In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterms, I was deliberately avoiding the polls. If they looked promising, I might have started feeling optimistic, and then I would have run the risk of having my hopes dashed again. If they looked ominous, I would’ve felt angry and depressed before it was strictly necessary. As it is, this is a middle-of-the-road outcome, neither the best nor the worst case.
One thing to take comfort in is that we avoided the worst possible outcome. If the Democrats hadn’t taken over either house of Congress, we can be sure that Trump would’ve staged his own Saturday Night Massacre and fired Robert Mueller the next day. The Republicans would have huffed and postured and done nothing, and neither Trump nor anyone else in his rampantly corrupt and criminal administration would have faced any consequences.
As it is, we can expect some modicum of oversight and accountability to return, which is most welcome. We can expect some entertainment in the next two years as Trump and his cronies run and hide from subpoenas, and it’s very likely we’ll uncover evidence that can be used against him in 2020. A Democratic House should also block some of the worst parts of the Republican agenda, especially stopping any more legislative wounds from being inflicted on the ACA.
On a smaller scale, I’m happy to note that Democrats finally took control of the New York State Senate, which had been Republican-controlled for years thanks to a bunch of turncoat Democrats who caucused with the Republican minority. One of those turncoats was my own (former) state senator, who was kicked out in a primary and then ran a sore-loser third-party bid. Thankfully, his attempt to split the ticket went down in flames. With unified Democratic control, New York has the potential to accomplish some great things at the state level in the next few years (maybe even single-payer?)
However, last night wasn’t a huge triumph for liberals. Progressive candidates all over the country lost – Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke – which means that millions of American voters are just fine with the last two years. They’re fine with the racism, the misogyny, the open appeals to white supremacy, the wild incompetence, the blatant corruption, the willful cruelty to children and refugees. Appealing to bigotry as an electoral strategy works, and America will be grappling with these forces for the foreseeable future.
And while the Democratic takeover of the House was a much-needed cleansing, the other side of the coin was the expansion of the Republican majority in the Senate, which will make it even easier to confirm awful judges for the rest of this term.
Granted, we’ve known for a long time that 2018 would be a tough year for the Senate, just because of which states were in play. It would never have been realistic to hope for a miraculous Doug Jones-like victory in every red state. But it will put Senate control further out of reach for the next go-round.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of setting my expectations too high. Taking over the House in spite of rampant gerrymandering is no small achievement, and it’s true that the Senate outcome could have been a lot worse.
Nevertheless, I feel justified in saying that 2018 wasn’t a blue wave but a modest blue current. The 2016 election did colossal harm to America and the world. This election will, at best, mitigate some of that harm.