It is November the 7th and the US midterms have passed. Even though votes are still being counted, we can get a general impression from the results so far. The Democratic party has won control of the House of Representatives, being forecasted to hold around 229 seats to the Republicans’ 206. The Democrats won slightly over 50 million votes while the GOP got almost 47 million, a 51% – 47% split between the main parties.
The Democratic performance in the House will most likely be considered satisfying, with the pickup of almost 40 seats pleasing most progressives, however, the Senate and Governor races will be more of a mixed bag. In the Senate, the Democrats lost Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, losing with them 3 moderate voices for the next Senate session. Even though the counts aren’t finished yet, the Democrats probably won’t win the Senate race for Florida, a state where they had high hopes for. The silver linings are Nevada and Arizona, the only progressive pick-ups so far.
The Governors’ races paint a rosier picture for the Democrats, they’ve won 7 governorships, with counts in Georgia and Alaska still going (although the Democrats are trailing). Victories in Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas (a notable surprise), Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Maine have made the night feel better for Democrats. At this point, any other victory in Alaska or Georgia would be icing on the cake, as Democrats are poised to hold the governor’s mansion in 24 states, which consist of over 200 million Americans. The GOP will hold more states, 26, but with a smaller population, only 136 million.
The night was bittersweet for liberals, mostly due to the way the Senate is meant to work
Unlike the House, whose seats are distributed according to population, or Governor’s races, which tend to be less partisan, Senate elections provide a chance for a rather powerful contrast between rural and urban voters. Democrats win urban areas, Republicans win rural areas, the problem is that the number of states where the urban exceeds the rural is not that large. Democrats tend to have a lot of wasted votes in states that are certain to go blue, yet they can’t find the votes in more rural or even states, which leads to split votes or worse. Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota are great examples: the combined population of those states is around 14 million total, with a strong urban-rural divide. What’s the point of gaining millions of votes in California, a state of 40 million, where liberals will mostly fight other liberals, and gain 2 Senators, when you easily lose 3, like last night, in more partisan, less populated states?
The Democrats don’t exactly have a solution for their Senate problem, since its unclear what type of candidate people want. The Midwest has swung blue, but the same cannot be said for the South. Both areas have a very specific “type” of politician and finding a soft spot that suits both is quite difficult. Until the Democrats find a way to address the growing rural-urban divide, their chance of winning back the Senate will remain rather low for the upcoming elections.
Winning a handful of Governor’s mansions will help the Democrats guard against future gerrymandering attempts
Part of the reason why this election was so contested, and why the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections were so good for Republicans is tied to the fact that absolute GOP control of state legislatures enabled them to redraw districts in a manner that suits them. Now that Democrats have the Governor’s mansions in at least 7 more states, they can veto quite a number of future gerrymander attempts, not to mention that this election will also add to the Democrats’ numbers of elected representatives in state legislatures. Overall, the chances for Republicans redrawing the map in a manner that allowed them to record great gains this decade is far lower.
A win in the House provides much-needed safeguards and serves as a considerable reason of worry for Donald Trump
Even though the GOP has kept, and even reinforced, its control of the Senate, Trump is now no longer free from the tacit protection of the House. For the past two years, the House refused to investigate Trump on a series of areas, such as tax returns, his sending of the military to guard the border, conflicts of interest, and so on, mainly due to a general consensus among conservatives that it’s better to deal with Trump as he is, rather than have to deal with any hypothetical Democratic alternative.
Around 10-15 investigations are expected to be opened by Democrats, which will only lead to a tense couple of years until the 2020 Presidential elections. By holding the Senate, Trump has the power to tactically eliminate or shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation, however, now the Democrats can just reappoint Mueller in a very short period, which nullifies any attempts to brutally clamp down on the ongoing FBI investigation.
Nevertheless, the win in the House does not give Democrats reasons for complete joy: Nancy Pelosi will probably make a run for House Speaker, and she has a long list of enemies among her own party, with many calling for her to step down and let a younger Democrat lead. A similar feeling unfolded for Dianne Feinstein, in her California Senate seat, where left-wing challenger Kevin de Leon came a lot closer to defeating her than many expected. If the sentiment for change is so strong, Pelosi’s attempts to win the House Speakership will hit some roadblocks (although, it should be said that de Leon’s overperformance might possibly be the result of California Republicans voting against Feinstein).
Overall, Washington is just as divided as ever. The only difference is that now Democrats have some real power
Trump doubled down on a nativist, anti-immigrant campaign that many have branded racist. The number of lies coming from the GOP side was staggering, with many Republicans doing a full 180 on topics such as health care, just to mislead the electorate and save their seats. Broadly speaking, even though partisanship is at high levels, the American electorate mostly rejected this push from Trump and handed Democrats a chance to present a different approach to politics.
Since Trump lost power, he will now feel more cornered. Ironically, the Senate wins might make him even bolder and reckless as he will fight against attacks coming at him from all sides. With a growing rural-urban divide, an increasing gender split, with partisanship not going away and with an unhinged President ready to risk anything to save himself from a Democratic party that is hungry for wins and strongly pushed by its base to attack the President at all costs and on all fronts, America is set for two more years of bitterness, scandals and chaos. The only difference might be that now both sides will get the chance to rack up wins.