A “thumping” is what then-President George W. Bush called it when Democrats retook the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2006 Midterm Elections. Then-President Barack Obama called it a "shellacking" when voters returned control of the House to Republicans. President Donald Trump attempted to frame the 2018 Midterms Elections as a victory against all odds, choosing to focus on the seats Republicans picked up in the Senate and other favorable statistics. Due to which Senators were up for reelection and insufficient support in the right districts, Democrats lost ground in the Senate, but triumphed in the House. The odds of Democrats regaining control of the Senate were low and Democratic turnout failed to exceed expectations, so the fact that Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate is not a particularly significant achievement for Republicans. The fact that Democrats failed to inspire a massive “Blue Wave” diminishes the significance of the Democrats’ victory. The results show 2018 was as much a referendum on Democrats as it was on Republicans and the President.
History continues to repeat itself when elections come around. Voters placed a check on President George W. Bush, because the euphoria of war was no longer enough to drive Americans to the perceived safety of Republican rule and the shortcomings of George W. Bush policies were finally starting to be realized. George W. Bush, of course, retained many of his supporters, but their enthusiasm for him weaned as independent supporters turned away from the President. Voters placed a check on President Barack Obama in 2010, because he and his Congressional Democrats indulged their impulses to pursue an overly aggressive liberal agenda as Republicans turned voters against Democratic policies. They lost the support they needed to retain control of government. Voters expanded Republican control over Congress when Democrats failed to learn the right lesson. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump by the electoral vote, because she failed to gain enough support to solidify her win by the popular vote. In 2018, Republicans lost the House and Democrats failed to achieve enough support to regain the Senate, because they failed to give voters what they truly wanted.
Looking at the 2018 exit polls, the midterm elections were a clear referendum on Donald Trump. A majority of Americans voted, because they wanted to support or oppose Donald Trump. A significant number of 2018 voters did not participate in the 2016 Presidential, but felt compelled to vote thanks largely to Donald Trump. Although healthcare, immigration, the economy, and gun policy were the top four issues in 2018, which political party controlled Congress appeared to be the driving force behind those who wanted to place a check on Donald Trump’s Executive power and those who wanted to immunize him against Congressional oversight. In other words, Americans voted in the 2018 Midterms, because they wanted to oppose something. Just as many voters on the Right voted in opposition of Hillary Clinton in 2016, many voters on the Left voted in opposition of Donald Trump. Those who voted to support Donald Trump voted to oppose Democrats. Just as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump failed to inspire enough support to overcome oppositional voting, the same pattern was observed during the Obama Presidency and the George W. Bush Presidency. The goal of these oppositional voters was not to necessarily support someone or some issue. The objective was to oppose those in power.
Oppositional voting has, of course, always existed, but it was a smaller factor in elections. In 2008, for example, a majority of Americans truly did want Barack Obama. Voters wanted to move away from the policies of George W. Bush, who inspired his share of oppositional votes in 2004, but voters were not necessarily voting against John McCain. People did not necessarily vote against George W. Bush or Al Gore in 2000. Since 2010, more and more people have been voting against someone instead of voting for someone. Although it is easy to simply conclude there will always be oppositional voters and no one can appeal to everyone, voters are trying to send a message. They do not want Republicans. They do not want Democrats. They do not want far-Right Conservatives or hardcore liberals. Yes, certain people want libertarians and socialists, but Americans as a whole want more moderate candidates. They want government through consensus. The rise in oppositional voting, as well as the lack of voter support when voters cannot find someone to oppose, is the consequence of vote dissatisfaction with the choices the political parties give them.
Donald Trump became the President of the United States, because voters did not want Hillary Clinton to be the President of the United States. Democrats won the House in 2018, because voters did not want Donald Trump to have unchecked power. Voters did not support Donald Trump and refused to support Hillary Clinton, because they wanted him to pursue a radical Right-wing agenda. Similarly, voters did not vote for Barack Obama, because they wanted him to pursue an overly aggressive Left-wing agenda nor did they empower Republicans to pursue their agendas. Democrats were not given the House to pursue a Left-wing agenda in 2018. They will certainly use their oversight power to hold Trump accountable, which is what voters want. Should Trump lose in 2020, it will happen, because voters are dissatisfied with his leadership, his policies, and his behavior. It will not be to empower Democrats. Unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans are able, or willing, to understand what American voters are trying to tell them. Instead of hijacking the US government and political system to cater to special interest groups and political extremes, elected officials need to embrace moderation and pursue moderate policy agendas that truly support functional consensus government.
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