the Grand Old Party, the result could be a wave election that upends the balance of power both in the U.S. Senate (already a likelihood) and the U.S. House of Representatives (until recently an unthinkable turn of events). If, on the other hand, the Republican establishment explicitly rejects Trump, and allows vulnerable Congress-critters to run against him, they might still salvage their majorities in both chambers.
But it sure ain’t gonna be easy. And making things tougher is the fact that, with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, conservatives have lost an important bulwark in their fight for electoral dominance. This became exceedingly clear last week during oral arguments in Wittman v. Personhuballah, the Supreme Court case focused on whether Virginia’s 3rd District was drawn by the Republican majority in 2012 to dilute the black vote in surrounding districts.
The answer is yes, without a doubt. But with Scalia on the court this case could have gone either way. Without him, the balance of power has shifted, and it appears likely that the court will either deadlock on the issue—which would mean the district court ruling that found this “racial gerrymandering” unconstitutional would stand—or even muster a 5-3 vote against the practice.
The practical effects of this ruling will mean that Representative Bobby Scott, currently the only black congressman from Virginia, will probably be joined by another Democrat on Capitol Hill, and Republicans will find their sizable majority decreased by two.
Now, considering that the donkeys need to flip a total of 30 seats to retake the House, one might not seem like that big a deal. But with all of the stars seeming to align against the elephants heading into the general election, it’s small defeats like this that could build into a tsunami of electoral misery.
And trust us: Every step Donald Trump takes toward securing the Republican nomination is one more step toward President Clinton beginning her term with both houses of Congress firmly under Democratic control.
Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.