Midterm elections are traditionally nightmares for the party of a sitting president. Just ask former president Bill Clinton, who suffered the humiliation of seeing his Democratic Party lose 54 seats during Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution. Ask George W. Bush, whose blunders in Iraq cost the GOP control of both chambers of Congress in 2006. Or maybe ask Barack Obama, who candidly admitted after the electoral disaster of 2010 (in which the GOP picked up 63 seats on their way to capturing the House) that he needed to do a better job presiding over America’s economic recovery.
Democrats and the thousands of hungry progressives who canvassed for them certainly hoped the 2018 midterm election would be as humbling an experience for Donald Trump as the 2010 elections were for Obama. Flipping a chamber of Congress from one party to another, particularly when the president’s party is on the losing end, would give any White House second thoughts about their record. Trump, however, is not a creature of reflection; while his predecessors may take a few weeks off and engage in deep soul-searching after a less-than-ideal election, the current occupant of the Oval Office is more likely to accentuate the positive and blame the negative on somebody else.
Most of the coverage in the coming days will be on how Democrats dealt Trump a blow to his ego by retaking the House. But there is another story just as significant — Republicans had a great night when it came to Senate races. Democratic incumbents like Claire McCaskill, Bill Nelson, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp all lost their seats in what could be referred too as a “mini red wave” — Trump played an important role stoking through a frenetic campaign schedule in the country’s conservative bastions. The GOP may be relegated to minority status in the lower chamber, but the party ended the night with a bigger Senate majority to work with. The White House no longer has to court moderate Republicans like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins in order to deliver the votes. With a pickup of at least four seats, Trump can afford to lose a few moderate votes in the Senate and still succeed in getting his nominations passed.
The next two years of Trump’s term will be unlike anything the novice politician has experienced to date. A GOP-run House could quash subpoenas and investigations. This will no longer be the case; Democratic lawmakers will now use their newfound oversight power in the House to grill administration witnesses as often as possible, issue subpoenas for testimony and documents, and conduct the types of investigations that never saw the light of day thanks to unified GOP control of Washington.
The Senate, however, will remain Trump territory. Trump’s judicial nominees will continue to be confirmed at a fast clip, a development sure to make progressive activists lose even more of their hair. Americans have been witness to an extremely stressful phase of history, a time when political turmoil rules the day. Last night’s midterm elections won’t do much of anything to lower the country’s temperature.