Democrats’ Revenge: Make Romney Senate Majority Leader

If Democrats win only one of the Senate seats in Georgia, where Warnock has consistently led in polling, the Senate will be split 51-49. Democrats could kneecap Mitch McConnell and infuriate the GOP by convincing Mitt Romney to serve as Senate Majority Leader.

By winning one seat in Georgia, the matter could be accomplished by persuading Romney alone. Romney would have to announce his intention to caucus with the Democrats which, combined with control of the VP slot, would give Democrats the right to select the Majority Leader. If Democrats lost both seats, one additional Senate Republican would have to cooperate. Not impossible, but less likely and less attractive.

Would Romney agree to this? I don’t know. Does he seem like someone who might be interested in becoming the most powerful man in America? Does he seem like the kind of guy who’d lose sleep over angering Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and the Proud Boys?

What’s in it for Democrats? Revenge on McConnell might sound petty, but it’s something. Already 78, with Republicans facing an impossible ’22 map, he’d almost certainly be finished, likely even facing a challenge for the minority leadership.

Beyond that, instead of the loathed McConnell the Senate would be presided over by a Majority Leader who depended on Democrats for his job. That doesn’t mean he’d give them every committee assignment they want, support every Biden appointee, or give a blank check to all of Biden’s court appointments. If he was smart, he’d use his position to carefully advance some key Republican concerns as well. He wouldn’t facilitate the core of the Democrats’ hoped-for agenda, but he would back climate legislation, and could be counted on not to allow idiotic grandstanding on government shutdowns, etc.

Having Democratic leadership of at least some Senate committees could have enormous impact on the day-to-day work of legislation, relieving much of the gridlock of the past ten years on routine matters.

If Democrats got sick of the arrangement at any point, they could fire him, turning control back over to McConnell. That might not be pleasant, but the threat could provide some leverage over Romney. Once McConnell reassumed control, he would make Romney’s life very uncomfortable, probably driving him out of politics altogether. To a very large extent, Romney would be a hostage of the Democrats.

Romney would become indisputably the most powerful man in the US. Biden, Pelosi AND the GOP would have to appease him to accomplish almost anything they want. He would decide what everyone gets in a way that no one in our government would otherwise do. If you don’t think that would appeal to Romney, you haven’t been paying attention. And he and Biden have always gotten along well.

There’s something else in it for Romney. Republicans face a murderous Senate map in 2022, with at least five of their seats at serious risk, while Democrats are risking none (unless they beat Loeffler in Georgia in January, that seat will be up in ’22). Republicans’ odds of gaining seats are as close to zero in ’22 as they can be. If Romney played this gambit skillfully, he’d be in position to run it again in the next Congress by recruiting the support of a couple of Democrats and the GOP. This might not be bad for the country, a welcome step on the road to a more parliamentary governing arrangement, requiring coalitions to assemble congressional leadership. A move like this could cut the heart out of our wave of extremism, especially on the right. Mitt Romney could become a political party unto himself.

Egos are probably the biggest reason this won’t happen. Schumer would likely rather sit locked out of influence as head of the minority than do anything that might feel like a demotion. No one in leadership in Washington in either party is known for any creativity or cunning – except McConnell. Grassroots Democrats would howl at this arrangement, as they typically have no higher a civic IQ than the average Republican. They wouldn’t understand this move at all, calling it treason rather than recognizing its benefits.

A Senate under the control of a pragmatic coalition could pave a path toward a lot of commonsense reforms, though it would certainly undermine the hopes of both the right and the left. Plunging a dagger into McConnell by replacing him with Romney could cement a period of calm, competent administration, allowing us to prepare for a final onslaught on the GOP. Maybe someone will consider it, but this will probably become just another missed opportunity.

32 Comments

  1. Jon

    How likely is it that the D’s would win only one Senate race in Georgia? It comes down to turnout. How many people that do turnout will likely vote for only one Democratic candidate, or split and vote one Democratic and one Republican? More than likely, those committed enough to turn out for a special election will vote straight D.

