November Rain for Employment Policy?

5/1/20

The answer to any debate in May about the election is:  “November is a long time off.”  And amid the pandemic, a week seems so much longer.  Seven months is an eternity.

But even now, Republicans are nervous and have been heard to say the election results are going to be worse than post-Watergate.  If they mean Republicans will hold none of the federal policy making levers, they may be right.

But it took two elections, 1974 and 1976, to sweep the Republican administration out of the White House and decimate the GOP in the Congress following the Watergate scandal.  

Remember, three months after Nixon resigned was a Congressional election that saw Democratic majorities pick up 49 seats in the House and five in the Senate.  The result was an even larger advantage for the Democrats -- 291 seats in the House and 61 in the Senate.

Of course, President Carter was elected two years later, giving the Democrats the whole enchilada.  They’d picked up so many seats in ’74, there were few left to flip in the presidential year. The Dems only picked up one seat in the House and saw no net change in the Senate.

Watergate isn’t the pandemic.  Nevertheless, the wind is in the face of the Republicans as it was then and it could only take one election to put the Democrats in charge of everything.

Three months ago, Republicans had hoped to grab several of the 30 Trump districts held by Democrats.  That seemed plausible in January, running on the economy, jobs, and in some cases, impeachment.  That platform lies in ruins and Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) hold on the Speaker’s gavel is secure.

In the Senate, the Dems must sweep Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Maine to take the majority.  That seems more likely today.  Susan Collins (R-ME) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) are two of the Republicans’ best candidates and strongest campaigners.  That is, they were good campaigners before the pandemic.  During and after the pandemic, their happy warrior style of retail politics complete with parades and baby kissing won’t work.

The national polls four years ago missed the mark.  The state polls were a bit closer.  These days, President Trump is down in various polls to former Vice President Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and polls are split in North Carolina.  Those states make up the inside straight he drew four years ago to put him over the top in the electoral vote count. 

The country will be on a new path indeed if the Democrats sweep in November.  You will see real policy implications for employers especially since would-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he wants to change the Senate rules to pass legislation with 51 votes, not 60.

If that happens, you can count on new laws and regulations:
  • Mandating paid leave;
  • Expanding overtime and raising the minimum wage to $15;
  • Implementing card check, the Obama era joint-employer standard, and California-like independent contractor definitions;
  • Eliminating Right-to-Work protections for workers;
  • Ending mandatory arbitration;
  • Holding executives personally responsible for “interfering” with organizing efforts and violations of labor law;
  • Placing caps on executive pay and mandating board diversity ratios.

The above list is not intended as a partisan scare tactic.  That’s the Democrats’ stated agenda in our portfolio of issues.  

The 19th century French philosopher Joseph de Maistre said “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”  The country may be ready for a change in tone and direction.  The pandemic has made some policy makers and many citizens more open to federal government-driven solutions.  November is a long time off.