Elections are exciting times for those who enjoy politics. Throughout the proceeding campaign season, statistician get to collect and analyze mountains of data on who might vote and who might win. In turn, pundits and analyst get to argue about what, if anything, all of that data means. Presumably, pre-election data can help candidates run more effective campaigns, even if they have to obscure their true positions on the issues most important to their would-be voters. Pre-election data can also be compared to election results in order to build working models, thereby demonstrating what voters favor in a candidate and platform. Election Day is, of course, exciting, because the high stakes events give political enthusiasts the adrenalin rush that sports fans enjoy on game day. For political analysts, however, the post period election is probably the most interesting. It is, after all, the period when government can experience the most change. The 2018 Midterm Election were particularly interesting, because they delivered interesting result that shifted the power dynamics in Washington. Unfortunately, the consequences may be more chaos when better governance was desired by voters.
Elections are, indeed, exciting times. They are, however, marred by political gossip, which is why people like former-First Lady Michelle Obama have a distaste for politics. Beyond election outcomes, elections are also largely irrelevant. Negative campaigns inspire grudges and strong emotions, but what was said and who ran against who are matters largely left to political historians to debate. What truly matters is who won and how their victories impact government. It can be fun to predict who will win an election and watch contenders battle it out, but the study of politics is about the interactions between those who govern with those they govern. Elections are only a small part of that interaction. In the wake of the 2018 Midterms, President Donald Trump faces a House of Representatives dominated by Democrats, who have pledged to halt the President’s far Right-wing policy agenda and investigate every potential misdeed Mr. Trump has ever committed. Although Trump’s failure to legally shield himself from critics and prepare for the inevitable return of Democrats to power will create an interesting show in itself, how Republicans and Democrats govern going forward is even more interesting, especially if they can.
As the party of government, Democrats are not going to fully impede government, even if Republicans and Trump control it. They are always willing to make concessions in order to make progress on issues that matter to them and to keep government running. In recent years, Democrats have embraced the same tactics used by Republicans to undermine the Obama Administration in order to halt Republican progress, but Democrats still have a vested interest in ensuring government can work. The President and Republicans simply have to give Democrats policy options that they can support. Trump, for his part, may well be the one who refuses to cooperate with Democrats based on the simple fact that they are Democrats, his enemy. In recent decades, Republicans have advocated for minimalist government, so the instability of Republicans to meet legislative goals does not tend to have the same impact on Republican voters as it does on Democratic voters. As Trump likes to go to extremes, he is more likely to refuse to compromise with Democrats and halt government than anything. Trump also ran on a “no compromises” platform, so there is a political incentive to not work with Democrats. He is certainly willing to use policy obstruction to discourage Democratic investigations.
Despite his hypocritical criticism of President Obama for legislating through Executive action, Trump is likely to stretch the limits of Executive power in an attempt to circumvent the need to work with Democrats, which will spark paralyzing legal challenges. Unfortunately, the US Federal government is likely to succumb to extreme political dysfunction between the 2018 Midterm Elections and the 2020 Presidential Election. If the goal of politics is to inflame political tensions and produce dramatic political theatre, the post-2018 period will be the golden age of politics. If the goal of politics is to foster proper governance and improved representation, the post-2018 can easily become a low-point in the history of American politics. Donald Trump’s personality is not going to change nor is his leadership style. The burden of good Republican government, therefore, falls on Senate and House Republicans. Congressional Republicans must become the mediators between Democrats and Donald Trump. Veterans of the Senate and the House fully understand what Democrats are willing to accept. Given that it is actually the Constitutional responsibility of legislators to craft legislation, Congressional Republicans, whose political fates still depend on the success of government under their stewardship, need to be the ones who lead on public policy. They must craft compromises Democrats can support and the President can accept.
In the post-2018 period, government is going to be defined by a great deal of political drama. Government cannot, however, be defined solely by political strife. The leadership and strategists of both parties are likely exploring how they can use dysfunction in the two years following 2018 to woo voters away from each other. Regrettably, there are far too many issues that have gone unresolved for too long for the American People to wait and hope 2020 will setup a more conducive political power dynamic. Congressional Republicans, whether it is GOP leadership or rank-and-file statesmen Republicans, must take the lead on public policy. They must be willing to overcome political ideology and identity politics to work with Democrats and stand up to the President as needed. At the moment, the economy is doing well and the US is able to abstain from interventions in geopolitical crises, but the world is s dangerous place and America can only maintain a false sense of security for so long. It will be tempting for both Republicans and Democrats to sabotage their political rivals as they work to strengthen their grip on government in future elections, especially if the President does the very same thing. It is, however, this unwillingness to place governance before politics that needs to be overcome.
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