When I first began this blog back in 2009, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about politics. It’s divisive, and in the end it solves nothing. I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now in the American political circus.
But on the other hand, that circus is getting just too entertaining to ignore. And part of what I’d like to convey in this article is that none of this is either as extreme or as productive as any of the partisans want to believe.
We didn’t see anything like the political earthquake the mainstream media and liberal partisans were promising would happen. It looked like a typical off year election more than anything else. In fact, in spite of a lot of the Monday morning quarterback commentary, the results of the election are unlikely to affect any material changes on politics and business in America.
It seems to point toward a large swath of the American public living in some sort of political alternative reality.
And before we dig any deeper into this topic, let me state for the record that I’m not a Trump supporter. But I prefer to deal with life and the world as they really are, and not as I wish them to be. That means I’ll never assume that everyone loves or hates something or someone as much as I do.
The 2018 Election by the Numbers
- House of Representatives: Democrats 232 seats, Republicans 201, with two seats still undecided. Control passed from Republicans to the Democrats. This represents a wholesale flip of the House to the Democrats, who were outnumbered 235 to 193 before the election. The Democrats picked up at least 39 seats.
- Senate: Republicans 52 seats, Democrats 47 seats, one seat still undecided. Republicans retain control of the Senate. This represents a net gain of at least one seat for the Republicans. They held a 51-49 advantage before the election.
- Governors: Republicans 27 seats, Democrats 23 seats. The Republicans had a 33 to 16 lead before the election, so the Democrats picked up 7 seats. However, the Republicans retained control.
- State Legislatures: Republicans 30 legislatures, Democrats 18. Before the election, Republicans held 31 state legislatures to 16 for the Democrats. The Democrats picked up two state legislatures, but the Republicans lost only one, with two undecided or split. Again, Republicans retain control.
The overview is that while the Republicans held control of the White House, the House, the Senate, the governorships and the state legislatures going into the election, the Democrats have wrested control only in the House. Everything else remains under Republican control.
If you’re a Democratic optimist, you’re going to focus on the gains made by the Democrats. And you’ll likely completely ignore the fact that the rest of the election did little more than support the status quo.
But based on the results of the election, we have to conclude that this was the Anti-Trump revolt that wasn’t.
Historic Off-Year Election Results – Putting 2018 into Perspective
According to Brookings the off year elections were far worse for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
In 1994, Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in the House, and nine in the Senate. In 2010, Barack Obama lost 63 seats in the House, and six in the Senate. (Obama’s losses continued in both houses in the 2014 election.)
And for what it’s worth, both Franklin D. Roosevelt (1938, 1942 and 1946) and Lyndon Johnson (1966) experienced losses of similar proportions (to Clinton and Obama) in their off year elections, as did Dwight Eisenhower (1958) and Richard Nixon (1974).
In fact, Trumps off year election most closely parallels that of Ronald Reagan. He lost 26 seats in the House, while gaining one seat in the Senate in 1982.
At best we can say the 2018 election was a mini-revolt against Trump. But it was certainly nothing out of the ordinary. The reality of American politics is that the sitting president typically loses seats in one or both houses in an off year election.
Nothing more can be read into the 2018 election.
What the Mainstream Media and the Anti-Trump Crowd Still Don’t Get
It remains to be seen how the Anti-Trump crowd will play the 2018 election. It’s a certainty they didn’t get the outcome they expected, which would have been a full scale revolt, with both houses of Congress, as well as the governorships and state legislatures tilting toward the Democrats. They’ve certainly gained more leverage by picking up control of the House, but it’s not the kind of wholesale power they were hoping for.
This is an excellent example of the trap of being too certain in what you believe. As Dr. Phil once remarked in regard to an unrelated matter on his show, “If you’re a hammer, you see nails everywhere you look”. That’s certainly the case here. The Anti-Trump crowd is so wrapped up in their hatred of the man and everyone and everything remotely associated with him, that they can’t see there’s a bigger picture issue here.
The bigger picture, I believe, is a general revolt against the status quo. It’s kind of ironic that Donald Trump is certainly a part of the “1 per centers”. He’s well-entrenched member of the financial establishment. But he’s not from the political establishment and that speaks volumes. As a political outsider, Trump was, and probably still is, preferred to anyone coming out of the political establishment.
Reviewing the 2016 Presidential Election
Let’s step back to the 2016 election for a moment. Barack Obama was the sitting president. The economy was good (according to the official narrative), the stock market was at record highs, and Obama got high marks personally. (BTW, I voted for Obama in 2008, in case you might mistake me for an angry Republican).
His heir apparent was Hillary Clinton, a woman of the highest political pedigree, if we can say that about anyone. Not only was she a former first lady, but she also served in the Senate and worked in the State Department under Obama. She was an insider’s insider, and enormously popular with the mainstream media.
Yet she failed to win the election.
Her followers, and the Democratic faithful, have been claiming foul ever since. But what they don’t see, and probably can’t, is that Trump won precisely because he was not considered an insider’s insider. Yes, Clinton did win the popular vote by a slim margin. But if you look at a political map of the United States from 2016, you see that most of the country, geographically speaking, voted for Trump.
True enough, the large urban areas stayed true to their Democratic roots. But “flyover country”, and many of the smaller urban areas, went with Trump.
The 2018 off year election seems to be more of a validation of the outcome of the 2016 election then a repudiation.
Is it Possible America is Finally Serious About Genuine Change?
It may well be that America is done electing presidents from the political inside. I believe most Americans are aware that the nation is deeply troubled, even if publicly published statistics don’t support that conclusion. But as I’ve learned in my own life, trust that little voice inside, it won’t steer you wrong.
I think that’s what’s happening with the voters. If John and Jane Q. Public truly believed the state of the nation to be as good as we’re being told, establishment politicians would be put into office and returned with little effort. But that’s not what’s happening, and may not happen in the future.
Missed in the 2016 election was the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. He did much better in the Democratic primaries that anyone expected, and even gained as they went on. Though he’s a political insider, he’s always been outside the political mainstream. Thus, even within the Democratic Party, the rank-and-file we’re open to somebody new and different.
I think that was the real story of 2016, and reiterated in 2018. But the mainstream media, and the party faithful, both Democrat and Republican, aren’t ready to accept that reality.
Facing and Accepting the Future – Whatever it May Be
Either party may attempt to run a political establishment candidate in 2020. But don’t be surprised if a political outsider – or a political maverick – wins the White House in that election.
I may be guilty of ringing the bell of serious change a bit early, but I’m getting a sense that Americans are ready for just that. Should the economy slip back into the doldrums before that election, all bets are off as to who will be our next chief executive.
Perhaps the real question then is will we accept that change and go with the flow, or will we continue to dig in and resist?
Thus far, Trump has proven to be no reformer. But as a political outsider, he at least offered that hope. And perhaps he continues to be seen as at least having that potential. When you consider the media and political firestorm he’s been facing from the very beginning – including the interminable Mueller investigations – one would have expected the Republican party to experience a full-blown route in this year’s election.
But it didn’t happen that way, and that speaks volumes about what’s REALLY going on, despite the incessant media chatter to the contrary.
The Anti-Trump Revolt that Wasn’t and the American Detachment from Reality
If you’ve spent much time on this blog, you know I’m fond of “connecting the dots”. I believe the Anti-Trump hysteria is a reaction by a certain segment of the population to the undocumented decline in both the US economy and the American social fabric. It may be the most convenient reaction of all, since it attempts to assign blame squarely to one person. Or to put it into sports parlance, it’s the fire the coach mindset.
But the fantasy of that hysteria is that America’s problems didn’t begin in November of 2016. They’ve been snaking through the nation for the past several decades, while most of the populous has ignored them in favor of official happy talk.
But what isn’t connected is the groups expressing anger in different ways are becoming united in their understanding that something’s seriously wrong. Only when that happens will we begin to see real change, the kind that improves life for the average person.
I think all the tension and conflict we’re witnessing across the country is connected. That includes the Anti-Trump hysteria, the mass killings, political hostility, the increasing use of drugs and alcohol, and the rise of anxiety, depression, and suicide. We can probably throw in the obsession with distraction, like smartphones, shopping, sports, and celebrity gossip.
Each represents a reaction to circumstances that seem beyond our control. I think most people sense it, but the reactions are varying somewhere between extreme pacifism/withdrawal and outright violence.
But if the current trajectory continues, it’s unlikely we have much of a future as a nation.
I’ve covered a lot of territory in this post, using the 2018 election as a starting point. But there’s a lot going on here, certainly more than most of us probably perceive. What are your thoughts?