    Its a given that any Republican that turns out will vote straight R ticket.

    So either Stacey Abrams gets out the vote one more time and Georgia elects Warnock and Ossoff, giving the D’s 50 seats and the tie-breaker, or the TEA party types show up and install Loeffler and Perdue, giving McConnell his majority regardless of Romney.

  2. Part of me dearly wishes this was realistic, but this is pure fantasy – and not just because Dems are neither smart nor politically bloodthirsty enough to pull it off.

    For the moment, let’s say it happened and Romney did become Majority Leader. What’s he going to preside over? A few key appointments, some judges and maybe a Supreme Court nomination. That’s it, nothing else; because there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades that Republicans would *ever* break cloture on anything that a perceived traitor was trying to pass. McConnell would make his life a living hell every time he tried.

    And no, the filibuster isn’t going anywhere in this scenario. Not so much as a 1% chance of it.

    Furthermore, Romney himself would likely be aware of this if he ever entertained the idea. Why endure so much pain and misery for so little reward? Unless the elder statesman has an as-of-yet-unknown penchant for masochism, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t.

    All of this, of course, is a moot point as Dems, as Rick Wilson so aptly likes to point out, are holistically bad at politics. Without Trump as a unifying force, naturally they’re reverting to form and tearing themselves apart over getting their asses handed to them down the ballot.

    Bravo, Democrats. If I were a Republican, you’d have my daily thanks for making winning look so easy.

    And while we’re at it, let’s set the record straight on the Senate map for ’22. Democrats aren’t quite going headed for a bloodbath (that comes 2 years later in ’24), but it’s close enough:

    – Incumbent NH Governor Sununu has all but announced that he’s running against Sen. Hassan. For a 1st-term incumbent running against a fantastically popular governor in a midterm where he party’s on the ballot – if she’s not sweating bullets right now, she damn well should be. Her political head’s likely the 1st to roll.

    – Mark Kelly (AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Michael Bennet (CO) are *all* in trouble rn. All their races were roughly mid single-digit wins in a presidential year – cold comfort for the headwinds they’ll face in ’22. Unless Democrats get their voters out in a damn serious way, every single one could fall. I’d at least expect 2 of them to go down.

    – And as for offensive opportunities? Democrats have precisely 1 good one in Pennsylvania *if* a solid candidate like Conor Lamb runs. Otherwise, all they face are uphill battles in unfriendly turf like Wisconsin, N. Carolina and Florida in a midterm year. Competitive? Yes. Prime opportunities? That’s what we thought heading into 2016 too, and how’d that work out?

    Let’s not kid ourselves here. Democrats had precisely 1 real opportunity for a solid Senate majority left (with which to enact real, lasting reform), and they just shit it away this past Tuesday. There are no good opportunities for the foreseeable future. We’re staring down the barrel of Republicans maintaining control of the upper chamber forever, and if you don’t see that, then you’ve got a hefty amount of despair coming your way when you finally do.

    1. And for good measure, let’s game out the long-term scenario here, shall we? With permanent Senate control, a 9-0 Supreme Court and full, unshakeable control over the federal judiciary isn’t just a possibility, it’s an inevitability. If Democrats think Roe vs Wade being overturned is the worst of all possible worlds, they’d best wake up.

      All that can realistically be achieved here is holding onto some small smidgen of power (either through control of the House or the presidency) and temporarily putting a halt to Republicans lavishing their donors with more tax cuts and cuts to the social safety net. Annoying? Yes. A genuine threat to their control? Oh you sweet summer child.

      What all this leads to is, of course, a small aggrieved minority comprising 30% of the population holding unbreakable veto power, if not outright control, over the remaining 70% (which, let’s remember, make up the overwhelming bulk of economic power and contribute the most) in a *horrifically* unbalanced, unrepresentative system. This is not a recipe for a country that can ever hope to hold itself together over the long-term. This disparity will eventually force a break and otherwise Democratic states are going to have to decide between political slavery or secession.

