Midterms reinforce harmful party polarization


Davis Delich, Staff Columnist

On the surface, the 2018 midterms were remarkable solely in terms of national visibility and participation. Although the numbers are still being tallied, it appears that records were set for both campaign contributions and early voting. This is mostly good.

Moreover, celebrity endorsements were abound. Stars including Beyonce, Will Ferrell and Taylor Swift offered high-profile endorsements for Democratic candidates in the southern states of Texas, Georgia and Tennessee, respectively. This is irrelevant, however; all of the candidates that they supported lost.

The most noteworthy, albeit expected, feature of this election was the “Trump-iness” of it. Roughly ⅔ of exit polls showed voters casting their ballot as a vote to either affirm or condemn President Donald Trump’s agenda. To be sure, this is generally the nature of midterms for any administration, but the president’s impact was uniquely reflected across the board this cycle.

Adding to their narrow majority on Monday, Senate Republicans took three incumbent seats from Democrats in North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. Note that Trump strongly endorsed and campaigned for all three of the Republican victors in those three races.

The results in the House were decidedly favorable to Democrats who have, as of Nov. 9, gained control of the lower body and likely have more seats coming their way as results are finalized. House races reflected the mobilization of anti-Trump voters as Democratic candidates cleaned up among the middle-class, suburban demographic Trump has struggled to reach. My home state of Texas may be the best illustration of this phenomenon with long-term Representative and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions’ loss to political outsider Colin Allred in a suburban district north of Dallas.

In what I find to be a disturbing trend, moderate non-Trump House Republicans like Florida Representative Carlos Curbelo found themselves as rebels without a political base and were unceremoniously kicked to the curb as forces on the left were able to unite in their broad opposition to the GOP.

To oversimplify election day, the GOP became more of the party of Trump and the Democrats reaffirmed their identity as quite the opposite.

What does this mean for our national politics? For one, it puts the Republican coalition in a precarious position as it develops its core through the Trump base. Will moderate Republicans make an effort to show up to the polls when given a choice between Trump and the alternative? Or worse yet, defect across the aisle? We’ll see more about this in 2020, but perhaps if the Democratic candidates running for Senate seats in Texas, Georgia and Florida had run closer to the center, then we could have witnessed this kind of alienation resulting in an upset victory.

But I digress; the immediate result as it relates to governance will almost certainly be more polarization and antagonism. With Democrats Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler expected to chair the House Financial Services, Intelligence  and Judiciary Committees respectively, we can anticipate the Trump administration to be the subject of Congressional investigations on several matters, not the least of which being Trump’s personal finances and alleged ties to Russia.

If Democrats exercise their newfound authority with a commitment to objectivity and accountability, then I welcome the opportunity for oversight of the executive branch. Of course, the other possibility is they launch a full-scale political assault unbearably rife with grandstanding and hyperbole – cue the cliche “boy who cried wolf” analogy.

In any case, at this moment it seems appropriate to echo former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, who in another context once remarked, “Getcha popcorn ready.”