It is fast becoming conventional wisdom that the institutional Republican response to their demographic crisis will be to preserve their hold on the Senate and the courts. As the fastest growing segments of the population trend not just liberal but stridently progressive, and the most conservative parts of the country belong to the fastest dwindling ethnic and cultural identities, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the presidency even with the help of the electoral college. It will also be hard to hold onto the House of Representatives even with the help of gerrymandering, and well-nigh impossible if legislative or judicial reforms combine with new census allocations to blunt conservative structural advantages.
The Senate is another matter. It’s unlikely that the borders of states will change, or that the Constitution will be altered to fix the travesty of justice that gives Wyoming the same representation as California in the upper chamber. Democrats may perhaps give statehood and Senate representation to Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, but even this step will be unlikely to overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to prevent Republican filibusters.
So it is in the interest of Republicans in the long term to maximize the power of the Senate over all other federal institutions (at least pending some far-off political realignment that would allow Republicans to regain a credible path to majoritarian legitimacy.)
Which makes it all the more remarkable that Republicans in the Senate and across the conservative movement are willing to sell their proverbial birthright for the mess of pottage that is Donald Trump. In doing so, the GOP is trampling on Senate prerogatives to give power to a White House that will likely be controlled primarily by Democrats over the next few decades.
First, the Senate is standing pat as Trump allows “acting” members of his cabinet to govern for long periods without nodding to the Senate’s power to advise and consent. What began as a slow trickle of “acting” cabinet members has become a flood, one that Trump is now openly celebrating because it gives him imperial flexibility.