Salim Mansur: My Take on the 2018 U.S. mid-term elections
Now that the 2018 mid-term election is over, and the clock has started ticking on the 2020 presidential election a quick review might help in putting the results in perspective, since it will not be coming forth from the mainstream media in the U.S. and its pathetic clone in Canada.
In my view, for what this is worth, there was no Democratic "blue wave" sweeping aside the Republicans in the House and the Senate and, thereby, repudiating the election of 2016. This was the mainstream media même, the incessant drum beat from early summer through fall, that the Democratic tsunami was predictable and inevitable. In the end, the "blue wave" was the normal ebb and flow tides of American politics, consistent with the historic pattern of U.S. mid-term elections in modern history going all the way back to 1938. In the past 80 years, only thrice - in 1938, 1998, and 2002 - have the White House party carried the House in mid-term elections following the presidential elections.
In 2018 this pattern was not broken. In each of those mid-term elections when the President's party - FDR's Democrats in 1938, Clinton's Democrats in 1998, and Bush Republicans in 2002 - held the House the circumstance was in some way special. In 1938 the Depression years were still having an effect on the populace, while the war clouds in Europe and Asia in retrospect we know were gathering ominously. In 1998 the populace rallied around an impeached Clinton and turned back the Republican majority from ousting a president given a second mandate in 1996 by the public. In 2002 the public rallied behind Bush in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 with the country at war.
If there is one counter-factual lesson of the 2018 mid-term in which the Democrats have taken control of the House they lost in 2010 mid-term, it is that the slogan of Bill Clinton's in 1992 "It's the economy, stupid" that won him the White House is insufficient, if not shallow, to be taken as the decisive metric for predicting an election result in an advance first world democracy such as the United States, or Canada. I have been wary of this idea that the economy alone decides. Last evening it was proven that a booming economy, as is the present economic climate in Trump's America, was insufficient for the GOP to hold the House against the historic pattern of the past 80 years. There is much more than the economy that drives the individual and collective psyche of the voters to cast their ballots in favour of an individual candidate or a party.
But the mainstream American media, as I surveyed their take out message of the 2018 mid-term, remains as ever predictable in its messaging. The message is Democrats won, and the President and his party, the GOP, lost. They waited for the past two years since November 2016 to run with this message. And as President Trump has rightly called the mainstream media fake news, its message is transparently false.
At best it might be said that the mid-term 2018 election was a draw. The Democrats not unexpectedly (given the historic pattern) took the House, and the Republicans took the Senate with an impressive gain in seats. Mid-term elections for the House are local elections in which the characteristics of the local districts, candidates, and local issues more often than not become decisive. Since the Senate elections of those one-third seats in rotation are on ballots, these elections being state-wide are closer in providing a glimpse of the national picture driving the voters in making their decisions.
On the House side the coastal blue states were decisive in giving Democrats their advantage in making the gains. When one gets into the details of issues that drove Democratic voters to the poll plus those independents who voted with Democrats, the one issue that turned out to be somewhat of the clincher in close run races for the Democrats was the uncertainty surrounding the health care issue. This was ironically the "McCain revenge" on President Trump and the GOP, and I note none of the mainstream media has identified it as such.
The last decisive vote that John McCain cast in the Senate in July 2017 before the Grim Reaper took him was against the repeal of Affordable Act or Obamacare. McCain's was the deciding vote, and it was cast as his act of spite against President Trump and his GOP colleagues that prevented Obamacare from being scrapped and replaced, as the GOP had been promising since 2010. McCain was likely the only RINO from wherever he now finds his place to vent his spite smiling as his revenge sowed the seeds for the Democrats to take over the House.
I noted last evening watching the results come in that while Obamacare, and not the booming economy, turned out to be the clincher for close House races through the battleground states (in contrast to the coastal blue states) there was a gender and generational split on this issue. Senator Lindsay Graham admitted last evening that the GOP was weak with the suburban female voters and that this needs to be corrected. Reading between the lines, Senator Graham was loathe to go public in admitting that his closest Senate buddy, John McCain had driven the knife into the GOP.
The suburban female vote on balance went to Democrats as a means to protect what remains of Obamacare despite the rising premium costs since the GOP had provided no replacement. However, the millennial voters, and especially women among them, had a choice to make between the rising health care cost and the huge burden of education loan that they cannot figure how to repay except hoping for continued economic growth and low unemployment. Hence, millennial women voters, in contrast to their mothers and grandmothers, likely voted for the GOP but were not enough to nullify the votes of the older generation of women.
Obamacare now will not be repealed by the new 116th Congress, and as the premium costs continue to rise, I predict, this issue will become the leverage for President Trump to get the Democratic House agree with him to meet some of his remaining agenda on the Wall, illegal immigrants and immigration reform in return for funding the rising cost of Obamacare. It will then be for the Democrats to show that they can work on a bipartisan basis with the President, or prepare to answer the voters in 2020.
The best metric for President Trump in the past half-century is President Reagan. When Reagan won in 1980, he carried with him the GOP to become the Majority in the Senate, which was lost in the 1984 presidential election. But through President Reagan's two terms in office, the Democrats under Tip O'Neill as the Speaker of the House held the majority that meant Reagan had to work to put his mark on American politics by negotiating with the legendary Tip from Massachusetts. And Reagan did. Someday he might well be on Mt. Rushmore.
