Much will be made of the 2012 gerrymandering scandal—which saw the Republicans comfortably retain control of the House of Representatives even though Democratic candidates collectively received more votes. Is this small-d democracy? shrill voices will cry. But cooler heads will prevail. Turn every district into a swing district and the House would be dangerously destabilized, they will argue. There would be no senior leadership. We would drive off the legislative giants who are elected when young and then accrue power unchallenged for the next 24 years. Sizable majorities in both parties will be persuaded.
Plutocrats who squandered tens of millions of dollars trying to buy the defeat of Barack Obama and every Democrat running for Congress will wonder if forming and financing super PACs is a complete waste of money. Consternation and self-pity will run amok until cooler heads prevail. We can still buy elections in America, they’ll assure themselves. We just have to find a smarter way to do it. One of the more effective ways they'll come up with will be hiring Democratic consultants who tell themselves there’s nothing hypocritical about profiting from a more level playing field.
As dysfunction—as in Washington dysfunction—attains word-of-the-year status in the plebeian press it becomes passé inside the Beltway. It’ll soon be succeeded as a diagnostic catch phrase by something on the order of rational irrational—that is, a logical impossibility (like the square root of -1) that exists anyway because we need it to. In this case the rational irrational will be the reconciliation of irreconcilable political positions—a paradox driven by the collective recognition in Washington that everyone's dead meat if the country goes completely down the toilet. The perfidious word compromise will never be uttered, and the Tea Party—on guard against compromise—won’t know what hit it.
The 2016 election will be hard-fought and unimaginably coarse and expensive, but only because it's the most important election of our lifetimes. The living will envy the dead.