Brian Messing, Managing Editor
Last Tuesday, Americans went to the polls for the 2018 mid-term elections. In the elections, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives were up for re-election, and 35 seats in the Senate (2 of which were special elections). Additionally, 36 governorships were up for grabs, along with a plethora of state offices and seats in state legislatures. In addition to the many positions up for election, both parties looked to establish a positive narrative going into the 2020 general election. The Democrats hoped to capitalize on the so called “blue wave,” and take control of congress to thwart the agenda of President Donald Trump. Republicans hoped to build on the momentum of the 2016 presidential election, and coalesce the party and the base behind the president before 2020.
Democrats were able to take control of the House of Representatives, as many polls predicted. There are still uncounted races, but as of now it appears that Democrats will finish with somewhere around 232 seats, a net gain of 37 and a majority of 14. While this is a major victory for the party, it is not quite the “blue wave” that they had hoped for, or that some pundits predicted. Democrats were unable to work up to their full potential in the House and could be susceptible to losing their majority in 2020. For context, Republicans had a net gain of 63 seats in the House in 2010 (during former President Barack Obama’s first mid-term election,) and 54 seats in 1994 (during former President Bill Clinton’s first mid-term election). Still, the victory in the House means that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will likely become Speaker of the House for a second time. Despite some in her party saying that they won’t support her for Speaker, Pelosi’s fundraising ability and experience will likely make her the next Speaker. This is the same person who has been the Democratic house leader through four successive defeats Republicans will also look to elect a new Minority Leader in the House, with Speaker Paul Ryan retiring.
Republicans maintained control in the Senate, as many polls also predicted. Republicans also likely added to their majority, with a probable net gain of 2, pending possible recounts in Florida and Arizona. Republicans succeeded in defeating red state Democrats, gaining seats in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Indiana was one of the more surprising results of the night, with many assuming that incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly would win a fairly close re-election battle. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota paid the price by voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a move that was not popular with North Dakotans.
Texas Democratic insurgent Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was able to come within three points of beating Senator Ted Cruz. O’Rourke was a darling of the coastal media, and waged the most expensive Senate race in American history. O’Rourke made a point of not taking “corporate PAC money” in his campaign, although it is worth mentioning that his father-in-law, William Sanders, has a net worth of $20 billion, mostly from real estate.
It is also worth noting that the Texas Senate race and O’Rourke received an unprecedented amount of attention and favorable media coverage. O’Rourke was painted by the mainstream media as being “moderate” and “bipartisan,” with some even going as far to compare him to JFK, despite calling for universal Medicare and supporting kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games. Many have questioned O’Rourke’s political tactics when running in a red state. The O’Rourke-Cruz race can be contrasted by another insurgent in a red state, Republican Senator-elect Josh Hawley of Missouri who defeated Senator Claire McCaskill. Despite also being young and “energetic” like O’Rourke, Hawley received virtually no favorable media coverage nationally.
The mid-term elections leave America in an interesting place politically. In the Republican Party, it can be said now more than ever that it is the “Party of Donald Trump.” Candidates whom Trump campaigned for in the final days before the election outperformed the polls, particularly in Senate races. The President has continued with re-making the party in his image, though not completely. The election of Mitt Romney to the Senate from Utah will seek to balance the Republican caucus. The Democratic Party did a good job of running candidates “for the district” in the house, including moderate candidates in red states and socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York. The result is that the slim democratic majority in the House includes many moderates who could compromise their ability to govern. Or likewise, with many left wing candidates elected, their ability to make deals with congressional Republicans could also be compromised. Socialists like Ocasio-Cortez do not represent a party that is willing to make deals for the good of the country. To contrast this, the Democratic caucus in the Senate moved further to the left, with the defeat of moderate democratic Senators Donnelly (IN), McCaskill (MO) and Heitkamp (ND).
As we move forward, it is imperative that the parties in our soon to be divided government work together. House Democrats will have to decide whether or not they will hold the government hostage through government shutdowns, impeachment proceedings, or refusing to compromise with the President on his agenda. It would be in the best interest of the country to work together and create a legislative agenda through compromise for the benefit of all Americans.