So given President Reagan's record, what can be said of President Trump after the 2018 mid-term?
President Trump, unlike President Reagan, won the 2016 election with both houses in the Congress held by the GOP. Two years later President Trump did what no other presidents in living memory has done in the manner in which he went out campaigning for the GOP, and the result is he increased by his singular effort the GOP's numbers in the Senate from 51 to 55 (+4) and 2 seats (Arizona and Montana) yet to be decided though leaning Republican. If McSally in Arizona and Rosendale in Montana are declared winners, then that will be a net gain for the GOP in the Senate of 6 seats, a solid majority giving President Trump what he needs to get conservative judges nominated and confirmed, and similarly cabinet members and senior officials for the administration. It will also effectively nullify any further insane efforts of the unhinged Democrats like Maxime Waters to impeach President Trump, and if they do it will boomerang on them as happened in the Bill Clinton case on the Republicans.
President Trump campaigned directly for Republican nominees to the Senate and the win for Senators-elect in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, and North Dakota are directly due to him and is now being described as the "Kavanaugh effect." Those Democratic Senators who voted against Brett Kavanaugh and then were up for re-elections, they all lost except for Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, who voted for Kavanaugh behind the skirts of Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine. So much for Manchin's courage to break from his Democratic caucus to save his seat in his state that had voted heavily for Trump in 2016.
So the state-wide Senate elections reflect the larger national mood in contrast to the House elections driven by local characteristics of candidates and issues. For instance, in the House 2 Muslim women, one of Somali origin in Minnesota and one of Palestinian origin in Michigan, have been elected in some small way as history making to the House.
The House was lost not by President Trump, but by the RINO members of the GOP running the House under Speaker Paul Ryan. Speaker Ryan decided to retire, but he failed to provide effective leadership to push Trump's agenda that in effect left the GOP led House vulnerable in 2018. If the GOP led House had been all behind President Trump's promise to build the Wall, then the outcome of 2018 mid-term might well have been different.
Paul Ryan's retirement along with a few other RINOs from the House symbolized the failure of the Never Trumpers or lukewarm Trump supporters to have any winning strategy against the Democrats. Similarly, the retirement from the Senate of Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and the death of John McCain, have removed from the ranks of Senate GOP the most prominent RINOs except for Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Senator Murkowski after casting a negative vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is now pretty much a lame duck and likely will be "primaried" out before she is up for re-election in two years and replaced by a more conservative GOP member, perhaps Sarah Palin waiting on the sideline.
President Trump did not, and could not have, campaigned for the House Republicans except for calling out voters to go out and vote for the GOP on issues that were framed in national terms. But in the state-wide Senate elections those national issues resonated for the GOP, as the results show.
In winning the House the Democrats will have to do what the Republicans needed to do during their time in the Obama years. Democrats will have to come up with legislations that will require bipartisan support in the Senate for passage, and if they fail in doing so they will fail in securing any legislative action during the two years under the shadow of the impending 2020 election. Moreover, if they engage in partisan politics of pushing legislation through the House Democrats will run into the brick wall of the presidential veto that they will not be able to over-ride given their numbers in the House and their Minority status in the Senate. So the shine on their House win will very quickly fade into recriminations among them divided by age, gender, and the politics of moderation (necessary bipartisanship) on the one side and radicalism on the other. It means, ironically, that for the next two years and very likely for the following four years of the second-term of President Trump in the White House, Democrats if they re-take the House in 2020 will still remain frustrated by the dynamics of the separation of powers in which the GOP will hold the upper hand.
Going forward, I see very likely President Trump shuffling his cabinet. It means that there will be a new Attorney-General irrespective of whether Jeff Sessions resigns or is fired. A new Attorney-General will then move to replace the Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and close the Mueller show, unless Mueller by then will have submitted his report with the minor indictments already done and the President more or less exonerated of any of the "fake" Democratic allegations of Russian collusion. It will be left to the Democrats in the House to decide whether they howl as wolves at the moon, or buckle down to do what they claim their voters want in terms of keeping the American economy remaining strong and finding the means to either bend in accommodating the White House agenda or coming up with bills that will get the White House nod. This will be by no means an easy task for a much divided Democrat Party.
In conclusion, I wager President Trump had more or less calculated this 2018 outcome as his own insurance policy and, therefore, he pushed as hard as he did in driving his economic agenda - tax cuts and trade deals renegotiated or revoked - along with the military build up as his main goals for the first two years in office. He accomplished that in addition to tearing up the Iran nuclear deal signed by Obama, the same for the Paris Accord on climate change, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table on de-nuclearization. His foreign policy agenda will continue with pressures on China, on the EU over Nato, in the Middle East in forcing Iran through sanctions to renege on its nuclear policy or find means to pressure a regime change, and in general in placing America First on both the economic front and in the changing features of geopolitics. And President Trump is stronger following the 2018 mid-term in nominating another one, or perhaps two, conservative judges from his list to the Supreme Court and getting the Senate consent without the posturing of any RINO among the GOP members that will make the heads of Democrats explode with greater bangs than what Americans witnessed in watching their pathetic performance during the Kavanaugh hearings. President Trump remains in position to give Americans the taste of more winnings as he promised in 2016.
This is an excellent analysis of the mid-term election. Written by a Canadian and far better than any American review!