The Mid-Terms' Score Card
What each side won and lost -- and the struggle ahead.
This year’s midterm congressional elections, said to be a referendum on President Trump, fulfilled the pollsters’ predictions of a split decision. Historically, during a president’s first term in office the president usually suffers major defeats in both houses of Congress at the hands of the opposition party. By that standard, President Trump fared quite well. Democrats managed to flip the House of Representatives by a slim margin, while Republicans strengthened their Senate majority with several pick-ups in states won by President Trump in 2016. Investors’ immediate reaction was positive. The stock market surged on Wednesday.
Republican candidates did lose ground in formerly reliable suburban Republican-held House districts where voters were turned off by President Trump’s harsh rhetoric. Relatively moderate Democrats, some with impressive military backgrounds, prevailed in a number of those districts. Progressive Democrats, on the other hand, demonstrated the weakness of their “Medicare for all” and other leftist messages in swing areas of the country. “This is heartbreaking,” the progressive Van Jones said on CNN.
Progressive House candidates suffered losses in Middle America, including in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Progressives even lost in California and New York districts.
Media darling Beto O’Rourke might have defeated Senator Ted Cruz in Texas if he had portrayed himself as a centrist, but he moved too far leftward instead. While the outcome in Texas was not a surprise, what happened on Tuesday in Florida’s gubernatorial race, a major purple battleground state, should be a wake up call for Democrats seeking to take on President Trump in 2020. Democrat Andrew Gillum, another media darling, tethered himself to some of the socialist ideas of Bernie Sanders and other progressive Democrats considering a run for president in 2020. Based on the initial vote count, Mr. Gillum came up short in his bid to become the next governor of Florida. However, due to the closeness of the vote tabulations in both the gubernatorial race and the Senate race, in which Florida’s present Republican governor Rick Scott has claimed victory over the incumbent Democrat Senator Bill Nelson, there will be automatic recounts. The sore loser Democrats have an “army of lawyers” working initially on the recount for the Senate seat, according to the head of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez. It’s not a stretch to see this “army of lawyers” also working to manipulate the recount system to put Andrew Gillum over the top.
There were a few successful candidates who identified themselves as democratic socialists joining the Democrat House caucus in the next session of Congress. One of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is already a media star who has positioned herself to be a leading spokesperson for a much more progressive Democrat Party. However, the left is impatient. Since the left did not win everything they wanted at the ballot box this time around, even if they succeed with some recounts, outrage mobs are in the works to intimidate conservatives. One such mob, organized by Smash Racism D.C., invaded the residential property of Fox News’ conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. They chanted threatening messages and screamed obscenities. One woman was overheard saying that she wanted to “bring a pipe bomb.” One of the thugs managed to crack the front door of the Carlson residence, frightening Mr. Carlson’s wife.
Democrats tend to play down such violence when it comes from the left. Some are cowards who do not want to be targeted themselves. Others may see the mobs as useful auxiliaries to shut down conservative opposition to their radical agendas. Whatever Nancy Pelosi may hope to accomplish legislatively during the next session of Congress when the Democrats take over the House, assuming she manages to survive an internal rebellion within her own ranks against her accession to the speakership, the Democrat far left base will push relentlessly against any cooperation with the president. They want President Trump’s scalp. So do the left-leaning mainstream media. Thus, other than perhaps the newly elected Democrats from the Republican-leaning districts, there will be many loud voices in the Democrat caucus demanding a steady stream of intrusive investigations and subpoenas. They will want to keep their Russian “collusion” witch hunt alive, and to go after President Trump’s personal finances, including his tax returns. The Democrats will also conduct a constant barrage of hearings to undermine the president’s exercise of his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief, head of the executive branch, and the nation’s chief diplomat.
For example, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and its likely new chairman, Adam Schiff of California, plans to reopen parts of the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Never mind the multiple congressional investigations that have found no evidence of such collusion during a time span approaching nearly two years, not to mention the FBI investigation started in July 2016 that turned up no evidence of collusion and the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Mueller. Representative Schiff is fulfilling the definition of insanity by insisting on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Maxine Waters of California, who will likely head the Financial Services Committee, vows “payback time” for financial service companies who have benefitted from the Trump administration’s deregulation efforts that have helped spur the economy. Backed by subpoena power, she is also expected to probe President Trump’s personal finances for evidence of possible money laundering and any financial entanglements with Russian nationals. It’s all about her dream of impeachment, impeachment, impeachment.
Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, who will likely head the House Judiciary Committee, gave away one of his key priorities during phone conversations that were reported to have been overheard on an Acela train traveling from New York to Washington, D.C. He was reportedly discussing ways to lay the groundwork to possibly impeach Justice Brett Kavanaugh, claiming “there’s a real indication that Kavanaugh committed perjury.” He evidently wants his committee or the FBI to go back to certain witnesses, while criticizing the FBI’s prior background investigation of the sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh as not even “a half-ass job.” Representative Nadler’s communications director Daniel Schwarz denied the accuracy of the report recounting the conversations, but such remarks are fully consistent with Representative Nadler’s prior anti-Kavanaugh remarks. In short, Representative Nadler intends to use the taxpayer-funded House Judiciary Committee he is expected to chair to re-litigate Justice Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation proceedings.
Representative Nadler subsequently tweeted his views on Jeff Sessions’ resignation as Attorney General. “Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept.,” he wrote. “Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.” Nadler needs to brush up on the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers. Congress’s oversight authority does not extend to delving into President Trump’s “reasoning” in exercising his own exclusive constitutional prerogative to remove members of his cabinet, who serve at his pleasure.
While holding out a hand of reconciliation to the Democrats if they are willing to reciprocate, and praising Nancy Pelosi for her expressed willingness to work together on areas of common interest, President Trump also warned that he was ready to fight fire with fire if necessary. He said on Twitter: “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!” At his November 7th news conference, President Trump gave the Democrats a stark choice. Either work with him constructively on legislation where both parties can find common ground or take the political blame in 2020 for obstructionism and gridlock.
If, as expected, the Democrat base forces the slim Democrat majority in the House towards using hearings and subpoenas to vigorously resist and obstruct the president, the president must resist in return, as he has promised. The Trump White House should invoke executive privilege to block any Democrat attempt to secure internal documents, including drafts, or testimony of Trump administration officials relating to any advice sought or received by the president in his official capacity. The Trump White House should also reject any subpoenas relating to matters already investigated and considered closed by House committees on the Russian collusion allegations, at least until Special Counsel Mueller completes his work. If the special counsel prepares a final report, House Democrats will demand its public release, but they are not automatically entitled to get their way. That will be up to whomever the president nominates, and the Republican-controlled Senate confirms, to succeed out-going Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In the meantime, the president should continue letting the Mueller investigation proceed in the normal course to its conclusion, without any change of direction following Jeff Sessions’ resignation. Otherwise, he would be handing the Democrats ammunition to concoct grounds for an obstruction of justice article of impeachment.
Finally, President Trump should resist any House Democrat subpoenas delving into matters that he reasonably believes would cross the line of separation of powers. For example, President Trump should tell Representative Nadler, his Democrat colleagues and staff to pound sand regarding any inquiry they decide to launch into the president’s “reasoning” behind the removal of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
The country’s divisions will not end with the midterm elections. In fact, they can be expected to get much worse as 2020 approaches. However, the Democrats will no longer be entirely on the outside looking in. They will now have some measure of governance responsibilities. They will be held accountable to the voters for the excesses of their own House members who abuse their majority powers and cater to their radical left base. The Republican House majority found out the hard way the perils of hyperpartisan actions when they aggressively pursued impeachment against former President Bill Clinton.