The sweeping nature of the Democrats’ House takeover may be underappreciated because some of the party’s marquee candidates (notably Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Rourke) went down in defeat and Republicans made gains in the Senate.
It shouldn’t be.
Begin with the popular vote. At this writing, Democrats are projected to win the popular vote in House races by 9.2 percent. This is a significantly larger share than the Republicans won in their own recent blowouts. Republicans got 7.1 percent in 1994, 7.2 percent in 2010 and 5.7 percent in 2014.
This landslide for the opposition party is a repudiation of President Trump. Only House races reflected the opinion of the entire country. And flipping the House will alter the balance of power in important ways. Not only will Democrats be able to hold Trump accountable and launch investigations into administration abuses. They will also have a major impact on the budget. They will be able to defend the Affordable Care Act. And they will begin the task of laying out a longer-term alternative to Trumpism.
Yes, Republicans did well in the Senate races. But the fight for the Senate was waged almost entirely on the GOP’s playing field. The Democrats’ losses came largely in places Trump carried by large margins — Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. But Democratic senators prevailed in the industrial states that were key to Trump’s electoral college victor: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Sen. Joe Manchin held onto West Virginia, while the outcomes in Florida and Montana currently remain uncertain.
Trump will claim the GOP’s gains in the Senate as a great victory, and the outcome is certainly disappointing to Democrats. But notice the pattern: Except in Florida if Sen. Bill Nelson is indeed defeated, Republican triumphs were in GOP base states. Losing the swing states is the more important sign for the future. Trumpism’s hold on discounted blue-collar and middle-class voters has been substantially weakened.
Elections, like Scripture, can be interpreted in many ways. Their outcomes are relatively easy to spin, especially given Tuesday’s split House/Senate decision. But there can be no spinning the huge swing of ballots to the Democrats in the House contests, the end of unified Republican government, or the fact that Donald Trump’s influence is now confined to Republican bastions.