Calculating the Prospects for Change

First Native American women elected to Congress: Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland
Source: CNN

Houston    It’s still difficult to fully assess the election and its lessons, but some patterns continue to emerge in bits and pieces.

A text from Houston after the midterms underlined the hopes for Texas to move elsewhere along the color spectrum.  Democrats picked up eleven state representative seats for example on the Beto O’Rourke coattails.  This result won’t show up in a calculation of total control of the legislature which is still all Republican all the time, but it might make a difference in the election for Speaker which could stop a lot of terrible legislation and keep it bottled up in committees.

That may be too much in the weeds at this point, but there’s going to be a lot of that kind of data to absorb still.  Looking at highlights though:

  • The first two Native Americans were finally elected to Congress, one from Kansas and one from New Mexico.
  • The first two Muslim women were elected to Congress.
  • Michigan voted to legalize the sale and use of marijuana, while North Dakota did not. Medical marijuana was approved by voters in Utah and Missouri.
  • The San Francisco initiative that put a tax on large employers to pay for homeless housing and support prevailed, while the statewide initiative that would have allowed more cities to enact rent control failed by a 2 to 1 margin after huge opposition by developers and some smaller city mayors.
  • Washington State did not approve the first tax on carbon dioxide pollution although voters in Nevada approved a measure that would require electric utilities to get 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2030.Arizona on the other hand overwhelmingly rejected a similar measure in that state after fierce opposition by the local utility.

On the healthcare front and protection of the Affordable Care Act, the news was virtually all good on all accounts.  Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah – all red to the core – approved ballot initiatives to expand coverage under the ACA, which is a message Republicans can’t fail to hear.  Furthermore, as we have seen in Louisiana for example, the election of Democratic governors in Kansas and Wisconsin may finally move them into the coverage column.  In Maine, where the fight has been protracted and the now former governor has stood in the emergency room door to prevent expansion, the election of a Democratic governor there just about guarantees expansion now.  Of course, Democratic control of the House of Representatives also means that any repeal is now virtually impossible over the next two years, and, as we all know, the longer we have healthcare protection, the harder it will ever be to end it and not to expand it.

Sure, the election didn’t change some things.  President Trump is going on “war footing,” whatever that means.  Many of us thought that’s what he was already on.  For a second he was afraid less than 100% of the attention was on him, so within minutes of a post-election press conference, the White House announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no win for the people, was being temporarily replaced by a Trump hand puppet, guaranteeing that Russia will once again be in the headlines to drown out the increasingly loud voice of the people.

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After the Mid-Terms, Then What?

    Getting some miles away from the United States and filtering reality through the news, an emerging political scenario where the Republicans hold the Senate, the Democrats take over the House, and Trump owns the Supreme Court lock-stock-and-barrel seems to have almost acquired the stamp of certainty. Let’s say all of this comes to pass, then what? Nirvana, hardly! More likely, desolation row.

The reports include some very good news. Huge separation in the polls among many groups of women, up to 20% in some cases. Significant majority of the general public support for change in Congress, though whether or not they are distributed where the races matter, many of which are in rural, exurban areas, is another question. Let’s please remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by way, way over 2.5 million, and that didn’t slow the train by a single second. Reports of surges in voter registration among minorities and young people, more likely Democratic voters, in states as disparate as Pennsylvania and Georgia are very encouraging.

Trump, unsurprisingly, wants the mid-term election to be all about him and a referendum on his presidency. The Democrats seem to want that as well. Anytime that both sides want to use such a strategy to motivate their base to vote, we have an absolute guarantee of a donnybrook. Win, lose, or draw, we can bet on even more polarization raging between now and 2020.

But, let’s stick to the point about the mid-terms and see how all of this plays out as the cleaners sweep up the last crumbs and both sides declare victory over a split Congress. Trump would declare victory at Custer’s Last Stand or the Alamo, even if he had to leave it on a note pinned to his body. McConnell in control of the Senate will still prove to be a major rock in any road forward, while continuing his court packing. The House will convene one investigation after another and there will be huge fights on budgets and other matters that requite cooperation assuring more headlines about conflict, but not necessarily more proof of able governance. Meanwhile the candidate circus will come to every town as Trump campaigns for a coronation and the Democrats try to winnow their lists, maybe keeping in mind who can beat Trump and who cannot, and maybe ignoring that altogether.

After the mid-term surge, will women feel safer and more heard? No. Will the devastating attacks on workers’ rights, the environment, deregulation, healthcare, education, and economic security end? No.

Will the attack on immigrants recede? No, in fact the Republicans are signaling that they want to make “the wall” first order of business. There is discussion of yet more children separation as well.

Will there be impeachment? Of course not. Will Trump stop being Trump, absolutely not!

So, what will be the program? Trust in some still unknown savior and save your anger and activity for the general election in two years.

Is that the best we can hope for? Without moving from anger to organization, from lame leaders to mass action, then yes, I’m afraid so.

It’s not enough!

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