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The midterms delivered a feeble rivulet, not a blue wave

The effort to Make America Great Again will continue, just a little more slowly and circuitously than it would have done had the Republicans held the house

November 7, 2018

9:32 AM

7 November 2018

9:32 AM

Not rapture but, as Nanki-Poo said upon learning that Yum-Yum did not love Koko, ‘modified rapture.’

There was no blue wave. Rather, as I suggested last April, what we have been treated to is a ‘feeble rivulet.’ Yes, the Democrats flipped the House by a narrow margin. They needed 23 seats. As of this writing, they have 27.  They may pick up a couple more. So: a narrow victory, not the ‘tsunami’ that, Nate Silver, the World’s Greatest Psephologist™, had predicted. (To put things in perspective, Barack Obama lost 63 seats in 2010.)

Meanwhile, as of this writing, the Republicans have gained three seats in the Senate. In both Arizona and Montana, the Republican candidates, Martha McSally and Matt Rosendale are leading. Beto O’Rourke and his billionaire wife are out some $70 million while Ted Cruz is about to renew his lease on his Washington digs. Hurrah!

In the gubernatorial races, we were told that it would be wipe-out time for Republicans. In the event, they have, as of this writing, lost seven seats. (Connecticut is presumably waiting to see how many votes are needed to push the Democrat Ned Lamont over the top before ‘discovering’ the necessary bags of ballots in Bridgeport and calling the election.)

On the plus side, last night’s results mean that Trump’s judicial appointments will proceed on schedule.

On the negative side, the results mean that House Committee chairs switch parties. Say goodbye to Devin Nunes and welcome Adam Schiff as head of the Intelligence Committee. Jerrold ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Nadler will become head of the House Judiciary Committee; Elijah Cummings will take over the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; and if that hasn’t made you giggle, know, too, that Mad Maxine Waters will take over the Committee on Financial Services. What about Nancy Pelosi? Probably, she will retake the Speaker’s gavel, but she will almost certainly face a challenge.

What all this means is that one set of investigations will grind to a halt while another will pick up steam. The intelligence committee’s investigation of the Obama administration’s misuse of the Department of Justice and the CIA to stymie Donald Trump’s candidacy and then his presidency will end in all but name. But various investigations of the President — not just the long-running entertainment conducted by Robert Mueller, but sundry other inquiries into his former business dealing and tax returns — will pick up steam.

Will the House try to impeach the President? If Maxine Waters has her way, the answer is yes. But it is not at all clear that Waters will have her way. Nancy Pelosi has several times expressed caution on the issue, understanding, no doubt, that the spectacle of impeachment would probably harm the Democrat cause. For one thing, the Senate would not vote to convict the President unless there were clear evidence of grievous wrongdoing, which there isn’t, so the exercise would be all theater. For another, if the Democrats are too obstructionist, they will undermine their prospects for 2020.

Walter Bagehot was famously a proponent of ‘slow government.’ I doubt that he would have looked kindly on the operations of the United States House of Representatives, but with respect to the velocity of government on view in that legislative body, he would have had much to approve. ‘Gridlock,’ which is a species of the slow government that Bagehot championed, will prevail now more than ever. There will be little legislation emitted from those chambers over the next couple of years, and anything truly toxic will be vetoed by President Trump.

For the past couple of months, the midterm elections of 2018 were proclaimed to be the most important election of our lifetimes. Critical. An existential moment in the history of the Republic. Already, the volume is being turned down and the hysteria is dissipating. The results weren’t everything the Republicans hoped for. But this election was presented as a chance to repudiate Donald Trump definitively, to show the nation and the world that his election was a monstrous anomaly. Doubtless CNN and kindred outlets will endeavor to present yesterdays results in that light. But sober analysts will recognize that, taken all in all, the election was a confirmation, not a repudiation, of the new Trumpian status quo. The effort to Make America Great Again will continue, just a little more slowly and circuitously than it would have done had the Republicans held the house.

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