Tuesday, 21 May 2024

On Politics With Lisa Lerer: The Midterms Are Over. Now What?

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

The midterms are over and things are already moving fast in Washington. President Trump gave a 90-minute news conference this morning, vowing to adopt a “warlike posture” if Democrats investigate his administration. Then, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Democrats, meanwhile, are plotting their next steps after a pretty good night. They won control of the House, picked up seven governor’s seats and flipped six state legislative chambers. Republican expanded their margin in the Senate.

Like many of you, we’re wondering what happens next.

Here are some of the questions we’re thinking about:

Will Congress do, well, anything?

Don’t count on it. Even before the midterms, a lot of people — including lawmakers — argued that Congress was weakened, or perhaps even entirely broken.

Expect Senate Republicans to use their expanded majority to do what they can, which will mostly involve continuing to confirm conservative judges at record numbers. With the House in Democratic hands, it’s hard to see how any legislation gets passed, though there’s some chatter about bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs or rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

But even before the election, Democrats were already preparing an onslaught of investigations, hearings and subpoenas into the Trump administration. The president threatened today to grind government “to a halt” if Democrats investigate his dealings and then “blame them” for the inaction.

Given that we’re already hearing that kind of rhetoric, less than 24 hours after polls closed, our prediction is continued gridlock.

What’s the future of the Democratic Party?

At first glance, Midwest Democrats seemed to best the more progressive wing of the party. Gretchen Whitmer, in Michigan, and Tony Evers, in Wisconsin, both flipped governor’s mansions, while the Bernie Sanders-endorsed Andrew Gillum lost in Florida.

But the message wasn’t exactly clear-cut. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke, who ran on a progressive platform, lost by less than three points — a fairly small margin for a Democrat in the deep red state. And though Mr. Gillum lost, the Democratic Senate incumbent Bill Nelson, who campaigned as a moderate in the same state, didn’t exactly notch a resounding win — he’s currently losing by around half a percentage point.

Expect the battle over the party’s direction to continue well into 2019. Or as The Onion put it: “To ensure a win in 2020, the Democrats should consider running either a far-left, center-left, moderate, or conservative candidate.”

How do all the “firsts” change Congress?

It was a historic night for American women. With some results still being tallied, a dozen women were elected to the Senate, 96 women were elected to the House and nine women will serve as governor — and 42 of those are women of color.

Many of these will be firsts, including the first Muslim women, the first Native American women and the first Latinas from Texas elected to Congress. During their campaigns, some of these candidates made the explicit case that their identity would be an asset for their districts.

We’re excited to see what the impact of greater diversity may be in Congress. Does it change the policy agenda? Create new alliances?

What have we learned about politics in Trump era?

After 2016, it was an unresolved question whether Mr. Trump’s victory was a lucky break against a weak opponent or a sign he had tapped into a political shift. Now, we know the result, if not the answer: Mr. Trump has sparked a national political realignment.

Suburban areas packed with affluent, highly educated independents, moderate Republicans and those “Panera moms” (I hate the name, too; open to other ideas!) voted for Democrats as a way of channeling their distaste for the president, flipping long-held G.O.P. districts outside of cities like Houston, Dallas and Richmond.

Rural areas, meanwhile, got even stronger in their support for Mr. Trump, re-electing Republican candidates like Representative Steve King of Iowa, who’s cavorted with white nationalists, and Representative Chris Collins of New York, who’s under indictment for insider trading.

Two years into Mr. Trump’s presidency, we are more divided than ever.

Now we want to hear from you — did you experience the country’s political split in your own life this midterm season?

Do you have friends or relatives you disagreed with about the election? How did it impact your relationships at home, work, school or anywhere else? Send your stories to [email protected].


An update on undecided races

About 24 hours after the first polls closed, we are still waiting for some results. Here are a few marquee races that remain undecided:

Georgia governor: The race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp is still too close to call, as the state hurries to count absentee ballots. As of this evening, Mr. Kemp, the Republican, had received 50.3 percent of the vote — if that dips under 50, a runoff will take place.

Florida Senate: The Republican Rick Scott is up by 0.4 percentage points as of this evening. If that number stays below 0.5, it will trigger a recount. Bill Nelson, his opponent, has said he will not concede.

Arizona Senate: In the race to fill the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Flake, Martha McSally, the Republican, leads Kyrsten Sinema by 15,403 votes as of this evening. Hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted, and local officials have said the process could take days.

There are also quite a few interesting House races that are still undecided in Utah, Georgia and California. Our colleague Liam Stack wrote about them here.


What to read tonight

Here’s how the firing of Jeff Sessions could affect the future of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the investigation into the president and Russia.

It was another big election for marijuana. It was legalized for medical use in two states, and recreational use in another.

Here’s a cool visualization: How voting blocs have shifted from the ’80s to now.


… Seriously

We know Jeff Sessions is out of a job. Whose decision that was, though, apparently depends on which channel you’re watching. Our eagle-eyed deputy editor, Erin McCann, spotted these dueling graphics this afternoon:


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Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

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