U.S. midterms re­turn democ­racy to Amer­ica

The Beacon Herald - - OPINION - AN­DREW CO­HEN

Call it a wave, tidal or rogue. Call it a rip­tide or un­der­tow. Deny it, defy it or dis­miss it. But the out­come of Tues­day’s U.S. midterm elec­tion changes ev­ery­thing in Wash­ing­ton.

The Democrats con­trol the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. They will ex­er­cise their con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers, pur­sue their po­lit­i­cal im­pulses and ex­ploit ev­ery the­atri­cal op­por­tu­nity. After two years with a free hand in Congress, Don­ald Trump now faces a fierce, full-throated op­po­si­tion. The re­sis­tance has moved in­side pol­i­tics.

For the next two years, the Democrats will de­mand, pe­ti­tion, re­view and in­ves­ti­gate. In the great­est use of their new power, they may even vote to im­peach. They will largely de­ter­mine the sur­vival and the suc­cess of this in­cen­di­ary pres­i­dency.

The Democrats in Congress are the face and voice of the op­po­si­tion in Amer­ica that stirred the day Trump was in­au­gu­rated. They are con­vinced he is an ac­ci­den­tal, il­le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent. They have watched his vul­gar­ity, van­ity and ig­no­rance in hor­ror, and they have been wait­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to stop him. Now they can — up to a point.

Their vic­tory is what the founders of the United States in­tended, the­o­ret­i­cally, in mak­ing each mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives seek elec­tion (un­like the pres­i­dent or sen­a­tors) ev­ery two years. They wanted the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­spond to the pop­u­lar will.

In 2018, they have. Gain­ing more than two dozen seats in a House where many district boundaries have been de­signed by Repub­li­cans, in a ro­bust econ­omy, against a shrill cho­rus of con­dem­na­tion and false­hood from the com­man­der-inchief, is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

No, the Democrats did not win a his­toric num­ber of seats on Tues­day; in other midterm elec­tions, the op­po­si­tion has done bet­ter. Their ma­jor­ity is not huge, but it is enough.

How far will the Democrats go? They will ex­am­ine mem­bers of cabi­net — par­tic­u­larly Betsy deVos and Ryan Zinke — whom many be­lieve are in­ept or cor­rupt. They will de­mand Trump’s tax re­turns, which will ex­plain his busi­ness deal­ings. Armed with sub­poena power, they will in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s ties to Saudi Ara­bia and Rus­sia.

Will they im­peach him? That will de­pend on the re­port, ex­pected soon, of spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion head Robert Mueller. They will be in no rush, pre­fer­ring to keep Trump twist­ing in the wind into 2020, to gain max­i­mum po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage and to in­flict max­i­mum per­sonal agony.

Can Trump work with the Democrats? It is pos­si­ble but un­likely. Trump has no phi­los­o­phy other than self-in­ter­est. He may try to find com­mon ground on health­care re­form, cheaper pre­scrip­tion drugs and in­fra­struc­ture. But don’t ex­pect much. The Demo­cratic base will be re­luc­tant to give Trump any leg­isla­tive vic­tory that he can spin. The goal is to de­stroy him.

More­over, even if he makes a deal with Democrats in the House, he would make things harder for him­self with the Repub­li­can Se­nate. The in­com­ing class of Repub­li­cans are more mil­i­tant than their pre­de­ces­sors.

The next two years in Wash­ing­ton will be chaotic, loud and un­pro­duc­tive. Un­less Trump can build con­sen­sus, he will get noth­ing passed. He con­tin­ues to have the power to make rules, make speeches, make (un­de­clared) war and re­make the ju­di­ciary (with the Se­nate), which is no small thing. But with­out the House he can­not make laws.

You will hear lit­tle of that from the Repub­li­cans to­day. But as women, mi­nori­ties and im­mi­grants aban­don the Grand Old Party, the de­mo­graphic world is shift­ing be­neath them.

The scene will not be pretty or nice. The di­vi­sions in the United States will deepen and harden. But Trump’s power is no longer ab­so­lute. Democ­racy is re­turn­ing to Amer­ica. An­drew Co­hen is a jour­nal­ist, pro­fes­sor and au­thor.

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