07 November 2018

Gridlock

The Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives but lost seats in the Senate. They can do more now to block President Trump's agenda but can do very little to advance their own. The next two years will test the President's legendary negotiating and deal-making skills as he deals with Speaker Pelosi. He can be expected to combine threats and flattery, as he does with people in power around the world, and he'll most likely appear both more belligerent and more accommodating than he's been in the first two years of his presidency. For her part, Pelosi should resist the temptation, or the popular demand, to use the House as an investigative body dedicated to overthrowing Trump by extra-electoral means. The Senate results suggest that there's little constituency for that, and a strong risk of a backlash that could reelect Trump and give the House back to the GOP in 2020. The midterm results indicate a consolidation of Trump's position rather than a reversal of his movement. He got out the vote in several crucial states and remains tremendously popular among the rural and working-class whites most likely to share his unconditional nationalism. He also remains a lightning rod for the resentments of racial minorities, intersectional women and nonconformist whites. He's not likely to be more humble in public on the road to 2020, but how he behaves behind closed doors may be a different story. Meanwhile, Pelosi will have to balance her national constituency's demand for resistance with a wariness of appearing obstructionist at a time when both major parties agree that many things need to be done, even if they disagree in specifics. In a sense, this week's results wipe the slate clean. What happens over the next two years will do more to decide the 2020 elections than what's happened in the last two.

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