2018 Midterm Election Wrap-up
United States elections truly are special.
No, not because of the thousands of attack ads that have likely plagued your TV over the course of the last sixth months. They aren’t special because of the pool of largely uninspiring candidates that either won or lost last night. US elections are special because they are expansive, and paint a picture of a massive, diverse nation that isn’t in a single file line of group-think, contrary to what the mainstream media might have you believe.
Last night’s midterm election was a decisive victory for the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, and a slightly less comprehensive win for the Republicans in the Senate. It is fairly astonishing to think that the House could go so convincingly in the direction of the Democrats, while the Senate drifted further towards the Republicans; but here we are, with two competing narratives that will surely be on blast for the remainder of the calendar year.
To recap the more important races: Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson were defeated in the thrilling Florida Governor and Senate races by Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott respectively. Scott Walker is out as Governor of Wisconsin after losing to Democrat Tony Evers. Stacey Abrams from Georgia lost her bid for Governor to Republican Brian Kemp in a hotly contested race (that she is challenging). Beto O’Rourke’s national celebrity wasn’t enough to unseat Ted Cruz in Texas, while 2016 NeverTrumper Martha McSally won a tight Arizona Senate race against Krystem Sinema. Republican Dean Heller’s re-election bid in the Nevada Senate race was defeated by Jacky Rosen, and Jon Tester looks primed to narrowly hold his seat in Montana against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Claire Mccaskill all went down to Republican challengers in red states that were won by Trump. Moderate, promising Republican incumbents such as Barbara Comstock in Virginia and Carlos Curbelo in Florida lost their House races, signaling that the new, smaller Republican conference in the House of Representatives will be decidedly more pro-Trump. To sum things up, there was something for everyone to smile and moan about simultaneously.
The exit polls indicated an electorate that pushed the House towards the Democrats not because of Russia or Trump, but because of healthcare. After the Democrats butchered Obamacare, the Republicans promised to make things better and failed, throwing the ball right back into the hands of the Democrats. While immigration, Trump and the economy seemed to be the only subjects on cable news, healthcare was the decisive factor in House races. Watch this space over the next two years, and see if Democrats try and fix the problem, maybe even work with the President, or if they continue to bang on about Russia and Trump’s tax returns.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh made his mark on the midterms. There’s a convincing argument to be made that had the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee not made a total sideshow of the confirmation process, Chuck Schumer might be the Senate Majority Leader this morning. Democrats who voted against Kavanaugh in Indiana, Missouri, Florida and North Dakota all lost their Senate races, while Joe Manchin came out victorious, perhaps in part because of his support for Kavanaugh. The rebuttal to that argument is that Tammy Baldwin and Debbie Stabenow also voted against Kavanaugh and won re-election in Wisconsin and Michigan, but neither Baldwin nor Stabenow were ever in serious danger of losing their seat in states that are often friendly to Democrats. Kavanaugh was a catalyst for the GOP’s success in the Senate, along with the favorable map they were afforded. It’s also worth noting that Barack Obama’s campaign stops in Florida, Georgia and Indiana all proved futile. Make of that what you will.
The Me Too movement had its’ place in the 2018 Midterm elections, but its’ silence, along with the media’s lack of interest in allegations against important individuals in American politics was deafening. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the DNC and credibly accused of beating his ex-girlfriend in detailed deposition reports, coasted to an easy victory in the race for Minnesota Attorney General. Ellison has been absent from almost any sort of national media attention. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, formerly accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife, was the subject of allegations from anonymous women three weeks before the election, but they didn’t fit the media’s threshold for any journalistic examination. Brown won his race handily against Jim Renacci. Last but not least on the scale of degeneracy; Bob Menendez, the face of corruption, was re-elected in New Jersey after the Newark Star-Ledger told voters to “choke it down-vote for Menendez” in their editorial endorsement. Menendez was on trial for corruption, bribery and there were whispers that he and his friend were involved with underage prostitutes. Media coverage was again missing; they were more enthralled with Beto O’Rourke’s ability to skateboard on stage at a campaign rally.
The commentary from America’s punditry class has been predictably embarrassing. CNN spent the evening talking about the Democrats new oversight power as if it was a tool for revenge against Trump, rather than a critical part of the United States government. Many GOP victories were never called on CNN, rather held at 99% of the votes counted, in a ploy that was as childish as it was hilarious. Van Jones said that the evening had been “heartbreaking” when things looked bleak for the left early on around 8:30. After Fox News called the House in favor of the Democrats at 9:30, Jones said his heart had healed, and that the new Congress was “younger, browner, cooler”. Talk about identity politics. Laura Ingraham, a Fox News mouthpiece for Donald Trump, sparred with Chris Wallace at every opportunity, praising Trump and lamenting the supposed impact of big money donors that she was convinced had tilted the playing field in favor of the Democrats. If last night proved anything, it’s that the media is still as partisan as ever, and not reflective of the US electorate as a whole. Team Trump’s talking points of “great success” were equally ridiculous and highlight his inability to look at anything in the context of something, or someone, other than himself.
So what happens next? The United States is now prepped for its’ next box office battle, Donald Trump vs. House Democrats. One possible route for the Democrats would be to try and hash out an infrastructure deal with Trump, a rare touch of bipartisanship that could be beneficial to both parties. That being said, Democrat leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters have made their desire to duke it out with Trump apparent to everyone, particularly their core base of voters, who now expect them to fight fire with fire. If you’re a Republican, you might see this as an opportunity for the sun to shine on the California crazies like Schiff and Waters, who will have to cater to their base, and have finally given Trump a foil in government. The House race in 2020 is certainly one to keep an eye on.
In the Senate, things will continue as they have. Mitch McConnell will continue to confirm conservative judges, and should an opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court Justice arrive, you can bet that the GOP will put up a nominee far more conservative than Brett Kavanaugh, with Amy Coney Barrett being the likely choice. If an impeachment battle ever comes before the Senate, expect an acquittal.
Gridlock is perhaps the staple of American government, it is what the founders intended and it’s a large part of what makes this democracy special. While the public should rejoice at the thought of two more years of stalemate, the media will make that a difficult task. The country is two years away from another Presidential election, and it’d be difficult for even the strongest optimist to predict that things won’t be uglier in two years than they are today.