By Dr. Larry Fedewa (November 10, 2018)
While some contests remain somewhat questionable at this time after the midterm election of 2018, there are some conclusions that seem reasonably certain, even now.
Up until now, there have really been four partisan cliques in Congress: pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans, and “traditional” and far-left Democrats. This election seems to have united the Republicans, partially by the dominant role played by Mr. Trump in the campaign and partially by the retirement of so many of his Republican dissidents.
On the Democrat side, there have been several voices, ranging from the familiar Democrat positions to the socialist positions of the Bernie Sanders clique to the very “far left” of Maxine Waters and her advocates, especially among the newer members of Democratic caucuses. This election weeded out most of the aspiring extremists and re-asserted the Democrat electorate’s preference for the more traditional Democrats. Thus, the influence of “crazy Democrats” has been likewise diminished to some extent by the will of the people. This election seems to indicate that the “crazy Democrats” are disproportionately represented in both houses of Congress compared to the centrist majority of the party.
- One major effect of the change in House control by the Democrats will probably be a slow-down of the booming economy of 2018 – perhaps a good thing because it will relieve the pressure on the Federal Reserve to fight what is so far the “phantom inflation” with accelerated interest rate hikes.
- With such a slim Democrat majority (+/- 30 votes) in the House, nothing controversial will get approved without some support from the other side. Thus, we will look forward mostly to a stalemate or to some bipartisan legislation – possibly both.
- The “Trump effect”: Given the unprecedented role played by the President in this campaign cycle, the question arises, how did the President come out when his losses are balanced against his gains?
- Control of the budget – this had not crystalized even in the current House, because of the split Republican loyalty to President Trump, but now the House has a major opposing position in setting the budget priorities. With President Trump’s influence in the current House trending increasingly in his favor, this reversal is the major casualty of the election.
- House investigations – Whether the House Democrats follow former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s advice to “legislate, don’t investigate” will determine the amount of time, effort, money and political capital which will be spent on satisfying the “anti-Trump bias” of the Democrat base. These decisions will also impact the distraction of the White House as well as the future of the Democrat Party. If, as Governor Rendell suggests, the public perception of the top concerns of the Democrat Party involve a vendetta against the President for having won the 2016 election, they will endanger their chances for 2020. As he says, “People hate this stuff”.
- The Trump agenda – Only with careful selection of issues on which there can be bipartisan support can either side expect to advance any significant legislation. The major candidates at this point appear to be infrastructure rebuilding and immigration. We can only hope that others will surface.
- The Republican Party is now Trump’s party. Governors in key states (Florida, Georgia, Ohio) owe Trump for their political futures. Same for the Senators and the others he helped. He also proved the effect his support can have. Extremely significant for 2020.
- The rallies were both a practice for 2020 and a recognition that no other political figure on today’s scene could produce such a spectacle. The rallies seem self-fulfilling in that the size and enthusiasm generated by one rally seems inspire the next one. The television coverage also acts as a megaphone for the Trump message.
- Appointment of federal and Supreme Court judges. The significance of this power for the long-term influence of this administration can hardly be over-emphasized. The existence of an even more friendly Republican majority in the Senate virtually guarantees continuation of the hectic pace of federal judicial appointments seen in the first months of the Trump presidency.
- It may or may not be considered an advantage, but Donald Trump has met the “enemy and they was us.” He ran against “politicians” whom he attacked with fury in the 2016 campaign, but now he has met and supported – and combated – so many politicians that he now realizes how much his success in governing depends on them.
The key Question: What will House Dems do? Will they legislate or investigate? The country will be watching. Trump wins either way – if they co-operate, they both look good. If they continue the “resistance” strategy, he inherits Harry Truman’s “Do nothing Congress” charge. It worked for Truman in 1948, and a version would probably work for Trump in 2020.
The 2018 elections have ushered in what may be the most divisive couple of years in recent history, with a divided Congress and a contentious split in the Democrat Party between the Progressives and the Radicals. The economy may cool off some due to increasing interest rates and a distracted Congress, but the fundamentals should strengthen as a result of repatriation of capital and rejuvenated international trade, especially as energy exports are added to the American balance of trade.
The most significant threat to this positive prediction may come from the ballooning national debt and the need to reduce spending – which has proven so illusive in the past.
In general, conditions within the nation and the Republican party should allow President Trump to approach re-election in 2020 with the wind at his back. But, of course, the future is always as fragile as the next event while history marches inexorably forward.
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