Judd Gregg: With the midterms over, opportunity knocks

Judd Gregg: With the midterms over, opportunity knocks
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Conventional wisdom proclaims that with the Democrats taking back the House, there will be little respite for President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE.

The general view is that the Democrats will demand retribution for what they believe to be an illegitimate presidency.

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The visceral dislike of the president that has been openly advocated by lawmakers who will soon chair congressional committees, such as Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersPrivate insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won't meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony on lifting of sanctions on Russian firms MORE (D-Calif.) and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPinterest blocks all vaccine-related searches in effort to combat anti-vax content Trump’s overreach is making a weaker presidency White House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration MORE (D-Calif.), will now fuel an unrelenting pursuit of Trump and his associates using the investigative bludgeon of the House.

Impeachment proceedings have already been declared as the purpose du jour for the hard left. Its adherents will demand action from the Democratic House leadership, which must respond to the shouts of its base.

The observers have observed that the new House majority will be dead-set on inflicting fundamental damage on the president’s chances of reelection.

Everything, it is claimed, will now be about 2020.

The next election may seem a long way away but in the politics of destruction, which are now the norm in Washington, it is well within the horizon.

Some have even posited that this scenario is what the president and his most ardent political gurus want.

The Democratic House is, in their minds, a perfect foil to run against for the next two years.

The Trump base will be ignited by the House’s foul treatment of their beloved leader — or so the theory goes. Trump will have an atmosphere of confrontation and chaos, which is a milieu in which he excels.

It’s a strange view but arguably also a logical one, if you are Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonPat Caddell leaves an indelible mark on the American political landscape Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 In next election against populists, centrist forces already making mistakes MORE or any of the other miscellaneous misanthropes who populate Trump’s political orbit.

They definitely need an enemy and the House Democrats are ready, willing and able to fulfill the role.

But, what if?

Historically, there have been many positives to divided government.

It is fairly obvious that when James Madison designed our constitutional structure, he did so with the expectation that the two governing branches would often offset each other. He wanted a system where a minority could not be overwhelmed by the autocracy of a majority.

It was a republic he sought. People of varying views had to actually listen to each other or it was unlikely, due to the forces of checks and balances Madison built into the system, that anything could be accomplished.

We certainly now have divided government.

Are the views so divergent and the antipathy so deeply felt that nothing useful will get done in the legislative arena?

It does not have to be that way. In fact, it should not be that way.

Before going down the path of mutual destruction, the president and the Democratic House could pause and try to govern on one or two big issues that need resolution.

It may verge on blasphemy to suggest such an action considering that both groups seem rather comfortable with the exercise in mayhem that they are about to pursue.

But why not take the opportunity to show the nation that governance is not a dead letter?

In 2010, a bipartisan group known as Simpson-Bowles came together and wrote plans that would have put the nation on a sound fiscal footing for years. The effort was abandoned. It seemed a bridge too far at the time. It probably still is.

But one of the areas where the Democratic and Republican members agreed was on a plan to make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years. The plan affected no one on Social Security — nor even, in any significant way, anyone within 30 or so years of receiving it.

In fact, it dramatically increased the support for elderly, single women, giving them a much better opportunity at a quality lifestyle.

For Democrats, it also raised the means test; and for Republicans it raised, over a period of 60 years, the age of retirement to something much more reflective of the national increase in life expectancy.

There is no reason why the president and the Democratic Speaker could not address the looming crisis that will mean the bankruptcy of Social Security in early 2030 unless action is taken.

They could aim for a redo of the President Reagan-Speaker Tip O’Neill effort that avoided a collapse of the system in the 1980s.

The template for success is there. All that is required is for the president and the Speaker to grab it.

How refreshing would that be?

The idea that it would leave all the pundits with egg all over their faces should make it appealing to the President.

The idea that it would show Americans that there is hope of something good being done should make it appealing to the Speaker.

Before we devolve into a Kafka-like state of chaos, the president and Democratic House could seize the opportunity that this election has delivered.

It would be a refreshing touch for the nation, and one that we desperately need.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.