Tonight was not the major Democratic victory that many expected. There was talk in the media of a Blue Wave that would sweep the Democrats to control of the House. Instead, it was a Blue Trickle. Or as The Hill put it: the blue wave met a red wall.
Dems knew prospects were dimmer in the Senate. But they hoped they could lose no more than one seat of their already minority status. There were a number of governors’ races the Democrats believed they could win historic victories. Though there were victories in some of these races, by and large the outcome has to be somewhat disappointing to Democrats.
They did win control of the House of Representatives. But the victory will not give the Party the size of a majority they’d hoped for. Right now, the projection is for 229 seats (out of 435). I’ve seen projections as high as 238. This will give the Democrats investigative powers and subpoena power to make Trump’s life miserable. They can demand information, including possibly his tax returns, that the president has succeeded in shielding from public view. A number of cabinet officers, including Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, are in danger of losing their jobs given the new ability to investigate scandals in their departments.
The first Somali-American and Palestinian-American have been elected to the House. The most successful Democratic candidates were young, progressive and insurgent. The least successful were the corporate Democrats in the Clinton mold.
The Senate races were far more disappointing. Centrist Democratic candidates lost in Indiana, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee. Though the Arizona race is close, the Democrat trails by a few thousand votes. Unlike most other losing candidates, Beto O’Rourke projected a bold, uncompromising, hopeful campaign message. He ran in a blood-red GOP state and came within a few percentage points of winning. If the Democratic leadership was listening it would learn that it needs vigorous, young, progressive candidates; not go-along-to-get-along Wall Street darlings.
All told, the Democrats have declined from 49 seats to 47. They could be as low as 46 seats. That would be a decline of three seats. My view is that the current Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, should find his job in danger. These results are worse than disappointing. Even though Democrats defended far more seats than Republicans, they did not present a compelling message to voters.
My take is that the Democrats did not present a unified, coherent, progressive message to the American people. They did not project a clear vision of the future or give voters a reason to be inspired to vote for them. Instead, they were stodgy, moderate, and aligned with Wall Street and the corporate elite. The primary message seemed to be fear of Trump, rather than a constructive legislative agenda.
The conventional wisdom says that a political party needs to say what it’s for, rather than what it’s against. Trump turned that on its head. In the closing days and weeks of the race, Trump did nothing but stoke fear on the issues of immigration. He ignored any positive message like the economy. The sad fact is that this worked. His Republican base was frightened into voting red. Though I’d hoped the election would be resounding rejection of the politics of fear and hate. It wasn’t. Trump can take comfort in the fact that he (at least in his view) single-handedly saved the Party from disaster.
This bodes ill for the future of American politics. There will be similar bombastic, populist candidates who will come along seeking to emulate the worst of his qualities. That’s what is in store for us, I’m afraid. Trump’s hectoring and hate also brought out the Democratic vote. He scared them into coming out in historic numbers. But it was not enough.
Trump had special guests watching the election results with him at the White House. Chief among them was gambling mogul, Sheldon Adelson, who joined him to watch what his $100-million in GOP donations had bought. Adelson had to be specially disappointed by the fact that his chosen Nevada Senate candidate, Dean Heller, lost. He was replaced by Jewish Democrat, Jackie Rosen.
The new Democratic House majority should frustrate most of Trump’s legislative agenda. His Border Wall is either dead, or in a state of rigor mortis. He will not get a Wall unless he drastically scales down his plans, and agrees to a compromise with Democrats involving renewing DACA and immigration reform. Democrats will put forward their agenda of raising the minimum wage. They will not permit any further Republican attempts to eliminate Obamacare.
There is less chance for the Democrats to influence U.S. foreign policy. Trump’s continuing misadventures in the Middle East will likely not be impacted. The new Democratic House will likely not stand in the way of Iranian sanctions. It will likely not attempt to revive the Iran nuclear deal or even promote it as an alternative to Trump’s punitive policies. Democrats will remain pro-Israel and are unlikely to challenge Trump’s even more pro-Israel views. They could, if they truly opposed the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, deny the embassy funding in the State Department budget. But there’s little chance they will take such a stance.
There will be no impeachment of the president. Those of us who hoped we would not have to suffer through a full term with Trump as president, are disappointed tonight. The only way to get rid of him is by defeating him in the next election.
The lessons for the next 2020 election, which will also elect a new president, are that the Democrats cannot present conventional elitist corporatist candidates and expect to inspire or motivate their voters. That goes for anyone in the Clinton mold like Cory Booker, Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillebrand. All this bodes well for Bernie Sanders, who appears certain to be a candidate. Sanders comes out of this election looking like the type of candidate the Party needs in 2020 if it hopes to topple Donald Trump.