Day 657: Democrats won big on Election Day; reaction from Trump, GOP shows they know it

Despite decades of gerrymandering trying to lock Democrats out of competitive races across the country, they were able to flip more than enough red seats to blue to wrest control of the House of Representatives from Republicans during the midterm elections Tuesday.

While Republicans are spinning adding seats in the Senate as proof of a split decision, the advantageous map for the 2018 cycle virtually guaranteed that they would add seats in the upper chamber. The only truly vulnerable Republican incumbent, Dean Heller, was handily defeated by Democrat Jacky Rosen in Nevada. Additionally, it’ll be days before Arizona’s Senate race has finality.

Donald Trump and Republicans know Tuesday was not a good night for them, as they were hoping to be able to hang on to control of the House. Democrats flipped at least 29 House seats, 7 governorships and over 300 state legislature seats. Supermajorities were broken, chambers flipped and the Democrats celebrated victories in statehouses from coast-to-coast.

The news wasn’t all rosy, of course. There were losses for multi-time incumbents, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) (barring a shocking change after a recount) and the chance to flip gubernatorial seats in Florida, Georgia and Ohio came up short. There will likely be some in-fighting that comes with fighting for the Speakership, but that’s a far better problem than the alternative. Overall, there was plenty to be ecstatic about for Democrats.

As we detailed yesterday, simply controlling the House affords Democrats a ton of power.

Democrats would control the House’s committees and would be free to investigate what they see fit. They would have subpoena power and could investigate [things ranging from Trump’s handling of the Hurricane Maria disaster to Cabinet members’ spending habits to emoluments issues to Trump’s tax returns to Trump’s dealings with Russia and Saudi Arabia and more].

On top of that, Democrats could explore impeachment if appropriate. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll control legislation, immediately stopping what Republicans are able to pass unilaterally. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act or a budget including a border wall went out the door as the seats flipped. The same is true for another hefty tax cut for the wealthy and corporations or slashes to Social Security and Medicare. Republicans must now compromise with Democrats, as opposed to treating them like an annoying younger sibling.

Trump has tried to proclaim victory on Twitter, but his downtrodden tone at a Wednesday press conference undercut his boastful rhetoric. He knows that he is likely to face substantial investigations from the left side of the aisle over the next two years. Gone are the days of carte blanche to do whatever he wants with a unified Republican government too cowardly to do anything about it.

He can try to undercut the Robert Mueller probe, as he appeared to be doing when he asked for and accepted the resignation of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Wednesday. But if Mueller were fired, Democrats in the House could easily hire him to investigate the same scope of issues — or even wider — on their behalf. If fired, they could also call him to testify and figure out what he was able to learn while acting as special counsel.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Trump are both pushing back on the idea of Democratic investigations already. McConnell said Democrats should be wary of “presidential harassment.” However, the Constitution describes a checks-and-balances system for each branch of government to have oversight on the other branches, something that Republicans have abdicated over the last two years. They’re unlikely to heed McConnell’s advice.

Trump is being more aggressive, even as ballots are still being counted. He is already threatening to investigate Democrats if they investigate him.

It doesn’t sound like Trump thinks Election Day was a success for him or Republicans.

Because he knows it wasn’t.

657 days in, 805 to go


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