It's 23 days until this sordid campaign finally ends. Polls currently suggest that (a) Hillary Clinton will become president, (b) Democrats will regain control of the Senate, and (c) Republicans will maintain control of the House. Let's assume that's how things turn out. What happens next? A few things:

  • The Republican Party will completely disown and repudiate Donald Trump.
  • Mitch McConnell will be a nonentity. He doesn't pretend to be a national leader, especially if he's in the minority, and he's shown pretty often that he's willing to do deals in a fairly conventional way. He's a caucus manager, not a visionary.
  • With few other choices around, Paul Ryan becomes the undisputed leader of the Republican Party.
  • After the election Republicans will do their usual "autopsy," and it will say the usual thing: Demographic trends are working against them, and they have to reach out to non-white, non-male voters if they don't want to fade slowly into irrelevance. In the last 25 years, they've won two presidential elections by the barest hair's breadth and lost the other five—and this is only going to get worse in the future.
  • Hillary Clinton will remain the pragmatic dealmaker she is. And despite the current bucketloads of anti-Hillary red meat that Republicans are tossing around right now, most of them trust her to deal honestly when it comes to political bargains.

This means that the next four years depend entirely on Paul Ryan. So what will he do? I maintain that this is a very open, very interesting question.

I've gotten some pushback lately for a couple of posts where I've gone soft on Ryan. But here's the thing: when it comes to Ryan's budget policies, I have nothing but contempt for him. Here's a typical post of mine from a few years ago, and there are plenty more just like it. But it's foolish to insist that simply because someone disagrees with my politics they're either stupid or irredeemably evil. Ryan is neither.

So what will Ryan do? One possibility, of course, is that he'll take the simplest route: endless obstruction, just like 2009. Republicans may be a divided party, but one thing they all agree on is that they hate Hillary Clinton and they want to prevent her from doing anything.

But there's another possibility. Ryan is not a racial fearmonger. He's always been open to immigration reform. He's consistently shown genuine disgust for Donald Trump. He's been open to making low-key deals in the past. He's smart enough to know precisely the depth of the demographic hole Republicans are in. And despite being conservative himself, he may well realize that the GOP simply can't stay in thrall to the tea party caucus forever if it wants to survive. On a personal level, he saw what they did to John Boehner, and he may well be sick and tired of them himself.

It's also possible that he wants to run for president in 2020, and if that's the case he'll do better if he has some real accomplishments to show over the next four years. Running on a platform of scorched-earth obstruction might get the tea partiers excited, but that's not enough to win the presidency.

So maybe Ryan decides that now is the time to try to reform the Republican Party. Once he wins the speakership again, he makes clear to the tea partiers that they're finished as power brokers: he's going to pass bills even if it means depending on Democratic support to do it. He reaches out to women and minorities. He passes immigration reform. He makes sure that budgets get passed and we don't default on the national debt. He works behind the scenes with Hillary Clinton in standard horsetrading mode: she gets some things she wants, but only in return for some things conservatives want.

This could go a long way toward making him the next president of the United States. If he plays his cards right, Clinton might suffer with her base for selling them out on some of the deals she makes. Ryan will get the tea partiers under control and have some accomplishments to run on. He'll soften the nonwhite disgust with the party enough to pick up some minority votes. Maybe the economy helps him out by going soft in 2019. And he's already got good looks, youth, and an agreeable speaking style going for him.

So which Paul Ryan will we get in 2017? The movement conservative who breathes fire and insists that Hillary Clinton will never get one red cent for any of her satanic priorities? Or a conservative but realistic leader who's willing to make deals as a way of bringing the Republican Party back from the brink of destruction that Donald Trump has led them to?

If it's the latter, this presents liberals with a real quandary: just what are they willing to give Ryan in return for passage of some of their priorities? That's worth some thought just in case Ryan decides to take the smart route.

Did prime-age men leave the labor force in huge numbers during the Great Recession and then never come back? One way to test this is to look at the trend from 1976-2007 and then extend the line to 2016. If it matches the actual data from 2016, then nothing special happened. The labor market just kept following the same long-term trend as always. Via Brad DeLong, the chart on the right shows what this looks like.

For most age groups, the extended trendline matches the 2016 data. Nothing special happened during the Great Recession and the recovery. There are two exceptions: the blue line and the purple line, which are for men aged 25-34. In that age group, men left the labor force in big numbers during the recession and then stayed out. But why did they stay out? Gabriel Chodorow-Reich has some data to share:

The plurality of the decline in participation is due to increased schooling. This seems benign. The increase in those reporting disability is less so. Using 2000 as a benchmark, the transition rates back into employment for this group also seem more elastic to a tighter labor market, which is consistent with other evidence.

I'm not sure the increase in schooling is all that benign. If it's real, that's fine. But to the extent that it reflects young men hanging out in school merely because they can't find a job, it's not so fine. If that represents half the school total, then we have about half a percent of young men in school waiting for a job to come along; another half percent who want a job and can't find one; and nearly a full percent who are—or claim to be—disabled. All by themselves, those add up to two full points of non-recovery from the Great Recession.

But why only young men, and not any age group over 35, all of whom have recovered to trend levels? The answer is almost certainly not, "Because millennials are treated like crap, you idiot. What do you expect?" But what is the answer? It is a mystery.

Here is Donald Trump today in Maine talking about Hillary Clinton:

She wants 550 percent more coming from Syria than the thousands and thousands that our president, quote "president," has coming in.

Charming, isn't it? And if Obama isn't a legitimate president, then Clinton won't be either. Here is Trump in New Hampshire this morning:

Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency—and the media, donors, special interests who support her will do everything they can to cling to their power and their prestige at your expense. You know it, I know it, they know it....Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted, and she should, right now, be in jail.

....It looks to me like a rigged election. The election is being rigged by corrupt people pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president....We can't let them get away with this, folks....Remember this, it's a rigged election....It's a rigged election...It's a rigged election.

Trump has been spinning up his supporters for weeks about this. If Clinton wins, she'll be an illegitimate president. The election will be a sham. If the corrupt elites declare her the winner, don't accept it. Fight back. In a sense, this is just standard Trump bluster. But it's worse than that: this is banana republic talk, and with 24 days left in the campaign, Paul Ryan finally repudiated it:

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a rebuke of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump Saturday, criticizing comments that question the validity of the electoral process.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the highest-ranking elected Republican said Ryan is “fully confident” in the nation’s elections system. It comes on the heels of Trump’s claims that the election is “rigged” against him by “globalist elites,” elements of the federal government, and the press. “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” said Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong.

This is a little late, but it's still welcome.

Barack Obama is, by far, the most climate-friendly president ever. Granted, the competition isn't fierce, and he failed in his signature effort to pass a carbon tax, but he's still done fairly well:

  • He doubled CAFE standards.
  • He played an instrumental role at both the Copenhagen and Paris climate negotiations.
  • He forged an agreement with China to cut greenhouse gases and ratify the Paris agreement.
  • He pushed the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. All that's left is for the Supreme Court to let it go into effect.
  • Via the stimulus bill and in other ways, he has funded a big increase in solar power.

And now he's added one more big achievement to his list. On Friday the world agreed to a legally-binding treaty to phase out and eliminate hydrofluorocarbons in air conditioners:

The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.

....HFCs are just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they function as a sort of supercharged greenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.

....The Kigali deal includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, trade sanctions to punish scofflaws, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to the costlier replacement products. So, narrow as it is, the new accord may be more likely to yield climate-shielding actions by industry and governments, negotiators say. And given the heat-trapping power of HFCs, scientists say that the Kigali accord will stave off an increase of atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.

Bottom line: this agreement may do as much for climate change as the Paris agreement that became effective last week. The phase-in dates for eliminating HFCs vary by country, but once the market starts supplying air conditioners using other refrigerants, it's likely that even hot, poor countries like India and Pakistan may beat their targets. And the United States and other developed countries have agreed to fund R&D into new refrigerants and to provide financial support to poorer countries for the changeover.

Bit by bit, the world is finally taking climate change seriously, even if the Republican Party isn't. Greenhouse gas reductions may not be happening as fast as they need to, but they're happening.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States:

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Anthony Gilberthorpe, former Gloucestershire county councillor and party activist:

1987: Announced his engagement in the Times to Miss Leah Bergdorf-Hunt. "But there was no engagement, and indeed no Miss Bergdorf-Hunt. As revealed in [Private Eye] 690, the whole thing was a fantasy."

1988: Sued three newspapers over a story that the reporter said came from Gilberthorpe himself. "The three newspapers appealed, and dug out new information which cast serious doubt on the Gilby-Merchant version of events....The newspapers paid not a penny in damages and contributed only £5,000 to his legal costs — leaving him very much out of pocket and with egg all over his face."

1997: Betrayed his friend Piers Merchant MP, who had come to Gilberthorpe's home for a weekend visit with his mistress. After cheery goodbyes, Merchant and his girlfriend later found quotes from their pillow-talk and photos of them in bed splashed all over the Sunday Mirror. "Gilby, it transpired, had fitted out the spare-room with hidden cameras and microphones and shopped his loyal friend to the tabloid for £25,000."

2014: Gilberthorpe told the Daily Mirror that he had procured "rent-boys" for senior Tory politicians—all of them conveniently dead—back in the 80s. "Trawling seedy streets during a Tory conference, Gilberthorpe says he was asked to find underage rent boys for a private sex party at a top hotel....In a series of explosive claims about conferences at Blackpool and Brighton in the 1980s, he alleges boys as young as 15 indulged in alcohol and cocaine before they had sex with the powerful politicians."

Goodness! Gilberthorpe leads quite the active life. So what's he up to these days? Well, you remember Jessica Leeds, the woman who accused Trump of groping her on an airplane flight 36 years ago? It turns out that Gilberthorpe was there!

