Last week’s congressional midterm elections, for all the anticipation prior to the balloting, turned out to be mostly a draw.
The Democrats, as expected, regained control of the House, but not by as large a margin as they had been hoping. Meanwhile, Republicans not only held the Senate but look to have picked up at least two seats. That wasn’t a total surprise either, however, as the political landscape in the Senate was favorable to Republicans going in.
As a result, neither chamber will be able to work unilaterally and expect to get much done. That’s probably a good thing, as divided government can be an effective antidote to the hubris that comes — and the mistakes that follow — whenever any one party believes it can call all the shots.
Even more interesting to ponder is what Tuesday’s election means for President Donald Trump, who staked a lot of capital on the outcome.
The victory lap he tried to run on Wednesday had some justification. In the last three decades, this will be only the second time that the party holding the White House has been able to gain Senate seats during midterm elections.
With those couple of extra Republican votes in the Senate, the president’s nominations for cabinet positions and federal judgeships should find easier sailing toward confirmation. There should not be any repeats, at least not for the next two years, of the type of sordid confirmation process that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh endured.
But on the other side of the Capitol, the Democratic majority in the House is going to make life a lot less comfortable for Trump.
For example, the ouster on Wednesday of Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be the opening move in Trump’s strategy to kill special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the ties within the Trump administration to Russia, including the president’s own business dealings there. If mothballing or cashiering Mueller is the president’s ultimate intent, Democrats in the House are not going to go along. They will just gin up that chamber’s own investigation, which was half-hearted while Republicans were in control of the House. With the power to subpoena records, committees chaired by Democrats will be able to expose the president’s secrets, including what’s on those income tax returns he refuses to disclose.
A draw for the president was about the best he could expect going into Tuesday’s voting, but he is still facing a new dynamic. Let’s see if he can adapt.