Right On: The blue ripple, Trump, Kavanaugh and election results

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Here’s my mid-term election box score:

President Trump: A toss-up

Republican Party: Modest loser

Democratic Party: Modest gainer

Progressives and Greens: Biggest losers

Utah: Mixed bag

Here’s a recap of the action:

President Trump explicitly made the election a referendum on his presidency. While he campaigned vigorously for Republican candidates over the last several months, his message was mostly about himself. Why am I not surprised?

Trump’s next two years could go either way. He may be tempted to strike some deals with Nancy Pelosi: an immigration compromise and infrastructure spending are possibilities. But neither side will want to make the other look good heading into 2020. As a conservative, I’ll be happy with no new major legislation beyond a “dreamer” immigration compromise.

Trump can expect a steady drumbeat of House investigations, casting a shadow over him and his administration. The result could be paralysis as even well-qualified candidates for administration openings choose to avoid the treatment Democrats gave Brett Kavanaugh.

The Republican Party lost ground as forecast: The president’s party usually loses Senate and House seats in mid-term elections. But Republican losses fell well short of the blue wave predicted last summer.

Republican candidates in competitive districts who embraced Trump fared better than those who did not, further meshing the party and the president.

Republicans benefited substantially from having to defend only eight Senate seats while Democrats had to defend 26. The slim Republican Senate majority actually grew by a seat or two, giving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell some breathing room.

For me, a Republican Senate is far more important for the conservative agenda than is the House. Trump’s outstanding judicial nominations to federal and appeals court judgeships will continue unabated, seeding the courts with respect for the Constitution for years to come.

Republican losses in the House ended up being close to historical mid-term losses and far less than Democrats’ dramatic losses in 2010. Nonetheless Republicans lost their House majority and with it, any chance to move ahead with the conservative agenda in the next two years.

The best economy in decades wasn’t enough to save Republicans. Good economic news doesn’t seem to help incumbents as much as bad news plagues them.

More ominously, Republicans lost large numbers of college-educated suburban voters, especially women. Additions to Republicans’ rural, blue collar and lesser-educated base mitigated the overall effect, but the trend doesn’t bode well for the long haul.

Democrats watched their hoped-for blue wave turn into a ripple but nonetheless had the most to cheer about.

As the House majority party, Democrats will chair all committees, allowing them to set the agenda and dominate mainstream media headlines. They will likely use their new-found investigatory powers to harass both Trump and his administration.

The new House Democratic majority reflects victories by a new breed of candidates. In many places, Democratic moderates won who rejected the Party’s progressive agenda and instead ran on popular issues like lowering prescription drug prices and protecting “dreamers.”

These newly-elected Democratic moderates are likely to dampen enthusiasm for progressive gambits like impeachment, Medicare for All and free college tuition. Freshmen representatives in swing districts will have to run on their voting records in two short years.

Democratic losses in the Senate came at the expense of vulnerable incumbents running in states Trump won by significant margins in 2016. The Kavanaugh effect played a part: Four Democratic senators who voted against Brett Kavanaugh were defeated while the lone Democrat who voted for Kavanaugh, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, won his race.

Progressives and Greens were hands-down losers this year. Except in safe Democratic districts, progressive candidates lost every contest they entered. Worse, running progressive candidates in toss-up districts hardened feelings among middle-class voters that today’s Democratic Party – the party of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – isn’t for them.

Greens took a beating in a number of states. Washington defeated a carbon tax for the second time in two years. Colorado voters nixed a measure that would have effectively shut down exploration for oil and gas in the state.

Arizona voters turned down a proposition to derive 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Alaska rejected development restrictions on salmon habitats. Montana refused to further restrict hard rock mining.

Utah voters opposed additional gasoline taxes but voted to expand Medicaid. Over the next several years we’ll learn the hard way that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Expect tax increases.

As of the time I submitted this column, Utah had approved an advisory electoral boundary commission. Yet Salt Lake City’s Scott McAdams showed that Democrats can win without new district boundaries. McAdams was an attractive candidate while Mia Love struggled on several fronts.

There were still uncounted ballots in Utah County, but unless these last votes save her, I’ll be sorry to see a black, female Republican from Utah – almost a contradiction in terms – disappear from the national scene.

With the nation’s political divide wider than ever and posturing for the 2020 presidential election underway, I can only hope that voters will pull back from the brink and that moderates in both parties will take the reins of leadership.

