Donald Trump wants you to desperately believe that Tuesday’s midterms elections were a “Big Victory” for him and the GOP. But like so much of what Trump says, that’s simply not true.
The reality is that Tuesday’s election was truly a blue wave. In fact, it’s getting bigger and bluer by the day. Since election night, Democrats have picked up even more seats as close races become finalized in their favor. As of now, Democrats have officially picked up 33 seats in the House. And with nearly a dozen House races still too close to call, Democrats could pick up closer to 40 when all is said and done.
How impressive is that? According to Axios, the last time Democrats won more House seats in a midterm election would be over 40 years ago, in 1974. And that was in large part a response to Watergate — the biggest political scandal of the modern era — and President Richard Nixon had just resigned in August of that year.
And it gets better for the Democrats. They flipped seven governorships, including in the very red state of Kansas and knocked off former GOP presidential candidate and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Overall, Democrats did better this year than the last Democratic wave in 2006 when then President George W. Bush deemed it a “thumping.”
Sure, the GOP will likely pick up a few Senate seats. But overall in this election, approximately 15 percent more Americans voted for the Democratic candidates for the Senate than for Republicans. And Democrats have just flipped another red Senate seat to blue in Arizona as Democrat Kyrsten Sinema officially defeated GOP opponent Martha McSally on Nov. 12. We are even seeing a likely recount in the Florida Senate contest between GOP’s Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.
In total, Democrats did better this year than the last Democratic wave in 2006 when then President George W. Bush deemed it a “thumping.” That year, Democrats picked up 31 House seats, six governorships and six Senate seats. This time Democrats outperformed in terms of House and governor’s wins.
But yet, there was a sense on election night as the results came in that Trump and the GOP had somehow prevented a wave election. I even heard firsthand from some fellow progressives who were practically despondent since we didn’t see wins in the very visible races that myself and many others were emotionally invested in, such as Andrew Gillum in Florida, Stacey Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial race and Beto O’Rourke’s improbable run for Senate in Texas. (As of now, there’s still some limited hope for Gillum and Abrams, who are locked in races deemed “too close” to call.) And there was also the dream, against all rational odds, that Democrats would wrest control of the U.S. Senate — despite the cold, hard math that made this scenario highly unlikely.
So we didn’t get the Senate. But Democrats need to savor this astounding victory nonetheless. It will truly have an impact, in big and small ways — and not just because we saved America from becoming more and more like Trumpistan.
Democrats now control the House for the first time since 2010. That means Democrats will set the agenda in that chamber, will have vast investigatory powers and every single committee will be chaired by a Democrat. No more Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, heading the House Intelligence committee and protecting Trump. In fact, Nunes told donors in a secretly recoded tape released in August that the GOP House majority was desperately needed to protect Trump. No longer.
Come January 3, when the new Congress is sworn in, it’s goodbye to GOP House control and hello to committee chairs who may finally be able to hold Trump accountable. For example, the House Intelligence committee will be chaired by vocal Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, a former federal prosecutor who can be counted on to use his committee as a real check on executive power. Meanwhile Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif, a person Trump has publicly demeaned as having a “low IQ,” will likely head the House Financial Services Committee, where she will be able to subpoena officials at financial regulatory agencies for both information and testimony.
And we can’t forget the seven governors races Democrats won. This means positive changes can be expected quickly for citizens of Maine, Kansas and Wisconsin, where the candidates ran in large part on a promise to expand Medicaid in order to provide residents with health insurance. And importantly, after the census in 2020, a Democratic governor should be able to ensure that the GOP can’t grotesquely gerrymander the congressional and state legislative districts in these states as well.
In other words, Trump can claim the results were a “big victory” all he wants. The reality is that after the midterms' wave election, Democrats are now in a great position for the next big goal: winning back the White House.
UPDATE (11/12/18, 8pm EST): This piece has been updated to reflect the final results of the Arizona Senate race.