What Did We Learn?

I don’t know what a “blue wave” is, beyond a campaign rallying cry turned into a subjective term by which talking heads felt compelled to evaluate the 2018 mid-terms.

An election, by design, has very clear metrics. Some number of candidates win. Some number lose. Some control from one political party transfers or maintains as a result. That anyone started or stopped a blue wave is immaterial–the political version of greatest of all time quarterback sports talk radio debates. It’s the kind of nonsense serious people don’t spend time on.

Here’s what matters. And here’s what we learned:

The Democrats won 53% of last night’s congressional and gubernatorial elections. In 2016 they won 43%.

In an economy growing at 6 to 7 percent, with unemployment at historic lows and job and wage growth showing strength that they haven’t since before the recession, the party in control of the legislative and executive branches of the United States Federal Government, lost the election.

Though there’s some spin to say that the Republicans did not, in fact lose, the best one can reasonably say on their behalf is that they did not, in fact, lose as badly as they could have. Losing the majority in the House, a seven state Democratic governor swing and 22 of 31 of Senate races is not winning anything.

What they avoided, losing both the House and Senate in a booming economy, without major security concerns or the outbreak of war, would have been one of the worst political dumps in American history if one considers how good the material lives of Americans actually are in real time.

A ten-point dip in election winning percentage was ushered in by a broad coalition of independents in suburbs, specifically suburban women. One exit poll had Democrats carrying as much as a 12-point lead in independents. Trump won that category by six points last cycle.

Directionally, in two years, that’s a titanic drop off.

What Senator Lindsay Graham referred to as a “suburban women” problem, is more effectively characterized as a, “anything but rural America problem.” Aside from a strong Florida strategy to capitalize on Governor Rick Scott’s political clout that kept the governorship and gained a Senate seat, it was a crater.

The GOP almost lost a Senate seat in Texas.

If we’re waiting for any acknowledgement of course change or introspective self-reflection from the White House, we’re going to be waiting for a long time. Anyone who witnessed then Citizen Trump’s casinos go bankrupt in Atlantic City, it’s clear. Wins are on him. Losses are on others. And when the winning gets too sparse, it’s time to bounce on the whole scene before the loser stink gets too hard to wash off. It’s not obvious what that looks like as POTUS though.

Unfortunately for the current administration, it’s hard to put a finger on the heart of the problem beyond accepting some, or really all, of the responsibility from the White House. One can claim victory, but one needs to show winnings to back it up.

It’s reasonable to believe that the non-ideological, and maybe even some of the ideological don’t see the value that President Trump brings to the equation when the drawbacks are so obvious. A reasonable question to ask would be, what policies wins, required Donald Trump, with GOP control of both houses of congress, to push through.

Corporate tax reform? Not likely.

One could even argue that the Kavanaugh appointment was made more difficult by President Trump’s baggage from accusations similar to the one’s levied upon his SCOTUS nominee. Which means that, outside of a narrow base, who are fervently loyal to the POTUS, his style and his message, the welcome he did have with others, has likely worn off over two years of tweet storms, ethics bullseyes and disruption of political norms.

It’s also reasonable to believe, based on last night’s results, that America, despite so much measurable, tangible goodness in the economy, believes the country is heading in the wrong direction. And an enfranchised people did what they were charged to do.

The strength of Democracy is not in it’s efficiency to govern. The strength of democracy is to avoid that thing Fukuyama called the “bad emperor problem”, that of having no mechanism to avoid tolerating truly harmful leadership for long enough to degrade institutions and cause material harm to people and world standing.

Last night the electorate took the first step in marginalizing that risk by taking away President Trump’s ability to sign anything into law that goes against the political will of the opposition. If there truly were a risk of Nuremberg Laws, which I doubt there likely was, it’s now formally gone.

Rest easy at-risk Americans. You can’t be legislated into obscurity for at least two more years. You are no longer politically invisible.

For now.

The Democrats should heed a warning though. They have subpoena power now, which could be as much of a land mine as it is a tool for balance of power. A strategy to disrupt normal governance through investigation could result in a snap back. When President Trump has already given the American people plenty of campaign ad fodder that they don’t even have to worry about packaging up into ads based on the media’s mandate to simply cover his behavior, they’d be wise to let it ride a bit.

The reality is, the slide may already be upon the current administration.

The President is right in one respect. In many of the places he went to stump for candidates they won. And they won because of him. But those locations were chosen carefully. And he was forced to stay away from others. And those places where the message to the base plays well are narrowing out a bit. As the suburbs dry up, it’s only going to get harder. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine that the economic slowdown we’re slightly over due for, doesn’t play an impact within the next two years.

We’re about six months out from when Democratic candidates for president begin to announce themselves. We independents have signaled that we’ve seen enough of the current administration to know it’s not the direction we want to go. But those with aspirations should be wary. That doesn’t mean we’re ready to feel the Bern.

My hope for 2020, is a candidate that shows me they’re willing to bring the band back together. It’s possible that politics itself, and the sickness of division, is the most dire political issue of the day. And that the leader who can get as many of us under one roof again is the one that solves America’s biggest problem.

My antenna is up. And I’m ready to receive.

Who’s out there willing to put that message on blast?

Perhaps a Democrat with broad enough appeal to nearly win a state-wide Senate race in Texas?

2020 started last night.

4 replies »

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/upshot/how-good-is-the-trump-economy-really.html “There are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics.” – Mark Twain

    I have only one question for you, Sean, after reading all that you have learned within your lifetime thus far: Are you going to encourage your three sons to join the military (that’s the business that keeps America alive), or are you going to encourage them to be politicians (that’s the business that convinces the populace to believe in war)?

    Just one simple question.

    I’m sure you will say they can (because they live in America) do anything they want to do (that’s the American Dream).

    They most probably will follow their father’s example. Which is both of the above.


  2. My sense is that a majority of level-headed Democrats view the world the same way, however they lack either the options or the backbone (likely both) to make it happen. John Hickelooper fits the bill. If you start hearing his name come up, pay attention. The party’s inclination to support him or stifle him will say a lot.

    Any chance we get lucky and a Kasich-esque Republican takes Trump out at the knees and takes the party back during the primaries?

    I’m praying for a candidate who stands worthy of holding the nation’s highest office. Haven’t seen one in a while.