A Not So Surprising Election Outcome Sets Us Up for 2020

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An "I Voted" sticker in Washington, D.C. Georgetowner photo.

It’s over. The hurricane midterm—once in a different political landscape predicted to take on the proportions of a blue wave—has come if not entirely gone.

The election—at times feared or anticipated as a kind of political jumbo combo of the Apocalypse and Armageddon,  especially if you happened to be at one of the swirling, charged-up rallies so beloved and masterfully conducted by President Trump in the last weeks of the campaigns—washed over us across the country and left it standing looking pretty much like the prognosticators said it would.

This speaks well for those in the business of predicting outcomes of elections, allowing them to keep their jobs as (D) or (R) strategists, talk show panelists and guests and potential campaign managers or role players for the 2020 elections, which, voila, are just around the corner. Absentee voting doesn’t start just yet, but very soon.

In the end, the large-theme conclusion of the election results that pretty much every one seems to agree on is that we—all of us—live in a deeply, tensely, sharply, nearly violently divided country.    Election night was viewed through the prisms of endless maps of red and blue, but, unfortunately, not including white, which would have allowed us to wrap ourselves in our Star-Spangled Banner of red, white and blue and become citizens of one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The election—deemed the most important mid-term election since, oh, maybe the one they held right before the Civil War (if such notions existed then), which was as divided as you can get—ended with some resonant, and risible factual results.

The Republican Party, with the help of intense, almost single-issue campaigning by the president, not only held the Senate but increased its margins, the extent of which remains as yet unspecific and unclear.

The Democratic Party changed the atmosphere and reality of Capitol Hill and Congress by winning enough seats to retake control the House of Representatives by margins the extent and exactness of which remain as yet unspecific and unclear. This is a reality—a fact as opposed to dismissive  and disposable fake news—which will have consequences because it destroys the previous reality of one-party governance and gives power to the Democrats control over legislative committees and the power to launch investigations that are likely to bedevil the president to no end.

The immediate reality is that this country is deeply—but hopefully not hopelessly—divided. The president showed his rhetorical muscle, star power and political influence in choosing to go all out—or double down, as the phrase is heard so often today—in throwing his weight into the Senate races,  with might, but judiciously. Trump and certainly his base saw this as a political triumph of historical proportion, which, like the blue wave, may be an overstated form of magical realism. Nevertheless, truth be told, the power in the Senate will allow the GOP and Trump to further extend their reach into the judicial system and politicize it thoroughly, and in matters of state and foreign policy and cabinet position approval.

Trump’s America may be short-lived. Trump touted the Kavanaugh hearings as a singular call to arms which activated the agitated activists of his rally intended as a reproof of Democrats and complained complained of the House results and how difficult it was to be a young white male in America.

The equally real triumph belong to women — especially, the women, who came out and voted as promised in droves, and drove a huge voter turnout, excited and responsive to a host of talented, smart, confident, bold and gifted candidates.

Besides the House and Senate elections, there were elections across the board to gubernatorial, state legislature, city council and school board seats.

A lots of women candidates won. Among them Democrat Jennifer Wexton, an authoritative and appealing candidate, former prosecutor and state legislator who triumphed over two-time Republican incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock, in Virginia’s 10th District, successfully and smartly tarring her with the “Trumpstock” label. Virginia proved to be bulletproof to Trump incursions. Two other women knocked off Republicans, including the Tea Party bête noir David Brat who had gained fame several years ago by beating GOP big shot Eric Cantor. Brat lost a close race to Abigail Spanberger (former CIA), and incumbent Elaine Luria defeated Rep. Scott W.Taylor in Hampton Roads

Election nights are funny and eerie experiences—where you are at a campaign rally or watch party, watch from home or meeting at a loud bar—and depending on your preferences and biases, which we all have. The Virginia triumphs—including Wexton’s—came in early and were therefore seen as significant predictors, which turned out to be a false notion. Election nights are fever nights: You roll from exultation, confidence, to sorrow and depression and back again. Someday, they’ll have a theme park with a deadly election night ride where you just scream for extended periods of time.

While commentators watched closely the big fights in Florida—ah, Florida—where the governorship would eventually go to a candidate supported fiercely by Trump. Apparent loser Andrew Gillum with a graceful, heartfelt concession speech that showed he has a political future. Georgia experienced a battle royal between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who could still become the first black woman governor. Expect a recount.

Other things did happen. Ted Cruz retained his Senate seat in Texas while making a rising star out of his opponent; Governor Scott Walker lost in Wisconsin.

Locally, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, cruised to a second term and became the model of what a bipartisan, cross-the-party-lines politician might look like.

In the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser became the first woman to be re-elected as mayor, although her strained bid to help unseat at-large council member Elissa Silverman, who was running for re-election, by endorsing and heavily supporting newcomer Dionne Reeder, failed. In that election—with two at-large Council seats at stake—Democrat Anita Bonds finished first with 45 percent of the vote; Silverman, second with 27 percent; Reeder, third at 15 percent.

Elections are about the retention of memories, as well as triumphs and defeats. In our frantic, feverish life of less-than-24-hour news cycles, the violent drama of the last months or of this year are easily forgotten, the synagogue victims, the newspaper victims, the school victims, the racial victims, the women victims, all victims of violence.

If the president most likely feels that his tactics of outsized and wounding rhetoric were vindicated by electoral success, so be it. But this election—while not containing all the storm metaphors in the world—nevertheless points to an inevitable and possible future of a united United States. It is that old democratic, founding fathers painting that contains multitudes who look different from each other, but can look at each other with hope, curiosity and equanimity, all being members of the body democratic.

 

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