Column: The results are in, so what’s next?
Another election season has come and gone, with the bitter-sweet taste of victories and defeats still lingering in the mouths of both major political parties. A Democratic majority holds the House of Representatives, but an expanded Republican Senate provides a major check to their power.
A divided legislature is often touted to produce the best policy, but in an age as polarizing as ours, will the chambers be able to find common ground when the 116th Congress is sworn into office in January? And, who really won on election day, if anyone?
The 2018 midterms boasted significantly higher turnout than the usual 40 percent, according to NPR. The anticipated “Blue Wave” had its moments of greatness, but its high expectations did not seem to be met on election night.
Even still, Republicans’ strongest efforts to maintain control of both chambers of Congress were not enough to stem the energy from the Democratic electorate. As most political scientists will concur, voters are leery of too much power in the hands of one party for too long, and, thus, the see-saw battle is played out in most elections. However, this past election was a bit irregular.
Democrats now control the House by 28 seats, with 13 races still outstanding. Their margin of wins is larger than some predicted heading into election day. This victory is quite significant, as Democrats expected to take the House by 30 seats, according to FiveThirtyEight. At this point, the Democrats have picked up 32 seats, with 10 races still up in the air.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the House is a far easier chamber to win than the Senate and White House. In addition, as a Hill piece pointed out, many House races exposed a sharp divide in the Democratic party, between the old guard of the blue collar establishment and a new wave of galvanizing progressives.
Democrats were able to utilize both, but their most closely watched, upset races came from this new wing of the party, and may not bode good things for their chances in 2020, if the message is not unified, coherent and reasonable.
Republicans, on the other hand, were dealt their defeat on the House side, but all was not lost on Nov. 6, as the Republican Senate majority will likely add two and potentially three seats, depending on Arizona, when recounts are concluded.
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process played a major part in spiking voter enthusiasm on the Senate side, but, even still, Republicans defeated many long-term Democratic incumbents in difficult states on election night, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. This aggressive expansion combined with good defensive play in states like Texas and Nevada, should concern Democrats who laude their House win.
During the past two years, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s tactical genius has been on brilliant display, especially with regard to judicial confirmations, and his advantage increased substantially overnight.
An especially important point for Democrats to remember is that while the House and state legislatures are imperative to win, Senate elections are statewide, and when the White House and both chambers of Congress are up for grabs in two years, the message must reach further.
For Republicans, while national races are important, if the message doesn’t strike enough chords locally, it won’t withstand well-placed attacks as well as it did last Tuesday.
There were no clear winners and losers on Election Day 2018. In the long run, who comes out on top will depend on who applies the lessons learned.