      On that cheerful note, the only states I see needing to go first are California and New York. Taking their collective economic heft out of the American economy all at once would throw the rest of the country into a Depression virtually overnight. Other blue states will follow afterwards because they have no choice.

      With all that said, if anyone has insight into the veritable miracle it’d take to turn this scenario around, I’m all ears.

      1. The experiment is over. It has failed. But the likely split, as I have stated before, is the 3 Pacific states seceding as a bloc, and a North-East Bloc forming, led by New York. But of course, there would be war long before those states were allowed to leave.

        The simpler answer, with far less bloodshed, is one I keep proposing, but people are horrified at. What is worse, the death of a couple demonstrably evil people, or the mayhem that ensues over the next 4, 6, 10 years? And don’t say,”That is not how our system, or any civilized system, works”. It has been proven that the american system DOES NOT work.

        And BTW, this is far from over. SCOTUS WILL have input.

        Chris’ idea is the best option. I watched Romney on CNN today. He said some of the correct words, but clearly, he is still far far right of any Democrat agenda, and would curtail so much of the loser party’s plans. But it is better than the alternative with the monster from kentuckystan running the show.

  3. Romney is not as much of a conservative as he seems; he did bring subsidized health insurance to MA before any other state and ultimately made the ACA possible. Unfortunately, now we will be in as bad a place as anyone else if SCOTUS strikes it down.

    That being said, he will stick with his party, probably hoping to salvage what he can from the wreckage.

    1. See my comment below…

      Oh you’re in Mass. I’m proud of my hometown for not only switching from Trump-2016 to Biden-2020, but also voting Question 2 (ranked choice voting) by a bigger majority than either Biden or Markey. Pity the state didn’t pass it.

  4. On soul-selling…

    I don’t know how many of you here were old enough to be paying attention to the 1980 primaries. I very much remember, as an 10/11-year-old, George Bush coining the phrase “Voodoo Economics”, being pro-or-at-least-not-anti-ERA, and pro-or-at-least-not-anti-abortion. 8 years later he’s putting Dan Quayle in the VP slot, and 12 years later he has to let Pat Buchanan speak at the RNC.

    I see Mitt following that same trajectory, and I voted for him as Governor fercryingoutloud. I just can’t see him doing this.

  5. I don’t trust Romney. I don’t trust any Republicans in general anymore, “Never Trump” or otherwise. Just look at The Lincoln Project. It was a massive grift that failed to do any of what they said they were going to do. As this week has rolled on, it’s become clearer and clearer that this was by design. One of their senior advisers admitted that they never expected any Republicans to help beat Trump:

    https://twitter.com/JordanUhl/status/1324023897801543680?s=20

    All they did was post ads in places that were safe for Biden. And even then, their ads mainly focused on the stuff that everyone already knew about Trump. They didn’t focus on the actual campaign issues, which seemed to have been the real deciding factors. Now they’re starting up a media business with all the money they grifted. The Lincoln Project is all about reforming the image of the GOP, and not the GOP itself.

    So no. Romney, the Project, nor anybody else who’s working for them or is a Republican is to be trusted. The Dems of both center-left and farther left are going to need to start building out proactive and reactive responses to whatever garbage TLP is set to make with its media business that it’s setting up off the backs of all that donation money:

    https://www.axios.com/scoop-the-lincoln-project-is-becoming-a-media-business-f366aea2-d730-4ad3-a601-e8380ebf96e8.html

    1. “ Just look at The Lincoln Project. It was a massive grift that failed to do any of what they said they were going to do. “

      PA was just called and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the next President and Vice President. That was their top goal and it has been achieved. Obviously it’s not anywhere near all their doing, but every bit helped here. They were not as successful with the Senate races, but you can’t say they didn’t try, and there are 2 left. People like Rubio and DeSantis will be in their electoral crosshairs in 2022.

      1. >] “People like Rubio and DeSantis will be in their electoral crosshairs in 2022.

        I’ll plant this flag down right now. Rubio and DeSantis will both be reelected in ’22, and by bigger margins they did in ’16 and ’18, respectively.

