Don’t worry, Democrats. It really isn’t as bad as it seems.
Hot take-pundits are claiming Democratic failure, but that failure is measured against inflated expectations — rather, the disappointment Democrats may feel are the result of unreasonable optimism and ravenous aspirations for an electoral tidal wave to crash over the White House and U.S. Senate.
2020 appears to be resembling 2018 — when Democrats began election night by narrowly missing on electing “rising stars” Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Rourke. In the end, Dems took care of business and achieved the core goal of taking control of the U.S. House.
But, it seems as though Dems could still get home on the ultimate goal of retaking the White House. And while the Senate is still unsettled, ironically, the nation may have stumbled backwards in the back door of the best possible outcome: a divided government.
First, why Democrats shouldn’t be disappointed:
Forget the pre-election optimism. Other than most polls being remarkably wrong in many states (and nationally), one other truism is clear from this election: It’s just not easy to unseat an incumbent.
Should Biden ultimately pull out a victory, Democrats and over 70 million Biden voters will have achieved a monumental feat: unseating an incumbent president. Only once in the last 40 years has an incumbent president lost reelection — George H. W. Bush — and that has been widely attributed to independent Ross Perot, who garnered nearly 20% of the popular vote.
I fell for it, too. I bought the hype that this could be the year for Texas to go blue — or some other surprise could lead to an early election night celebration. But, America just doesn’t throw out its presidents.
Similarly, Democrats are making gains in the U.S. Senate. Sure, more Republicans than Democrats had to defend their seats, in what appeared to be anti-Republican headwinds. But, over that same four decades, only once have fewer than 80% of incumbent U.S. senators won reelection — “only” 75% won reelection in 1986.
Democrats have already flipped two of the 23 Republican Senate seats — Arizona and Colorado — and could still add more. And, while it seems unlikely, Democrats could still take the majority in the Senate — either by winning undeclared races or by a Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie.
“The greatest thing for America would be if Joe Biden won Texas. Because, if Joe Biden won Texas, it would break this fever in the Republican Party,” author Thomas Friedman said on CNN last week.
Well, Texas apparently wasn’t nearly as competitive as Democrats were led to believe. However, Trump won’t ever be president again. That alone should break the Republican fever.
Repeat with me: Don’t be disappointed. Democrats did what we had to do.
The second reason for Democrats — even Republicans! — to be happy with the election results is that a divided government could lead to a ceasefire of extreme governing. Neither party can claim a clear mandate, and both parties will have to learn to coexist.
This is entirely contingent on Biden ultimately winning and taking office in a timely, peaceful transition of power, but: Democrats will maintain a narrow majority in the U.S. House and, it appears, Republicans will have a thin majority in the Senate.
In this scenario, still-Majority Leader McConnell will have an even more fragile caucus to corral. Plus, without the Trump-adrenaline fueling the GOP base, it could be difficult for McConnell to operate the way he has for his first six years as majority leader, with only a one or two seat advantage.
Additionally, there will be no fewer than five(?), 10(?) or more Republican senators who will be running for president starting… any day now.
Finally, even if Democrats claw their way to winning the Senate, they won’t have the political strength to undertake the most progressive agenda.
Of course, this is the only real disappointment: Gone are the dreams of Medicare-for-All, rebalancing the courts, real climate change legislation and so on…
But, if McConnell is returned to Senate minority leader — and we aren’t forced to listen to Trump ever again — it’s hard to be disappointed.
Just don’t look at Frankfort. •