Democrats Will Show How It All Should Function
Darlene Dunham, past president of the Moore County Democratic Women, lives in Southern Pines.
Political analysts will parse the results of the 2018 midterm elections far into the future. Some will point out that, rather than a “blue wave,” the Democratic victories in the U.S. House were more of a rolling blue tide.
Democrats won the majority of the closest races, even those seats that looked as though they should have stayed in Republican hands, like those in California and New York. Other pundits will cite the Senate remaining in GOP hands as the big takeaway of 2018. Both statements warrant more analysis to understand what happened on Nov. 6, and whether there might be a compatible governance path moving forward.
According to the website
fivethirtyeight.com, “Democrats faced the most unfavorable Senate map in 2018 that any party has ever faced in any election.” Three of the four Senate seats Republicans took away from Democrats were in rural states Trump won handily in 2016. In Florida, where Trump also won, albeit with a much smaller victory, the Democratic incumbent lost by 0.2 percent. Democrats knew going in that these four would be difficult to defend, especially as they had 22 others to protect as well. The Republicans had eight seats to try to hang on to, yet managed to lose two of those.
Democrats won 42 House seats previously held by Republicans and lost three of their own for a net gain of 39. California’s 21st District is the lone House seat still in play. With the Democratic challenger behind by just 447 votes, with 15,000 still left to count — and coming in from precincts favorable to the challenger — there’s a good chance the Democrats could pick up another House seat.
These are the raw numbers, but where these winning seats are located, who voted for which candidates and why is far more compelling. Drilling down in this data is far more instructive than a simple accounting of who won and who lost.
Here are some of the more interesting takeaways: The Trump brand remains popular in deep red, rural states. This may not be entirely welcome news to the Republican Party, as some of these states are losing population, or the populace is moving nearer suburban and urban areas. Even more critical to the long-term interests of the GOP is that Trump is inextricably tied to it. Which means that the entire party’s fortunes are tied to Trump’s divisive, xenophobic, race-baiting politics.
So while rural voters remain enthusiastic about Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, there was much less willingness to go along with his hard-right agenda elsewhere, especially in the suburbs. Led by women, young people, Latinos and independents, Republican voters defected in large numbers, while Democrats made gains with seniors and suburbanites.
As the GOP increasingly tied its fortunes to Trump’s white, rural strategy, the party’s more vulnerable and mostly moderate candidates from populated areas were left to fend for themselves. The Democrats were entirely willing to fill the seats left by these candidates abandoned by their own party.
What does all of this mean going forward? For Democrats it presents an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate the difference between a functional governmental body versus a dysfunctional one. It gives them the means to place limits on the worst impulses of this president. It will allow the American people to once again witness the House of Representatives acting responsibly, refusing to kowtow to a bullying president, and standing up for constituents as opposed to figuring out ways to disenfranchise them.
Democrats will be fighting for insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, for ways to create more job opportunities and training for unemployed or marginally employed workers. They will ask why the entire country’s grocery supply chain was involved in a recall of romaine lettuce that has killed four people (to date), and yet no meaningful action has been taken to address the 307 mass shootings (four or more injured or killed) that have occurred in America to date in 2018.
Republicans know something about Democrats that makes them more emboldened to ignore us and our objections to their tactics: that our reputations and our moral compasses are important to us. When Republicans hurried their Obamacare replacement bill through a House vote without first assessing its effect on patients, and after years of complaining that the ACA was “pushed” through without proper vetting, Democrats were appalled at such blatant hypocrisy.
But Democrats learned a valuable lesson as a result of having to witness these types of scenarios over and over again. While they are more than willing to partner with any and all members of the House who will pledge to pass the significant legislation they are committed to, Republicans should realize they have precious little room to complain if Democrats find they must work around them in order to accomplish their goals.
There's Plenty of Work to Do, But Expect Gridlock
John Rowerdink, a Pinehurst resident, is the former chairman of the Moore County Republican Party and president of the Moore County Republican Men’s Club.
The 2018 midterm election is now mostly history, so where do we go from here?
Before I get into that, was this a “blue wave” election as the media predicted? It appears that Democrats gained about 39 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (greatly aided by the retirement of 41 Republican incumbents), while Republicans gained a few seats in the Senate. Compared with President’s Obama’s first midterm election in 2010, in which Democrats lost 63 House seats and lost control of the Senate, this is pretty mild. I would call it a midterm course correction.
On the question of how this will play out over the next couple of years, my optimist side and my pessimist side are in conflict.
Looking at the election optimistically, which is my natural inclination, we now have divided government, which might mean that the two parties will have to try to work together. A divided government reflects that the country as a whole is pretty evenly split. Looking back over several presidential elections, most of them have been fairly close, in the range of a few popular vote percentage points one way or the other.
Consequently, when either party thinks it has a mandate to do anything it wants, the voters often go the other direction in the next election. This is the genius of the American political system. Every two years, the voters get a chance to correct what they think are the excesses of the recent past.
Here in North Carolina, Republicans kept the majority in both houses but lost their veto-proof majority. My honest
opinion is that this may not be all bad. Remember the old saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”? I’m not saying that Republicans in the NC General Assembly were corrupt, but they frequently overplayed their hand. The voters recognized that and reacted accordingly. Many of my Republican colleagues will disagree with me, but if this forces the General Assembly and the governor to try harder to work together, that would be a good thing.
Our country is facing many serious challenges, and history
has shown that serious challenges are best solved by bipartisan solutions. Polls show that a majority of people in both parties want their representatives in Washington to work together. This would require a huge change from the pattern of the last few years, which has been characterized by extreme partisanship.
So my optimist side says maybe they will try to find ways to work together. Hope springs eternal.
However, my pessimist side sees it differently. The fact remains that Democrats simply hate the president and most of them will resist doing anything that might look like compromise. I predict they will spend the next two years investigating everything and getting nothing else done. The inter-party warfare we have seen for the past two years will likely intensify.
Democrats have spent the last two years resisting the progress made by President Trump and the Republicans and now they will try to roll it all back. They have already said as much. Regulation? More, not less. Taxes? Higher, not lower. Immigration? Abolish ICE and open the borders. Health care? More government, not less. The Democratic Party is swerving to the left, but I doubt that is where the country wants them to go. And since Republicans still control the White House and the Senate, most of this will go nowhere.
Many Democrats won’t say it, but their real goal is to impeach the president. They also haven’t gotten over their loss in the Kavanaugh hearing, so they may try to impeach him too. Did you see anything in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings that even hints at compromise? So my prediction is for gridlock. This is sad, given the many serious problems our country faces.
Unfortunately, past experience has shown that when the two parties disagree on nearly everything, the only thing they can agree on is to spend more money. So I can see a trillion dollar infrastructure bill passing and getting signed by the president. We need the infrastructure work, but where will the money come from? More borrowing. $22 trillion in national debt and growing.
So unfortunately, my pessimist side wins this argument. I predict the Democrats will go after the president on everything. And have you seen any indication that this president will roll over? Nope. So, we will see non-stop war between the Democrats in the House, the Republicans in the Senate and the president.
Two years from now, in 2020, we will have another election, and the voters will decide who to blame and how to correct what went wrong.
I hate to be a pessimist, but that’s the way I see it. Thank goodness we live in America, where the voters get to decide every two years.