Tuesday’s elections could be counted as a split decision in that the Democrats regained a slim margin of control in the House of Representatives while Republicans maintained their hold on the Senate, and even added a net four seats. But of the two chambers, the Senate was a far more significant outcome for several reasons.
First off, the Senate contest can be seen as a harbinger of the 2020 elections, and a trouncing in the Senate races, which more closely correlate to national political trends, could have been a serious red flag to the GOP standard-bearer, President Trump. But not only did Trump’s party keep the upper chamber, it increased its majority. And in several of the most hotly contested races, Cruz vs. O’Rourke in Texas, and Blackburn vs. Bredesen in Tennessee among others, Trump actively campaigned on their behalf. “Donald Trump went out and worked his tail off,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who heads the Senate GOP’s campaign committee. He cited Trump rallies that drew thousands in crucial states during the campaign’s closing weeks and offered, “The president was THE factor.”
Whatever anti-Trump “blue tidal wave” was in the offing, it dissipated into an ankle-wetter against the breakwater of a roaring economy, concerns over illegal immigration, and the shameful spectacle of the Kavanaugh hearing, which gave the American people a glimpse of what kind of sleazy shenanigans could be expected by handing over the Senate to the likes of Spartacus Booker, Diane Feinstein, and Kamala Harris. Whatever the spin, depending on the cable network, the loss of more seats in the Senate implies a difficult challenge for the Democrats in the 2020 general election.
Second, control of the Senate means a continued flood of originalist justices deferring to the statutory text of the Constitution rather than it being a so-called “living document.” More Scalias, fewer Ginsburgs. President Trump has already appointed two Supreme Court justices, swinging the balance of 5-4 power in favor of those who interpret laws rather than legislate from the bench. And as two of the four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer, are 85 and 80 respectively, he could possibly appoint one or even two more. A solid majority in the Senate, without the Jeff Flake effect, will make any future nomination process far easier. And with the likelihood of Judge Amy Coney Barret on deck, an even more conservative tilt of the highest court could be in the offing.
Furthermore, with the publicity of the nominations of Gorsuch and, of course, Kavanaugh, what has slid more or less under the public’s radar is that so far this administration has appointed 29 judges to the U.S. Courts of Appeals, with 12 more pending, 53 to the U.S. District Courts, with 57 pending, and 15 more in lesser federal courts either already appointed or pending. And this is just in the first two years. President Trump has at least two if not six more years to re-shape the federal judiciary into his more strict constructionist mold. House elections come and go every two years and the party in power usually loses ground in the mid-terms. But the judiciary — the reason more than any other to pull the lever for Trump — will be with us for decades and fundamentally reshape aspects of our lives we cannot imagine today. This will be Trump’s most significant legacy. This on-going process of judicial re-alignment would have ground to a halt with a Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
Third, even with the Democrat House and likes of Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters leading the charge, barring revelations of flagrant and undeniable high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of the president, an impeachment would die in the Senate, as the House may bring charges, but the Senate is where the trial takes place. And as with Clinton, the impeaching party may pay a steep price for what would clearly be a political stunt (again assuming no genuine wrong-doing is uncovered) to appease the lunatic wing of a steadily far-left-careening party and merely obstruct for obstruction’s sake. The average American just wants its government to function and these inter-party, inner-beltway battles look like nothing more than childish food-fights and yet another way for frustrated Democrats to negate the 2016 election.
The Senate win does not mean the GOP should ignore the lessons from losing the House. Or for that matter from the close gubernatorial races between conservatives like Brian Kemp versus far-left Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Ron DeSantis to an unapologetic socialist Andrew Gillum in Florida. The Republican brand is pitifully weak among suburban women, and this is in a large part due to President Trump’s acerbic tone which is a turn-off to educated, professional women of all stripes. For instance, one can and should point out the inconsistencies of Christine Basley Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, but Trump went beyond that. Showing a tin ear to women’s sensibilities re: sexual harassment, he mocked Ford in public. This is not how to earn the respect of half the voting population, especially given the credibility deficit among women with which he began his presidency.
And Republicans should not underestimate the appeal of socialism to large segments of the population, especially younger voters, who have not reaped the benefits of the improving economy over the past decade. Theirs is a world of five- even six-figure college debt for often worthless degrees, saddling them with a mortgage but no house, delaying, even stifling their chances for embarking on the American Dream that seems more of a pipe-dream to them. For the first time in 130 years, more Americans ages 18-34 live with their parents than partners. Add to that they see their own parents often working two jobs to cover spiraling healthcare costs while making flat wages, a wealth gap that is widening to obscene levels in some segments, and Wall Street having its best run in decades. When the current system isn’t working, you search for alternatives. The lure of free stuff while getting subsidized healthcare, all paid for by “Wall Street fat cats” and “millionaires and billionaires,” is seductive to those who have never been taught economics or history (and thus have no idea that socialism has been tried and abysmally failed elsewhere and often)… especially when coated with a lacquer of moral superiority.
Still, for a GOP breathing easier today, the Senate win was indeed a breakwater for a “blue wave” that never quite materialized. Perhaps just hurling epitaphs of “Nazi” at the most pro-Jewish president in a generation, or “racist” at the man who has given minorities the lowest levels of unemployment on record while increasing their wages, and trying to stem the flow of illegal competition flooding the workforce, is not enough. The Democrats now have the House. They have some power again. Let’s see how they use it. If they behave as they have in the past, losing the House in 2018 may guarantee Trump’s re-election in 2020.