So now the United States has as its leaders two people who are totally incapable of leading a united nation.
Like old, scarred cage fighters, President Donald Trump and (presumably) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will square off for two years of unrelenting squabbling.
That’s what Tuesday’s midterm elections left us with: a mess that will be rancorous but not one that is likely to lead to much of anywhere.
Yes, the Democrats took advantage of Trump’s wild unpopularity in the cities and suburbs to win the House of Representatives—convincingly. And the Republicans got their country cousins into the Senate in more rural areas.
No, Trump did not succeed in getting “very close to complete victory,” as he claimed. He gained a few Senate seats, and nothing else. What he really got is the guarantee that his White House staff is going to work into the night a lot of times to answer investigative interrogation from the Democratic-led House.
Nor did he even attempt to expand the Republican Party beyond his base, and that is not a majority as he begins to campaign for a second term in 2020. It is a curiosity that he never tries to reach out to people who might like some of his policies but abhor his behavior.
In fact, his base is not just people who come to his raucous rallies. I was sitting in a meeting room with roughly a hundred highly successful men the other day. Without doing a complete interrogation, I am confident 80 percent of them voted for Trump.
They speak of being embarrassed by how he acts. But they love their tax reductions. They are a real part of his base—and his fundraising.
Asking Trump and Pelosi to work together to pass legislation and build bridges (both literal and figurative) is like asking Bulldawg and Gator football teams to play nice with each other.
Pelosi probably will be elected Speaker of the House, but there will be no joy at the cocktail parties that ensue. Half or more of the Democratic representatives and their staffs think she is a drag on the party. Some will defy her and vote for someone else as Speaker, but that probably is futile.
Money-raising is her forte; many a congressman got crucial campaign cash from her ability to find dollars in quiet places.
Trump and Pelosi both talk a good game about where they agree. They both favor lowering drug prices, building infrastructure, creating better education outcomes, all of which would be a boon to Americans.
Chances are not much will get done. The GOP has blown a hole in the budget with a mammoth tax cut, limiting how much they could put into new projects. Democrats saw how their opponents tried to kill health care, creating distrust on any new health initiatives.
Tiptoeing into all this controversy is a tilt to the geography of national politics. This election saw a shift in where real power lies.
Rural America has become Republican territory. That’s where the Electoral College propelled Trump to victory in 2016. But it no longer offers much of an opportunity for electing majority of House members.
Urban America always was Democratic territory—but the suburbs tended to vote Republican. In this election, that changed. Mainly because suburban women simply despise Trump.
And the population trends are unmistakable: Younger voters in and around cities voted against the Republicans, and are likely to continue to do so. That means the House could remain a Democratic stronghold for the foreseeable future.
More than right now, the changes probably will impinge on the 2020 presidential campaign. Though there will be some rumblings, Trump will be the Republican candidate. He now is the Republican party.
The Democrats: who knows? They need to find someone who can master the Electoral College challenge. And that challenge is to minimize losses in less-populous Midwestern states while sweeping the big coastal states.
Trump understands the equation. Look where he stumped for the GOP in the last two months of the midterms—the Midwest and the Deep South. Sure he lost some governorships there, but he helped elect senators.
Democrats will have a devil of a time trying to find a candidate who can straddle the rural-urban divide.
As many as twenty Democrats may enter the primaries. When the Republicans had that many candidates in 2016, it got them Trump. What it will get Democrats is a glorious fight, unlike Hillary Clinton’s unchallenged nomination last time.