Sen. Jim Risch can talk about politics for about as long as anyone cares to listen, but don’t expect long conversations about his race against his Democratic challenger, former state Rep. Paulette Jordan.
“My race is what it is,” he says. “You have a conservative Republican running in the most conservative state in America versus a liberal Democrat. If people want to change Idaho, it’s simple to cast a vote in this race.”
Memo to Jordan: Don’t expect Risch to answer your challenge to have four debates.
Risch’s mind is more focused on the national scene and, especially, what’s at stake in the Senate if Democrats flip four seats and become the majority party. It would not be a pretty picture for Republicans. For one thing, Risch would lose his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He could still have the president’s ear if Donald Trump wins re-election, but clout vanishes with a Joe Biden victory.
The effects of a Democratic takeover go beyond what would happen to Risch. Democrats have talked about ending the filibuster rule in the Senate, which would mean that laws could pass by a simple majority opposed to two-thirds. The biggest nightmare for Republicans: a Biden victory, Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and the end of filibusters.
“The first thing they would do is add Washington, D.C., as a state, which gives them two more Democrat senators,” Risch says. “They would try to add Puerto Rico as a state, but I think that’s a heavier lift because of the financial conditions. If they did add Puerto Rico, that would give Democrats two more seats and put the Senate out of reach for Republicans for a long time.”
Adding two more states would be stunningly simple, according to Risch. “I had always thought it would take a constitutional amendment to add a state, but it does not. It takes a winning vote in each house.”
And, of course, there’s the additional leverage on the Supreme Court.
Are you scared out of your wits, Republicans? Are you putting champagne bottles on ice, Democrats? But wait — there’s more. For example, Risch says, say goodbye to the tax cuts from three years ago and hello to more regulations. Dems will get rid of secret ballots in union elections, which Risch describes as the “Holy Grail” of their agenda. Also, look for Dems to push for labor disputes to be decided by arbitrators, opposed to mediators.
“That’s a different country from what we have today,” Risch says.
“The second Holy Grail for Democrats is they really want to get an ad valorem tax on property at the national level. That way, they could really distribute wealth. They could tax not just your income, but your land, your stocks, your bonds, your cash in the bank, real estate holdings and every other investment. They can truly do a redistribution and take it out of the hands of the capitalists. That’s what would happen with a Biden win and a flip of the Senate.”
As Democrats view it, of course, four more years of Trump would be — for starters — more chaos and drama in the White House, more controversial tweets and never-ending clashes with the media.
“He’s a unique person, but he also has been successful,” Risch says. “He took an economy that was in awful shape and to a place that nobody alive has seen — the lowest unemployment, close to record high for African Americans and other minorities. He had a record wage and salary growth, not at the top end, but at the bottom end of the scale. He has the unique sense of understanding about the economy that I haven’t seen in a president, and he has been right.”
Risch, as with other Republicans, will argue that Trump gives the nation a better shot at economic recovery. Don’t expect any personality transformation with four more years of Trump. “He is who he is,” Risch says.
Then, with a smile and slap on the table, he said, “You guys in the media complain about politicians never saying what’s on their mind. Well, they’ve got one now and they hate it.”
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.