Well, Election Day is over, and although not all the ballots are counted as of yet, it’s possible to make some overall observations. One of those is that Americans are still probably more moderate – even if that is defined only as “resistant to radical change and/or extremism” – that die-hard partisans on either side would like to admit.
The so-called Democratic “Blue Wave,” so touted just months ago, was already giving signs of ebbing well before yesterday’s election; to the point that some on the right-hand side of the political aisle were beginning to make hopeful noises about a “Red Wave,” instead. That did not happen.
The Democrats picked up +/- 30 seats in the House, giving them a majority there. This should come as a surprise to no one; historically, the party of the President nearly always loses at least one House of Congress – usually both – in the midterm elections. It would have been almost epochal, from a political perspective, if the Republicans had managed to hang onto both Houses.
What is a bit of a surprise is that the GOP not only held onto their Senate majority, but actually added a couple of seats to it. That is very unusual for a midterm election: for the governing party to not only hold onto the Senate, but increase their representation there. They also made gains in statehouses across the country, adding more Republican governors than they lost to the Democrats.
And even in the House, the much-vaunted “Blue Wave” was not much more than a ripple: as of 10:15 this morning, just a few minutes ago at this writing, the New York Times was reporting that the the Dems had picked up only 27 seats (28 as of 9:10 p.m., a bare 10 more than they needed to gain control). While there are still a few contests that are too close to call, compare this to the 63 seats the Democrats lost to the Republicans in 2010, the first midterm of Obama’s presidency, or the 54 in Bill Clinton’s.
Although gridlock can be bad, in that it prevents anything of significance from actually getting done, it can be good, at times, as it helps to prevent either side from going too far, too fast, in promoting its ideological agenda. I would like to think that the outcome of yesterday’s elections is a sign of America’s fundamental moderation, and impatience with extremism on either side, as I suggested in my opening paragraph.
And so it may be. But it’s also possible that it points, instead, to the the growing and hardening of the political gulf between segments of an American voting populace that is split almost down the middle between conservative / populist / traditionalist and liberal / globalist / progressive viewpoints.
If so, the challenges to our “American experiment” may be only growing, as well.