President Donald Trump points to the crowd as he leaves the stage at the end of a campaign rally Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, in Cape Girardeau, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson).
On Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats were hoping for some kind of wave to wipe away the opposition. While both saw gains, neither won complete control of Congress.
Nearly two years into President Trump’s first term, each party saw a divided electorate with potential. The Trump-hating Resistance has been fueled by anger since November 8, 2016. Though rage is a powerful motivational tool, it did not fully ignite a passion to support Democrats in an effort to secure the Senate. Conversely, frustration at the minority and the mainstream media among the MAGA set did not help retain the House.
And once again, Washington, D.C. mirrors a divided nation.
The results give us some indication as to where the country will head in 2020, but the fact remains that this time, Donald J. Trump did not appear on the ballot. For an unknown number of reluctant individuals on the Right, that was more than enough reason to vote Republican. Policy wins that improve the lives of everyday Americans can be easily supported with a vote. Endorsing the personality of a controversial president and party leader is a separate matter entirely. While the latter is uncomfortable, it will be addressed at another time.
In many ways, the judicial branch helped to save the Republican Party from utter defeat in the midterms. Senator Mitch McConnell said as much during a Wednesday morning press conference.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the contentious, partisan fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was “very helpful” in winning Senate seats in Tuesday’s election.
McConnell said Republicans were worried by voter apathy on their side but the debate over Kavanaugh was like an “adrenaline shot” to GOP voters.
He said he thinks core Republican voters were “highly offended” by Democrats’ tactics in the debate.
Included among President Trump’s successes in the first two years are the nomination and seating of not one, but two justices to the Supreme Court. Not only that, the confirmation of the second nominee, while an ultimately painful and egregious process, worked to unite a fractured GOP ahead of midterms. These gains, while in Trump’s favor, were far removed from the man himself.
Because of how the Democrats treated and talked about Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans viewed the entire experience as a battle between good and evil. These feelings were unencumbered by the usual connections to Trump. Even Never-Trumpers viewed the situation that Kavanaugh was thrust into at the hands of angry Democrats as a completely isolated matter. Aversion to the man making judicial nominations did not color their conclusions about the nominee, and rightly so.
The judicial branch is also a key to substantial victories in the future despite a divided Congress.
With the Senate still firmly in Republican hands, President Trump can once again triumph. The election doesn’t change all that much about the GOP agenda, such as it is. To date, Trump’s greatest Congressional success has not come from passing bills, but from nominating and confirming judges who will remain long after he is out of office. He can do the former just as easily now.
Going forward, the Democrats will work to severely hinder any Republican progress. Despite their efforts, they will not be able to touch the recent and future wins of the judicial variety. Nor will Trump, through word or deed, be able to cast much of a shadow on his greatest victories to date.