It will be a while before the dust settles, but it’s probably fair to say that Tuesday was somewhat of a disappointment for Democrats.
The much ballyhooed “Blue Wave” was not realized, or at least not if you define “Blue Wave” as the groundswell of anti-Trump sentiment the GOP feared might play out on the heels of the President’s divisive midterm strategy.
Headed in, some Republicans implored Trump to make the midterms more about the economy and less about the caravan “invasion”, especially over the weekend following the blockbuster October jobs report.
But seemingly realizing that the best way to shield the GOP from the coming storm was to simply double down on what worked in 2016, Trump ramped up the anti-immigrant rhetoric. And why not? After all, he was already pot committed. Thousands of active-duty U.S. troops were already deployed to the border and the President was already in the news for running a campaign ad so racist, that even Fox was forced to pull it.
Of course by the time it was yanked, the ad was already seared into the minds of millions of voters and even if the networks never ran it in the first place, it was still posted to Trump’s Twitter feed, where it resides in all its misleading glory to this very day.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Late last month, Trump made a half-hearted effort to fool voters into thinking that a tax cut for the middle class was in the works. Prompted by a reporter while in Nevada on October 20, the President said a “major” announcement on taxes was coming ahead of the midterms. His demeanor suggested the promise was little more than a throwaway line, meant only to deflect criticism that last year’s tax cuts disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthy rather than the middle class.
Within a day, it was readily apparent that nobody (least of all Trump) had any idea what he was talking about, which left the White House and Republicans scrambling to explain how exactly they planned to announce a “major” tax break for middle income families when Congress was out of town and the midterms were but two weeks away.
Ultimately, that charade crashed and burned, which was just fine with Trump because he never wanted to make the elections about that anyway. Again, the President was perfectly content to try and parlay lingering anger over the Brett Kavanaugh debacle and irrational fear of the migrant caravan into a formidable defense of the House and Senate.
It looks as though that was a decent strategy, all things considered.
Although Democrats are poised to retake control of the House as expected, it was clear almost from the word go on Tuesday evening that the momentum simply wasn’t there in terms of sending an unequivocal message to the White House that Americans have had enough of the President’s divisiveness, hate and generalized lack of respect for the country’s core values.
Flipping through cable news felt like watching a balloon deflate. You could tell from the body language of the anchors and panelists that things didn’t go as well as Democrats had hoped. Oddly enough, one almost got the same impression from Fox, which was actually the first network to call the House for Democrats.
Republicans obviously retained control of the Senate, and while that outcome was also expected, Marsha Blackburn’s triumph in Tennessee was a bitter pill to swallow for Democrats. She becomes the first female senator from the state.
While Democrats did manage to wrest control of the House from the GOP, it wasn’t a particularly inspiring effort. There will surely be the obligatory fanfare and celebrations, but that will probably ring hollow with many voters who were expecting something more momentous, although it’s not entirely clear what.
There were a number of notables, including the following:
- Beto put up a good fight in Texas and gave Ted Cruz a scare there for a couple of hours, but ultimately, Cruz prevailed, dodging what would have been a humiliating defeat. O’Rourke can take comfort in knowing he’ll probably be the next President.
- Ilhan Omar and Michigan House candidate Rashida Tlaib (a Palestinian-American) will become the first two Muslim-American women to serve in Congress.
- Additionally, Native Americans Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland both emerged victorious.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of course won easily and becomes the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
At the end of the day, one imagines Republicans will take it, considering all that could have gone wrong. No, losing the House isn’t ideal, and yes, it opens up all kinds of unpleasant doors, but Tuesday could have gone a lot worse for the GOP.
As for Democrats, they’ll now get a chance to launch an endless string of investigations and will likely push for Trump’s tax returns. In addition, they could move ahead with efforts to protect the Special Counsel probe just as Trump moves in to commandeer the Justice Department.