We have more women in congress now more than ever; the first Native-American woman; the first Muslim woman wearing a hijab is entering congress this January; and a democratic socialist became the youngest woman ever elected to congress.
Call it a blue wave or whatever – all the hope and action that’s erupted in the US since the 2016 election finally came to fruition. Democrats gained 23 seats for a total of 230 seats (218 is the house majority) in the House of Representatives. Democratic campaigns tried to focus on important issues instead of being defined as the Trump opposition party. However, it’s hard for the party not to be reduced to anti-Trumpism in the current polarized climate.
Democratic platforms differed all over the country, but healthcare was at the forefront of campaigns for candidates across the ideological spectrum. Some chose to avoid hot button issues like immigration while others encouraged the elimination of ICE. Dems that chose to cater to the far left and non-voters did increase the voting turnouts in some states, specifically for people of colour.
It’s important to remember that the map of the United States may appear majority red, but most of the population is concentrated in coastal blue urban districts. Purple toss-up (swing) districts are scattered throughout the country. Many of the republicans that chose to cater to Trump’s base in swing districts ended up losing, like tea-partyer Dave Brat in Virginia who lost to the retired CIA operative Abigail Spanberger. Republican Hardliners ran adds about confederate statues, immigration and the caravan, and deep state conspiracies. These narratives may be starting to have less influence on voters, particularly Obama-Trump voters, after Trump’s first two years. However, rural regions continued to stay deep red, indicating more of a divide between urban and rural.
What does a Democratic House majority mean?
Glass half empty, the Republicans still have control of the Senate and many governorships, but the Democratic control of the house will have a substantial effect on policies, including the federal budget. A divided government may make things more difficult in many respects; we may see more legislative gridlock with McConnell remaining the majority leader. It’s more likely that Trump, lover of conflict, will start a political battle with the House making everything more complicated. On the other hand, we may see more centrist policy if the only legislation that passes are policies that the majority Republican Senate and majority Dem House are both willing to pass. How Trump decides to use his veto power is impossible to predict.
A democratic House majority also means that Obamacare (ACA) is protected and Republicans have little chance of repealing protections. Like many social welfare programs, people don’t want what was given to be taken away after seeing the benefits. Trump’s immigration policy is also looking less possible besides minimal reinforcement at the border, so he will likely continue using executive orders.
Jeff Sessions is out. Fraudster Mathew Whittaker is in. The Mueller investigation is now under AG Whittaker, whom has already made statements claiming the investigation is a witch hunt and fake. Some experts claim that these statements suggest he has already passed judgement on an ongoing investigation, so he must recuse himself. Either way, the Democratic control of the House can exert more influence by new leadership in the intelligence, oversight, etc. committees. We should prepare to see a wave of subpoena-powered investigations into a variety of topics like Trump’s taxes, Russian meddling, collusion with WikiLeaks and more.
Importantly, protection for Mueller seems likely to pass in congress. Previously, bipartisan support was obtained in the Senate for protecting the special counsel, but the Republican majority in the House rejected the proposal. If this bipartisan support for protecting Mueller continues in the Senate next session, then it’s almost guaranteed the House will approve such measures.
If election results are close, recounting votes is supposed restore the public’s faith in the US democratic system. However, recounting has become politicized since the 2000 presidential election between George W Bush and Al Gore when Florida results were disputed. After Gore filed a lawsuit the recount was attempted until Republican protestors, composed of many congressional staffers, stopped the recount in Miami.
A similar situation has resulted in places recounting votes, including Arizona, Georgia, and Florida (again). Republicans are attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the election by claiming democrats have planted votes, but no evidence has been presented. Saying the election should be decided on election night means that votes from provisional ballots, deployed military members, and expats would not be counted. Democrats have forcefully fought back against these allegations arguing Republicans have disingenuous motives. The losing candidate McSally (R) in Arizona was even attacked by her own party for refusing to question the results of votes counted.
The power of the president is fully behind those undermining the electoral system. Overall, delegitimizing the initial vote counting and recounts threatens the credibility of elections, and questions the foundation of democracy itself. The fact that both parties are politicizing recounts is also not a good sign.
Keep in mind the various methods of voter suppression that Republicans have used including gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and shutting down polling locations in communities of colour. It will take a lot to restore faith in the elections with added suspicion of Russian intervention. Transforming the polling methods is long overdue and differs by state, but experts have continued to warn about vulnerabilities in the polling methods and technology.
What about 2020?
Democrats will have to keep up the energy shown in this election to win the presidency and a strong candidate will be essential if they want Trump out of office. The Dem primary will be highly competitive with many candidates. We’ll see what kind of divisions is caused in the party. Republicans may have kept the Senate, but this would normally be the time for massive reflection. With Trump in charge, reflection or a change in narrative seems unlikely.