}

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

2018 US elections quick take

The dust hasn’t settled on the 2018 US Midterm elections, and there will be much to analyse in the weeks ahead, especially when a few very close races are finalised as absentee and other special ballots are counted. Even so, I have a few observations right now.

First, I’m generally pleased with the results. Obviously, I wish the Democrats had done better than they did, but the party re-took the US House, which was the main battle. Taking the Senate was always a huge ask because of the Senate map, which favoured Republicans: Democrats had to defend far more seats, and many of them were in Red or Deep Red states. With Republican gerrymandering and their voter suppression efforts, doing better was not really possible.

Democrats are sending more women, people of colour, and younger people to Congress, including the first two Muslim women, two Native American women, and the youngest-ever woman. One third of the Democratic caucus in the House will be women. Democrats encouraged millions of new voters, including, millennials, who have historically not voted in great numbers. All of that is great news for American democracy and for renewal of the Democratic Party.

We also picked up a lot of governorships, and expanded our seats in state legislatures. This will be important for the redistricting battles after the next US Census.

After watching TV coverage, I don’t think people should draw simplistic conclusions about how Democrats can win elections. I heard TV pundits speculating that the reason that Democrats didn’t pick up more House seats is that their candidates were “too progressive” and didn’t appeal to voters. That may be true in some places, as time will tell us, but not everywhere. Moreover, if all it took for a Democrat to be elected was to be conservative, then Republicans wouldn’t have defeated the Democrats in North Dakota and Missouri. Instead, it suggests that it’s not enough to be a conservative, one has to be conservative enough—and not a Democrat, perhaps. This line of reasoning also ignores and excuses Republicans’ gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts.

Instead, I’d argue that all the Democrats who won elections actually ran races appropriate for their electorates, running on the issues their constituents cared about and sharing the same values as those constituents. In other words, they ran to win, as all successful politicians have always done. I don’t think it matters if the candidate is Left or Right as long as they’re correct for the place they’re running. Like always.

The initial results seem to suggest that the current occupant of the White House has lost white suburban voters who always used to vote Republican. They may be conservative on some things, but they are NOT fans of the current occupant, and they voted against Republican candidates for the US House.

At the same time, there’s an opportunity here for the current occupant to do things differently. He ran on fixing the USA’s crumbling infrastructure, and Democrats will work with him on that—in fact, non-extremist Republicans in the House would be glad to do so, too, and support their party’s leader while also doing things popular with voters. The Senate has never been as extremist as the House has been, and may be more bipartisan, too.

On the other hand, the current occupant is so self-centred and narcissistic that he may be incapable of that. If that’s the case, then there will be two more years like the two we’ve been through, with one important difference: The US House will be able to exercise its constitutional role to provide checks and balances and oversight. There will be investigations of the current regime, and the various cabinet secretaries will be held to account for their deeds—or lack of action, as the case may be. This is really good news for democracy.

For the first time in two years, I feel like I can breathe again. I suspect it will be a short-lived feeling, because I seriously doubt that the current occupant will suddenly start acting like a responsible adult.

So, the battle now moves on to 2020. But let’s leave that for another day. Right now, tonight, I’d rather just be happy about the victories we achieved.

No comments: