The ‘blue wave’ metaphor was never apt.
In Trumpworld, politics isn’t tidal—it’s brutal. A cage fight in neckties. And last night US Democrats finally managed to get up off the canvas, wipe the blood off their mouths, and get ready for the next round.
By taking control of the lower house of the US Congress, the Democrats ensure that Mr Trump’s agenda – a fitful torrent of tweets, not real legislation – will be even further hamstrung.
Now that Democrats are in control of the House of Representatives, there will almost certainly be new congressional investigations into Mr Trump’s alleged Russian collusion, his shady business deals, his taxes, and perhaps even a move to impeach.
A polarised nation will become even more binary as it heads into 2020 and Mr Trump’s re-election campaign.
None of these inquiries will bear fruit, since along with the Democratic triumph in the house, the Republicans strengthened their hold in the Senate, Congress’ upper House.
Newly fortified, Senate Republicans will find it easier to approve Mr Trump’s judicial appointments, and may possibly resurrect plans to finally kill and bury President Barack Obama’s landmark health care package.
But the Democratic win last night was never chiefly about legislation. It was about whether the party could muster a comeback after being blindsided in 2016.
The answer was yes, but less than the thundering affirmation their partisans were predicting just weeks ago.
Beyond the flipping of at least 24 seats (the number was still fluid this morning), the results around the country were more impressionistic, reflecting local concerns that seemed resistant to a national narrative pundits were craving.
In Texas, the much-loathed GOP Senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz managed to hold off Beto O’Rourke, the skateboarding, punk rocking Bobby Kennedy doppelganger who dazzled the national press and managed to do better than any Democrat in a statewide election in 25 years. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Another charismatic and very liberal Democrat, Andrew Gillum, fell short in the Florida governor’s race against Trump mini-me Ron DeSantis, whose thinly veiled racist attacks against Mr Gillum included likening him to a monkey.
In Tennessee, Mr Trump’s message of fear worked. Republican Marsha Blackburn thrashed the popular two-term Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, by marching in lockstep with Mr Trump on stopping the refugee caravan and repealing Obamacare.
And in Georgia, in the heart of the old Confederacy, Stacey Abrams, an African-American woman, came within inches of winning the governor’s mansion in a race that showed just how far politics has come in the peach tree state.
Conversely, Democrats won surprise seats in places like Oklahoma and Iowa, heartland states that have been solidly conservative for many voting cycles.
They also picked up state houses in the upper midwest, an important shift in a country where the GOP had controlled more than 30 governorships and state legislatures.
— Washington Post 🗳️ (@washingtonpost) November 7, 2018
The race for 2020, of course, begins today.
Who’s on the Democrats shortlist?
Mr O’Rourke, despite losing Texas, will get a look; his charisma and fundraising clout will demand it.
New York’s Andrew Cuomo won a third term as governor last night. He’s demurred in the past, but his ability to appeal to pragmatists and progressives is compelling. They now join Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Cory Booker and a growing list of potentials that will only grow with last night’s encouraging results.
What’s still unsettled is whether the Democrats will do better trying to hew to the middle or pushing a more vivid, liberal agenda. Since they’re Democrats, they’ll fight in public rather than in private.
The good news is that they lived to have that fight – first among themselves, and then to take it to Mr Trump in the coming weeks and months.
All in all a good night for America’s opposition party. Now it’s on to the main event.
Larry Hackett is the former editor-in-chief of People magazine, and a current contributor to the US morning television news program Good Morning America