Winners can unite us or divide us
As conventional wisdom goes, the midterm election is done — on to the 2020 election, with the White House, all of Congress, governorships in other states, state houses and an array of down-ballot races all in play.
That’s right; we seem to be in a state of perpetual election. Our hope — dim as it is — is that we will not continue to see the divisiveness and rancor in the next election cycle that we’ve seen in this one. It was not pretty. Not by a long shot.
There is one genuinely good lesson, however, that emerges from this bruising midterm election. It can be drawn from how close some of these races — particularly in Texas — were. As of this writing, a few are still too close to call.
Consider, in a state where a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office since 1994, a Democrat — Beto O’Rourke — came whisker close to unseating an incumbent U.S. senator, Republican Ted Cruz. And while that much talked about blue wave didn’t achieve the broad gains Democrats wanted, the closeness of some of the statewide races should logically be read this way: those who won should reconcile themselves to the notion that they represent deeply divided constituencies.
Two choices then present themselves. The winners can view their margins of victory as mandates — license to govern from extremes. Or they can recognize that near majorities of their constituents turned out in direct repudiation of that. They can represent to unite or they can represent to divide.
We vote for unity.
Yes, this is a tall order. All the dynamics that made the midterm elections so tribal will not go away for the 2020 election. But this can at least be toned down — newly elected officials and those returned to office stepping out of character and showing us how it’s done.
The big news of the night was that Democrats captured the U.S. House. On the positive side, this represents a much needed check on presidential power. It also makes more likely needed inquiry into matters a GOP controlled House simply ignored or willfully bungled for partisan purposes. We speak here of genuine inquiry into Russian meddling in U.S. elections — with the goal of strengthening our election process to guard against this — and whether the president is abusing the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
But, there is a clear danger here of overreach. It will be as harmful to the Republic as has been lack of congressional curiosity into these matters.
Pushed aside by the din that overtook this election, there is still the special counsel investigation into whether there was Trump campaign collusion with the Russians and whether obstruction of justice occurred.
Wait for that investigation to conclude before immediately jumping to cries for impeachment.
Yes, the House has a duty to investigate also. But this should be seriously undertaken, not with its outcome predetermined. With GOP gains of a few seats in the Senate, impeachment would go nowhere in any case and will further divide the nation as many will view such efforts as attempts to nullify the presidential election.
In Texas, the state House and Senate will see the GOP majority winnowed. Democrats picked up 12 House seats, so what was a 95-55 majority has decreased to 83-67. In the Senate, Democrats picked up two seat.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick retains a Senate supermajority, which means Republicans can still bring legislation to floor votes without Democrats. But we urge Patrick to glean some meaning from his historically low margin of victory over Democrat Mike Collier.
Though Collier was a quality candidate and a strong challenger, we suspect he got an estimated 46.5 percent of the vote largely because of Patrick’s fondness for such divisive issues as the bathroom bill. This and other culture-war issues should not be reprised in the next legislative session in January.
Naked partisanship hurts. And that was nowhere more evident in these midterms elections than in Bexar County, where a blue wave did hit. And what that means is that quality judges lost their seats simply because they were Republican and some quality Republican challengers failed for the same reason. If ever there was an example for why judicial races should not be partisan, this is it.
The final lesson in these midterms is that Texans, when energized, will turn out to vote in near presidential-election-year numbers. In 2016, nearly 9 million voted. This month, 8.3 million voted.
Yes, this might be a one-off because of the Trump effect. Our hope, however, is that Texans will remain as energized to vote for someone or something as to vote against someone or something.