Our view: Election results bring a much-needed change
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 fired 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 efforts to shed millions of Americans of their health coverage by repealing or undermining the Affordable 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 specifically 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 significant, 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.