Article by Jesse Baker Gale:
The Democratic Party has rebounded from their underperformance in the 2016 elections picking up at least 7 governorships, at least 37 seats in the House of Representatives and over 300 seats in state legislatures. While final numbers are not likely to be known for a couple of days, including in some pivotal races in Georgia, Florida, and Arizona, there are several conclusions we can draw from the preliminary results.
Personality based Politics
In recent times, midterm elections have been popularly considered as a referendum on the president. Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama all suffered large negative electoral swings driven by their policies and faced the loss of at least one House of Congress during their tenure.
However, these three Presidents never linked the midterm elections to themselves as personally as Trump did.
In 1994, presiding over the loss of the House for the first time in 40 years, Clinton said he would work in a non-partisan manner with the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. In 2006, Bush mused the Democrats had given him a “thumpin”; and Obama called the results of the 2010 midterm a “shellacking”. By contrast, no such level of self-contrition should be expected from Trump.
Trump took full credit for the success of the Republican Party in the Senate and put the blame on House Republicans for their inability to maintain their seats. This transactional and unidirectional approach to loyalty highlights how Trump perceives his role as the head of the Republican Party and echoes his previous life in business. He is only ever responsible for the successes, never the failures or misfires.
Trump Faces a Hostile Congress
In his post-election comments, Trump said he would like to work with the Democrats in the House, but only if they stopped their investigations into him. Furthermore, he argued the reason so many Republicans lost their seats was because they tried to distance themselves from him.
It is unclear whether the next two years will deliver any bipartisan legislative achievements of note. The Democrats will, as the Congress is constitutionally bound to, hold the Trump Administration to account and investigate abuses of power and breaches of the law. Trump and his Administration will not take this lying down.
Much of this will be posturing for 2020, as Trump will be eager for the Republicans to take back the House of Representatives, and the Democrats will want to weaken Trump’s electability in the lead up to 2020.
The Democratic House will not impeach Trump, but expect to see a flurry of legislation that: protects Robert Mueller’s investigation; requires future presidential candidates to reveal their tax records prior to their election; and rolls back the tax cuts given to the high-income earners.
Trump’s pitch to the United States was that he was as a dealmaker without peer. That pitch will be sorely tested over the coming months.
Return of the Blue Wall in the Midwest?
This election has been popularly described as a ‘blue wave’, highlighting the strength of the Democratic Party’s chances across the various state and national elections. While it’s arguable the Democrats fell short of a landslide victory, particularly due to their disappointing returns in the Senate, the Democrats did triumphantly take back the governorships of Wisconsin and Michigan, strengthening their position in the Midwest.
The industrial Midwest has traditionally been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin delivered Trump the presidency in 2016, and in this election the Democratic Party’s candidates won races for governor and Senate, setting up a tight race for 2020.
Trump’s message of unfair trade deals and promises of infrastructure spending to the industrial areas of the US won him great support in 2016. But these promises did not materialize and longstanding frustrations over school funding and rising healthcare premiums turned voters away from Trump, and the Republican Party.
There are areas of overlap for the two parties: a committed response to the opioid epidemic; infrastructure funding; and building stronger relations with allies and partners. It remains to be seem if the hatchet can be buried to enable the Administration and the Congress to meet the needs of the nation.