Lessons from the midterm elections


It wasn’t Armageddon. And it wasn’t a red tsunami, either. Last Tuesday’s election results reflected a thoughtful yet divided electorate focused on issues and candidate quality. In a historic departure from midterms shellacking the incumbent president’s party over the past several decades, Democrats took a hit but were not knocked out. In January, Americans will return to divided government but just barely.

At a time when President Joe Biden’s popularity is low, inflation is high, and crime and immigration issues worry voters, it was expected that a Republican wave would grab decisive control of the House and a shift in control of the Senate. But that didn’t happen. Instead, when all the votes are counted, Democrats will control the White House and the Senate, and Republicans will have a small majority in the House. That’s not a bad thing. Whether it translates into gridlock or a new focus on the importance of legislating from the center, it will be up to the men and women who have been elected to begin to move forward.

Efforts to reach consensus will be particularly important for Republican pragmatists who may otherwise be stymied by their party’s hard-right wing, known as the Freedom Caucus — a group of House members who are elections deniers, and bent on chaos and the destruction of those they consider the enemy. Now, with only razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress, neither party will be able to govern from the fringes. Negotiation and some degree of compromise will likely be the only way to get things done.

There will, of course, be investigations of the Biden family and efforts to impeach the president. But most of that will be background noise as more serious efforts to run the country and serve the American people will require careful legislative navigation and execution. And if Republicans insist on squandering valuable time on wasteful activity, they will likely face further voter rejection — particularly from independents — in the next round.

There is another significant takeaway from last week’s results. When Donald Trump was president, he promised his followers so many victories that they’d get tired of winning. But saying that didn’t make it so. And it hasn’t happened. Republicans lost the House in the midterm election in 2018. Trump lost the presidency in 2020. His Republican Party lost control of the Senate in 2021. And last Tuesday showed Trump losing significant traction with voters as many of his hand-picked candidates were rejected. At the same time, Trump’s nemesis in Georgia, Brian Kemp, was handily re-elected governor, while Trump-picked, scandal-ridden Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been forced into a runoff in a largely red state.

An increasing segment of the GOP is finally beginning to recognize that Donald Trump is a drag on the party. His narcissism and reflexive bad judgment single-handedly cost Republicans control of the Senate in last year’s Georgia elections and again this year. As many have observed, elements of the electorate may support Trumpism, but they have had enough of Trump himself.

There are alternatives.

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