Did the elec­tion re­store or­der? Guess again

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist

On Tues­day, Amer­i­can vot­ers had their say: They gave Democrats con­trol of the House, a check on the chaotic and rage­ful Trump pres­i­dency that left many vot­ers say­ing in Elec­tion Day polls that they felt anx­ious and over­whelmed.

On Wed­nes­day, Pres­i­dent Trump gave his re­sponse: He will be even more chaotic and rage­ful go­ing for­ward.

Trump called a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day and, in­cred­i­bly, pro­claimed Tues­day’s loss “a great vic­tory for us … very close to com­plete vic­tory.”

He mocked Repub­li­cans who lost, claim­ing they didn’t em­brace him enough: “Too bad, Mike … Mia Love gave me no love.”

He threat­ened to re­spond to House Democrats’ prospec­tive probes of his ad­min­is­tra­tion by bring­ing govern­ment “to a halt,” go­ing to a “war­like pos­ture” and di­rect­ing Se­nate Repub­li­cans to in­ves­ti­gate House Democrats.

He raged at the me­dia, re­new­ing his “en­emy of the peo­ple” ac­cu­sa­tion, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta “you are a rude, ter­ri­ble per­son” and ac­cus­ing an African-Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist, PBS’ Yamiche Al­cin­dor, of ask­ing “such a racist ques­tion” be­cause she dared to in­quire about Trump’s self-dec­la­ra­tion as a “na­tion­al­ist” em­bold­en­ing white na­tion­al­ists.

And then, the coup de grace: Soon af­ter the news con­fer­ence ended, Trump an­nounced that he had ousted At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

He hadn’t even both­ered to tell Ses­sions him­self. Trump re­placed him with a loy­al­ist, Matthew Whi­taker, who has pub­licly crit­i­cized spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s Rus­sia probe and spec­u­lated about ways to end it.

This was a brazen and de­fi­ant re­sponse to the elec­tion results by a pres­i­dent who is ap­par­ently moved nei­ther by con­ven­tion nor by con­sti­tu­tional checks on his power.

He re­newed his threat Wed­nes­day uni­lat­er­ally to try to re­write the Con­sti­tu­tion’s cit­i­zen­ship pro­vi­sions by ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Rather than of­fer rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, he trolled his op­po­nents and spun more wild fan­tasies: The Democrats “agree that a wall is nec­es­sary” on the bor­der, Democrats “at a high level have sug­gested … get­ting rid of law en­force­ment,” CNN has per­pe­trated “voter sup­pres­sion.”

For those who hoped the elec­tion results would re­store some calm and or­der to pol­i­tics, Trump has just in­formed them that they can ex­pect more of the same — and worse.

The de­fi­ance of the elec­torate is breath­tak­ing. Repub­li­cans ap­pear to have lost nearly 35 House seats, seven gov­er­nor­ships, more than 225 state leg­isla­tive seats and six leg­isla­tive chabers.

And Repub­li­cans’ House losses would be higher if not for ger­ry­man­der­ing.

Trump’s vic­tory claims rest on Repub­li­can gains of a few Se­nate seats — an ar­ti­fact of a po­lit­i­cal map friendly to Repub­li­cans, not pop­u­lar will. The lat­est pop­u­lar-vote tally for the Se­nate, though dis­torted by the ab­sence of a Repub­li­can can­di­date in Cal­i­for­nia, shows Democrats lead­ing Repub­li­cans by 12.5 mil­lion votes. Vot­ers turned out at near-pres­i­den­tial lev­els. Of the two-thirds of vot­ers who said Trump was a fac­tor in their votes, most said they were vot­ing to op­pose him.

And yet, asked Wed­nes­day “what les­son did you learn most” from the elec­tion results, Trump replied: “I think peo­ple like me.”

In the wee hours of Wed­nes­day morn­ing, af­ter the Demo­cratic takeover of the House had be­come official, Trump retweeted a mes­sage say­ing “Trump is the magic man.”

And he is! Trump made three dozen Repub­li­can House seats dis­ap­pear, sawed his party’s ad­van­tage in gov­er­nor­ships in half and caused six leg­isla­tive cham­bers to es­cape from Repub­li­can con­trol — while pulling one racist ca­nard af­ter an­other out of his hat about in­vad­ing hordes of mi­grant crim­i­nals.

Most trou­bling: Trump is act­ing as though he ac­tu­ally be­lieves the midterms were a tri­umph.

His sack­ing of Ses­sions sug­gests he thinks he can get away with any­thing — even oust­ing Mueller — with impunity.

And he seems to credit his reck­less cam­paign tac­tics for his fan­tasy elec­tion out­come.

“Why are you pit­ting Amer­i­cans against one an­other, sir?” asked NBC’s Peter Alexan­der.

Trump’s re­ply: “We won a lot of elec­tions last night.”

Trump’s fury and false­hoods sent tens of mil­lions to the polls Tues­day to tell him to tone it down.

In­stead, he’s de­ter­mined to be even worse in de­feat.

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