Our view: Elec­tion re­sults bring a much-needed change

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS -

The 2018 elec­tion was more a mod­est re­buke of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump than a mas­sive re­pu­di­a­tion.

Trump’s Repub­li­cans padded their hold on the Se­nate and ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions in sev­eral races for gov­er­nor, giv­ing the GOP some­thing to crow about. In­deed, at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, Trump called the re­sults “very close to a com­plete vic­tory.”

But, spin aside, the most con­se­quen­tial re­sult from the elec­tion was that Democrats took con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, pick­ing up roughly 34 seats. Only three times in the last 130 years — in 1930, 1958 and 1974 — has a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent lost more seats.

The switch to di­vided govern­ment will bring a big, and much needed, change in Wash­ing­ton. By end­ing oneparty rule and putting Democrats in charge of one cham­ber of Congress, vot­ers ex­pressed their de­sire to place some re­straints on a vit­riol-spew­ing pres­i­dent that, ac­cord­ing to sur­veys of vot­ers leav­ing the polls, 55 per­cent of them dis­ap­prove of.

The im­por­tance of the vote will come into play sooner, rather than later, as on Wed­nes­day Trump fired At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and moved to in­stall a sym­pa­thetic par­ti­san as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral in a bla­tant bid to un­der­mine spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in the 2016 elec­tion.

The new House ma­jor­ity will be able to push back in many ways, in­clud­ing hold­ing hear­ings on Trump’s politi­ciza­tion of the Jus­tice Depart­ment and is­su­ing sub­poe­nas for his tax re­turns.

Pol­icy-wise, the big­gest mes­sage of the House re­sult was that vot­ers want to end efforts to shed mil­lions of Amer­i­cans of their health cover­age by re­peal­ing or un­der­min­ing the Afford­able Care Act. Exit polls and an Elec­tion Day sur­vey by The As­so­ci­ated Press showed health care to be the most im­por­tant is­sue on the minds of vot­ers.

Trump ap­peared to have re­ceived that mes­sage in a press con­fer­ence, held be­fore the Ses­sions ouster, no­table for ap­peals to bi­par­ti­san­ship. He specifically cited health care and in­fra­struc­ture as ar­eas where Repub­li­cans and Democrats could co­op­er­ate, while warn­ing that ag­gres­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his White House by the new ma­jor­ity would trig­ger “a war-like pos­ture.”

The party in the White House typ­i­cally loses House seats in midterm elec­tions. What makes Tues­day’s House out­come even more sig­nificant, even in light of the strong GOP show­ing in Se­nate races, is that it oc­curred in a strong econ­omy and on a map that has been rigged to the Repub­li­cans’ ad­van­tage through gross ger­ry­man­der­ing of con­gres­sional dis­tricts in mul­ti­ple states.

That should give Trump pause — and cause for a new ap­proach to gov­ern­ing, even as he ap­pears dis­in­clined to fol­low that road.

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