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Democratic ‘Blue Wave’ Washes Over House as Republicans Keep Senate

During a dramatic Election Night, Democrats regain power in the House, instantly putting Trump in check

A supporter holds a sign reading "Blue Wave" during a rally for Abigail Spanberger, a Democratic congressional candidate for Virginia's 7th District, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in Henrico, Va., Nov. 5, 2018. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

A supporter holds a sign reading "Blue Wave" during a rally for Abigail Spanberger, a Democratic congressional candidate for Virginia's 7th District, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in Henrico, Va., Nov. 5, 2018.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Redux

A Blue Wave has broken Republican control of Congress. Democrats have secured more than two dozen seats to reclaim the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. Armed with subpoena power, Democrats are now in position to put a critical check on President Trump, holding him accountable to both the law and the Constitution. 

As election returns rolled in, Nancy Pelosi, the once-and-likely-future Speaker of the House, declared Democrats would lead with “transparency” and seek “unity” in Washington, pledging to “find common ground where we can” but to “stand our ground when we can’t.”

Trump, for his part, pretended that election night had gone according to plan.

The Democratic victory is a triumph for substance and hope over lies and fear. Voters in House races rejected Trump’s last-ditch appeals to xenophobia (including a closing ad too racist even for Fox News) casting a caravan of Central American families as an invading horde of would-be terrorists and cop-killers.

This 2018 midterms win was far from assured. Although the “out” party usually picks up seats in a president’s first midterm, Trump had strong winds at his back, including a healthy economy, heady gains in the stock market and 50-year low unemployment rate. But Democrats succeeded in framing 2018 as a referendum on the the 45th president.

The clarion call to stand for the Republic against the lying, racist, narcissist in the White House drove unprecedented progressive engagement, building from the Women’s Marches through House special elections and into early voting. The final days of the election recalled the energy of a presidential campaign, as Barack Obama and Joe Biden and even Oprah Winfrey barnstormed for Democratic candidates.

Policy-wise, the GOP had also given Democrats a powerful platform to campaign on. The Republican tax plan, privileging the richest Americans and corporations, failed to drive wage hikes and ballooned the deficit, while raising taxes on many voters in GOP-represented districts in blue states. Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act had also grown so toxic that Republican candidates turned to lying about their crusade to repeal it — laughably painting themselves as defenders of protections for Americans with preexisting conditions.

Democratic voters overcame an electoral battlefield that is tilted in Republican favor, as well as myriad suppression campaigns, and ultimately tipped toss-up races fell into the Democratic column. Democrats swung victories not only in blue states like New York and California, but in red corners of South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The party also flipped at least seven governor’s mansions, most notably in Wisconsin where Scott Walker was denied a third term. In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly secured an upset win over Trump ally Kris Kobach.

There were limits to the wave. Democrats did not sweep away the GOP’s most notorious representatives. Indicted Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) are both projected winners. In Iowa, racist Republican Rep. Steve King also won reelection. Andrew Gillum lost the gubernatorial contest in Florida to Trumpy Republican Ron DeSantis. And Democrats met a red sea wall in the Senate, as Beto O’Rourke lost his longshot campaign to unseat Ted Cruz in Texas. Republicans also flipped seats in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota.

Politically, retaking the House is a mixed blessing for the Democrats. The momentum of 2018 will carry over into the 2020 campaign, which begins in earnest today. And Democrats now have institutional power to spotlight Trump’s abuses. The party may finally bring Trump’s tax returns into the public eye — showing how much of his fortune is tied to tax evasion or Russian oligarchs. They may also curb the nepotism and self-dealing of the Trump family, which is shamelessly profiting from the presidency. Impeachment is no longer impossible. And they can restore oversight to critical executive branches, including the EPA.

But the Democratic victory also holds promise for Trump: He now has a foil in Washington. With his prodigious bully pulpit, Trump will blast Democratic obstruction as the root cause of swampland dysfunction, which is unlikely to improve in divided governance. In a press conference Wednesday, Trump was explicit: “They are in the majority; I’m just going to blame them.”

The split victory — with Republicans still in control of the Senate — means that arguably the most successful part of Trump’s presidency, the packing of the courts with young, firebrand conservatives, will continue apace.

We’ve got a turbulent journey ahead. But with a shift to the left, American voters have begun to right our ship of state.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

In This Article: 2018 Midterms, Donald Trump

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