Voting saw blue wave, red tide

November 11, 2018

Since Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much these days, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re arguing over who won the midterm elections. For once, however, they’re both right because they both saw significant gains — on different sides of the capitol building, of course.

Democrats had the biggest victory because they took the House. Before Tuesday, they were almost completely shut out of power in Washington. Now they have half of Congress, which is even more important with an impulsive president like Donald Trump.

No longer will a GOP favorite like the tax cut sail through both chambers of Congress and end with a gleeful signing ceremony in the Oval Office. There will be no more efforts to repeal Obamacare — even though Republicans couldn’t get that done before — and the infamous border wall will remain on the drawing board.

More importantly — and more ominously, for Trump — will be the power of Democratic-led committees to bring documents and people from the administration into the spotlight. Trump’s tax returns will be probed to see if there’s any Russian money lurking in his past, or any new foreign funds coming into the Trump empire since the inauguration (which is illegal, incidentally). If Cabinet members or Trump aides do something controversial (as they did in almost every week of the past two years) they can be hauled before before a House panel and face tough questions from Democratic House members.

These are going to present huge challenges for Trump and Republicans, and we haven’t even brought up impeachment. The checks and balances of our founders are about to shake up Washington as it hasn’t been rattled in years.

Trump doesn’t take things like this well, and it often causes him to lash out in destructive ways — like firing FBI Director James Comey and bringing about the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Who knows what Speaker Nancy Pelosi will provoke him to do, and again, how damaging that might be to him and the entire country.

But as gloomy as this future is for Trump and Republicans, they can take a lot of comfort in a larger Senate majority. The two to four seats that Republicans picked up are far more important than they seem. Trump will no longer have to worry about relative moderates like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska or Sen. Susan Collins of Maine sidetracking one of his dreams like Obamacare repeal, or fear that they might defect on a major nomination like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

He now has enough of a cushion, and enough like-minded senators since other moderates have left, to get almost anything done in that chamber. They might not approve his 13-year-old son Barron for a Cabinet post, but everything else is on the table.

If another Supreme Court vacancy appears, Democrats will be suicidal. They know that Trump could lock in a 6-3 conservative majority that could control the court for another decade or two. If Trump replaces someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, it will wipe out all their joy of taking the House. The House is only half of Congress; it can stop bad ideas but can’t force through good ones. Supreme Court justices serve for life.

Credit — or blame — for this split decision goes to the voters, who rarely give control of the presidency and Congress to the same party. When they do, they almost always rectify that in the next election.

All of this is a recipe for a rollicking, chaotic and of course entirely unpredictable two years. Don’t blink or you might miss something hilarious or frightening.

Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom

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