U.S. midterms return democracy to America
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.