The great American experiment in democracy will be served best from the center, not from alternating extremes.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Utahguns November 15, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    OK Howard decent article.
    But, no mention about Prop. 2 ?
    No mention about the mingling by the Mormon church to influence the negative outcome of Prop 2 ?
    Given, politicians will always battle their differences, generate negative advertisements and squabble over their opinions/beliefs.

    But, there’s a significant population of people out there who strongly believe in the benefits of Medical marijuana and marijuana byproducts.
    Their voices were exercised, heard and markedly voted in favor of Prop 2 and the usage of Medical Marijuana.

    Yet, we see now the Mormon church stifling the passage of Prop 2. Even Governor Herbert has come out saying that “Prop 2 has flaws”.
    Give me a break Governor, there was many heads (no pun here…) from both sides of the aisle, that put the 28 pages of Prop 2 together.
    Now you say it’s flawed? Are you receiving a discount now on tithing to make this statement?

    My issue comes from obvious emotional manipulation that the Mormon leaders are doing. And now, there’s the possibility of a proposed “negotiable” change in Prop 2 that’s clearly being driven by the Mormon leadership.
    This action of the Mormon church can only come from two places in my opinion. The first comes a financial standpoint, as it has become prominently apparent, the church has massive amounts of money invested in pharmaceutical companies. The same companies that would take a financial hit at the legalization of marijuana.

    The second issue is also obvious, it comes from a place of bigotry and judgment.
    Marijuana has had a bad reputation since the “War on Drugs” began. Members and leaders of the Church dislike drugs because they have preconceived notions about those who use or may use drugs. Now, society has been consistently professing, along with millions of patient testimonials, the benefits of medical marijuana and marijuana products.

    Yet, as a non-Mormon with lots of Mormon friends, I witness many Church members who use cannabis products. Several of these “users” I have personally driven down to Mesquite to purchase CBD products, because their afflictions cause them not to be able to drive.

    From either viewpoint, I believe that in this situation, the Mormon leaders have acted in a fashion that shows corruptness and unkindness.
    I also believe that members of the LDS Church need to realize and recognize that while they may not like something, it should not be illegal.

    Even the Constitution of the state of Utah written when Utah became a state, clearly specifies the “separation of church and state”.
    It states: “There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.”

    Those who are suffering and sick deserve treatment, and a religion, no matter who’s, should have no say in that.

    • Comment November 15, 2018 at 6:57 pm

      Are you saying that my church is led by a bunch of hypocrites?! I am shocked! I am shocked and offended, sir!

  • Craig November 15, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    It’s very sad what the Democratic Party has become. Everything needed to understand their new lack of values was showcased in the Kavanaugh hearing.

    Today, JFK would be run out of the party or as Reagan said, he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, it left him.

    • Comment November 15, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      It’s disgusting what they’ve become. But they’ve a ways to fall before I’ll consider voting for the other set of hypocritical self-serving … known as the R-party. I still view the dems as the lesser evil. It still amazes me to this day how long it took you Baby Bush voters to realize that you’d all been fooled. I notice a trend among “conservatives” that they like to just pretend 8 years of Baby Bush didn’t even actually exist.
      ed: ellipsis

  • bikeandfish November 15, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    The cross talk about the “blue wave” is just partisan silliness. Yes, the DNC leadership exaggerated their predictions; so shocking. And pundits like Howard are trying to downplay their successes; what a shock.

    The accounting he provided ignores the gains democrats made at state and municipal levels. After years of republicans taking over governorships and legislatures the democrats made a noticeable dent in reclaiming some. Thats a big deal for people who care about redistricting as uncompetitive states tend to show significant gerrymandering. Hopefully we see more competitive races and keep the process honest.

    The comment about about McAdams and democrats having a fighting chance it Utah is laughable at best. This is especially true given the newer tallies favoring Love. Nonetheless the results do not diminish the ways in which Utah’s districts have been mangled by partisanship.

    • Comment November 15, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      Howard most often doesn’t give original thought in his column. Pretty much everything just boils down to: libruls=villains / republican=superheros or angels on earth (take your pick). It’s just too silly. I didn’t read this one…

      • KR567 November 15, 2018 at 9:18 pm

        Well I’m sure he’s heart broken because you didnt read it

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