Donald Trump’s campaign says a British man is countering claims that the GOP presidential nominee groped a woman on a cross-country flight more than three decades ago. “I have only met this accuser once and frankly cannot imagine why she is seeking to make out that Trump made sexual advances on her. Not only did he not do so (and I was present at all times) but it was she that was the one being flirtatious,” Anthony Gilberthorpe said in a note provided to The Post by the Trump campaign.

....Gilberthorpe, 54, said he was sitting across the first class aisle from the couple and saw nothing inappropriate. Leeds was wearing a white pantsuit, he said, while Trump was wearing a suit and cuff-links, which he gave to his British flight companion.

Indeed, Gilberthorpe claimed, Leeds was “trying too hard” in her attempt to win Trump over. “She wanted to marry him,” Gilberthorpe said of Leeds, who apparently made the confession when Trump excused himself and went to the bathroom.

Well, that certainly sounds credible to me. Apparently this Leeds woman is actually just a common strumpet who embroidered a story but had the bad fortune to be sitting right across from an 18-year-old Gilberthorpe while the events were taking place. "Undoubtedly it was her," he said. "I have a good photographic memory. I recognized her."

That's the worst kind of luck, isn't it? I mean, what are the odds? But that's why you have to be so careful these days. There are liars and con men out there everywhere.

POSTSCRIPT: In case you've still been wondering why victims of sexual abuse often don't come forward, well....

Hillary Clinton made presidential campaign history yesterday. After acknowledging that the race had been pretty ugly lately, she said this:

It makes you want to turn off the news. It makes you want to unplug the internet or just look at cat GIFs. Believe me, I get it. In the last few weeks I've watched a lot of cats do a lot of weird and interesting things. But we have a job to do, and it'll be good for people and for cats.

Hillary Clinton will be good for cats! That just earned her two extra votes in the Drum household—and millions more across the country. It's a brilliant political strategy since cats are well known as top notch influencers.

And speaking of cats, I love this picture. Do these guys look like lords of their domain, or what? Don't even think about messing with them in their own house, capiche?

Donald Trump says he gave generously to charity in the aftermath of 9/11. The New York City Comptroller’s Office checked into that:

“My office has reviewed the donations made in the nearly 12 months following the attacks – and we didn’t find evidence that he contributed a single cent to the victims, our first responders, and to our city through the Twin Towers Fund,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat, said in a statement to ABC News today.

That doesn't sound very Christian of Trump, does it? Let's ask a famous Christian:

On Morning Joe, Carson said that he'd love it if we could start teaching Judeo-Christian values to our children again—for example, that you shouldn't grab women's pussies—but we have more important stuff to think about: "What matters is that the train is going off the cliff and we’re taking our eye off of that and we’re getting involved in other issues that can be taken care of later."

What about it, Christians? My book knowledge of Christianity suggests to me that this is exactly backward: values matter the most when the train is going off the cliff. But what do I know? Help me out here.

Once again, let's show both of my favorite pollsters today. Sam Wang's meta-margin continued its reversion to the mean and then blew past it. Hillary Clinton is now leading Trump by 4.7 percentage points:

Wang's current prediction is that Clinton has a 97 percent chance of winning and will rack up 332 electoral votes. The Senate will be tied, 50-50. And here's Pollster:

Clinton has gained two points and is now 8.4 percentage points ahead of Trump. In the generic House polling, Pollster has Democrats ahead by 7.4 points. If that holds up, it's a big enough lead to start wondering if Democrats really do have a chance of taking back control of Congress completely.

Just when you think that things can't get weirder, they get weirder. But don't I say that every day? Lately, yes I do. Nonetheless, Donald Trump and his brain trust are truly getting even weirder:

Donald Trump will broaden his attack against the media to hit globalism and the Clinton Foundation by charging that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is part of a biased coalition working in collusion with the Clinton campaign and its supporters to generate news reports of decades-old allegations from several women.

....As early as Friday, Mr. Trump is planning to claim that Mr. Slim, as a shareholder of New York Times Co. and donor to the Clinton Foundation, has an interest in helping Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to a Trump adviser. Attacking the Mexican billionaire would allow Mr. Trump to hit several targets. He could slam the “failing” New York Times, which he says had to be “rescued” by a “foreigner”—Mr. Slim, the adviser said.

Here's what's great. There's hardly one American in a hundred who's ever heard of Carlos Slim. This makes him a great candidate for a master conspirator, of course, since he's basically a blank slate. And Mexican too! So Trump can pretty much say anything he wants.

But here's what's really worth waiting for: watching all the paid shills on CNN—Scottie, Jeffrey, Katrina, etc.—suddenly start spouting mountains of dirt on Slim. The anchors will all carefully let them have their say, and Trump fans will be listening. Then the Washington Post (or someone) will go out to do yet another "What Trump Supporters Really Think" thumbsucker, and they'll come back with lots of angry white folks swearing that Carlos Slim runs the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission.

Jesus. What an election.