  6. I think it’s a great idea, and Romney is much more moderate than McConnell (pro-choice, pro-gun control, moderate governor of MA before he sold his soul for a chance at the Presidency). But it won’t happen, because it doesn’t make sense for Romney.

    Romney’s seat in Utah is dependent on staying Republican. He might win as a Democrat, but it will be a much bigger battle. Don’t think Republicans won’t run someone against him if he does this. And the experience of guys like Arlen Specter (who switched to Dem in PA, and still lost his seat because Dems still thought of him as a Republican and Republicans thought of him as a traitor). Why would Romney risk his Presidential ambitions by essentially guaranteeing that he’s a 1-term Senator with this move?

    Second, it’s lonely being your own party. Despite his opposition to Trump, I’m sure he counts most of the Republican Senators as his personal friends. That will change if he switches sides. And as much as Dems may appreciate him helping out their agenda, they’ll never view him as one of his own. Humans are social animals. Living and working in DC as a lone wolf, cast out of both groups, is a hard life.

    Third, he could accomplish just as much while staying a Republican. Remember the Gang of 7 during Obama’s term? As a moderate Republican, he can easily cut deals with the Dems to advance various proposals, and become a critical dealmaker without losing the safe confines of the Republican party. In a divided Senate, he can become the most powerful Senator regardless of whether he’s Majority Leader or not.

    Far more intriguing is if the Dems can finally convince Susan Collins to switch. Not sure how many more elections she plans on running in (she’ll be 74 at the time of her next election), but if she wants to continue, she could basically cruise to victory essentially unopposed if she switches to Dem. And if she’s the one that helps the Dems get to majority control, she can basically ask for anything she wants (including probably Majority Leader). It’s gotta be bruising to run for her seat every 6 years in an increasingly Democratic, partisan state. Ironically, if this is her last hurrah anyway, and has no ambitions to higher office like Romney, then offering her Majority Leader might be a great cap to her career before she retires with the hallowed glow of being a true bipartisan leader.

    Contrary to discouraged commenters thinking the Dems would never think of something as brilliant as this, they’ve actually done this before. Think Jim Jeffords. That altered the balance of power, and all he asked for was a chairmanship, not the leader’s role. But, IMHO, Harry Reid was a far better party leader than Chuck Schumer, and I’m not sure Schumer’s ego will allow him to pull something like this, unless it’s someone like Collins who might be happy with a committee gavel rather than Majority Leader.

    But first things first. We have to get to 49/50 🙂 And I’m sure people are already thinking of what they could do if/when they hit that milestone.

    1. He’ll still be officially a Republican, which is as much a Republican as he was when he won his seat. He’s an institution unto himself in Utah. He could run and win as a Communist Homosexual and he knows it. He’a already a hated outcast in the GOP, a guy who has to be careful what neighborhood he walks into outside Utah. You won’t see him wandering around outdoors in Alabama.

      What makes him attractive isn’t just that he’s isolated from his party. Unlike Collins, he’s an extremely savvy political operator, probably second only to McConnell in Washington on that count. The fact that he’s still in politics at all after his winding road from pro-choice Governor to Republican Presidential nominee is a testament to his skill. And this kind of a role would demand extraordinary political skills just to sustain it for a day.

      Collins is a cork bobbing on the tide. She has never displayed a moment of cunning or calculation beyond just sticking her finger in the wind. She’s not calculating, she’s just weak. That won’t work.

      This was done in Texas. It’s the reason the state was able to plod along for a few years without going completely bonkers (like it has now). I wish they’d try.

  7. I’m afraid I am going to have to disagree with you on this one, Chris. Romney is cut from the same mold as all the other Congressional Republicans. He’s just fascism with a friendlier face, and exactly the kind of guy who’d be a more competent replacement for Trump.

    It’s a nice fantasy to believe that there are still Rockefeller Republicans like his father still kicking, but their days are numbered if they even still exist at all within the GOP. And even if there were, there’s no way that Democratic leadership is smart enough to pursue big brain tactics like what you describe.

