The Midterm Election Results Explained

Jennifer Wright
Photo credit: Erin Lux

From Harper's BAZAAR

So, we took back that House last night for the first time in eight years. That’s a victory. And it’s one which contained so many bright spots. It was an amazing run for women-for the first time ever, more than 100 women were elected to the House of Representatives. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim women elected to congress. Sharice Davids is not only Kansas’ first gay representative, but the first Native American woman ever elected to congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman. Jared Polls is the first openly gay man to win a gubernatorial election. Chris Murphy-who represents the Sandy Hook families and has long been pushing for better gun control-won in Connecticut. Florida restored voting rights to ex-felons, which will allow a million people to regain their right to vote.

Oh, and, again, we took back the House.

So, that’s a lot of good news. If you like women, or the LGBTQ community, or minorities, or the idea of schoolchildren not being shot, then things are better than they were last week. Much better.

But it’s also a reminder of how far we had to come. Trump’s party still controls the Senate, which was always something of a long shot. But it was surprising that many of the candidates who excited people the most (and we all remember hearing that candidates weren’t exciting enough during the 2016 election) like Andrew Gillum, BetoO’Rourke, and Stacy Abrams couldn’t turn Florida, Texas or Georgia blue. And before anyone yells, “gerrymandering!”-gerrymandering does not affect the Senate. Republican Marsha Blackburn similarly defeated Philip Bredesen, despite an endorsement from Taylor Swift which encouraged massive voter registration.

If this was intended to be a referendum on Trumpism, then it should also be seen as a sign that many people are very happy with Trumpism. Among his constituency, as of July, he was the second most popular President.

There’s a point I hear reiterated often by liberal friends, a kind of hopeful fable. It’s variations on the notion that, one day far in the future, their grandchildren will see MAGA apparel and respond to it as we would to Nazi memorabilia today. It makes sense, because once you have a Republican party that laughs at throwing disabled children in cages, it’s fair to say they’re pretty spiritually identical.

And it’s a nice story to tell, because in it, we get to stand by our grandchildren and say, “yes, there were very bad people who laughed at disabled people and sexual assault survivors and minorities, but we weren’t among them. We had morals. We knew what was right.”

But it always overlooks the fact that we think of Nazis as immoral because we defeated them in a war. People in Germany did not wake up one day and decide that persecuting minorities was a bad idea. They loved doing that. They felt righteous about it. People are fearful, and they bought into the lie that they had to fight against minorities to defend their safety and culture. They felt so strongly about it that there were mass suicides at the end of the War because many people did not want to live in a new non-fascist world.

Trumpism is an illness that has taken root in American culture, and there is no America to ride in and rescue us from it. Nor, I think, would we want there to be. If there is to be change, it will come from us. But the longer Trumpism festers, the more deeply entrenched into the fabric of our society it will be.

So I hope this will be a time when Democrats do not sit on their laurels in the House. It is not a great time for passivity and cowed silence, or, as Republicans keep calling it, civility.

Now is not a time for politeness. Now is the time to fight as hard as we can.

We can begin that fight immediately by open investigations into the President. Democrats intend to request Trump’s Tax Returns, which they can do unilaterally. Maxine Waters, an especially outspoken Trump opponent will be the chairing the House Financial Services Committee, which would allow her to subpoena the President’s bank records.

If nothing else, I think it is nice to take a moment to sit and think about how much Maxine Waters would enjoy doing this, because it’s such a nice thought. She’s truly reclaiming her time.

The UK paper The Independent speculates that it’s “likely” that Trump will be impeached. People across the country may feel a good deal of enthusiasm for that prospect-a CNN-SSRS poll found that 47 percent of people think Trump should be impeached-but the new House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said she does not favor this and that she “does not think that impeachment is a policy agenda.” And without the cooperation of the still firmly controlled Republican Senate, impeachment in the house does not equal the removal of a President-just ask Bill Clinton.

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It is a veritable certainty, though, that the President will be overwhelmed with investigations. Some probes are likely to look into not only Trump’s tax returns, Trump family businesses, payments to various individuals, Hurricane response in Puerto Rico and in a glorious bit of irony, Trump’s personal email use. With control of the house lost, Republicans will no longer be able to block any of those investigations. Jonathan Swan at Axios reports that this “would turn the Trump White House into a 24/7 legal defense operation.” Which, if it can’t stop anything, can at least slow it down.

This all means an essential stop to much of the conservative agenda. Democrats will control what legislation even gets onto the floor-which likely won’t include tax cuts to the rich, or cuts on Medicaid or food stamps.

We may not be able to make things a lot better. But now we can certainly exert enough power to stop things from getting worse.

It took the greatest effort of the 20th century to defeat fascism the last time. We have only begun to balance out the corruption and willful hatred that currently holds power over millions of lives. This is victory but it is not the victory. But if we keep fighting, it may be the first of many.

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