    Regardless of how the next few years unfold, the Republican Party needs to die and two new parties emerge from within the Democratic Superparty. I’ll wait for a more relevant topic for me to lay out that vision.

    More importantly, I’m thinking about something you mentioned a fairly long time ago. I don’t remember your exact words, but you mentioned friction forming from the welding of the anti-New Deal hypercapitalists and the white supremacist Evangelical Dixiecrats that make up the GOP as it is today.

    I think we’re starting to see that within the GOP. Florida voters approving the minimum wage hike is one sign, as was described here. As was Missouri’s earlier rejection of Right to Work.

    Today, I read this op-ed about Congressional Republicans taking interest in Trump’s economic populism: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/06/democrats-republicans-working-class-party-election

    While the party ultimately has continued with its agenda of tax cuts for the rich and allowing big business to do as it pleases, that might change in the future. I remember a year or two ago when Marco Rubio and Tucker Carlson started criticizing the capitalist system directly (albeit they were brief moments).

    Bottom line: We might see a fracture in the GOP over economic policy soon.

    1. What would you rather have?

      a. A friendly fascist who “might” cut deals with you, and give you some modicum of control over the Senate.
      b. The monster from kentuckystan who will block each and every bit of legislation a 51-49 fascist Senate can.

      But ultimately, it is a pipe dream. Chris has detailed why the loser party will continue to be losers, and though the upside for Romney is immense, the risk is so much higher. Ignoring the political risks, he would most certainly be targeted for assassination by the death cult.

    1. “Romney is a vulture capitalist.”

      Yes, but so what? You can’t ask for purity in politicians. Or there would be no one left. FWIW, my opposition to Trump was based on his policies and his competence at running a government. Frankly, I don’t care that he paid a porn star for sex while his 3rd wife was pregnant with his child. You have to distinguish someone’s personal life from their fitness for the job.

      This whole search for someone who’s so morally pure that they have no character flaws while still having such pathological egos / ambition / lust for power that they’re willing to wade into politics, is a contradictory wish.

      Would I vote for Romney for President? No. But when you’re trying to recruit someone from other other party, you can’t be too choosy. Who else among the 50 GOP Senators voted to impeach Trump? Or have consistently opposed at least a few of his policies? And is in a relatively safe seat so that he doesn’t lose his next election if he does this?

      The truth is, there’s probably no one else (Aside from Susan Collins as I mention above), who could possibly entertain this idea. If you write him off just because he used to be a private equity guy, then the Dems will have to be content with sitting in the minority for this session.

  8. An extremely intriguing, enticing proposition! But, as you point out, its chances are as close to zero as it’s possible to get under our system, especially in today’s atmosphere. Besides Romney, what GOP Senator might support this? Maybe the freshly re-elected Susan Collins, but Trump remains head of the Party, so probably no one else would dare offend him. And then, there’s Schumer!

  9. I absolutely would support this, because I am a pragmatist. You have to set your priorities and pick your battles, and given the election results, there is nothing stupider than choosing to die on the hill of ideological purity.

    As for the filibuster, time to nuke it if the other GOPers obstruct.

    But first, go for those GA seats. Also Alaska isn’t done yet.

    1. This is all fantasy. One, Romney is a conservative Republican. He is going to choose his party over the Democrats (example – he agreed with voting on ACB before the election) and he surely is not going to kneecap McConnell.

      As for the 2022 Senate elections, Mark Kelly (AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), and Maggie Hassan (NV) are all up for re-election. Masto and Hassan are in light blue states and Kelly is in a state that is purple. Mid-year elections are almost always favorable to the party that does not hold the presidency. These three senators could easily lose.

      1. Chose his party? Most of his party, including about 40 of its Senators, will want to kill him for this.

        What happens if he “chooses his party” just a little bit too much? Democrats can remove him, letting McConnell resume the Majority position. What would happen to Mitt Romney after this gambit failed?

        Leverage wins.

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