What the US midterms results mean: five key takeaways from election night
Democrats regain control of the House but Republicans tighten grip on Senate on the back of Trump support
The Republicans have gained three Senate seats but lost control of the US House of Representatives to the Democrats for the first time in eight years, in midterm elections that have left an indelible mark on the nation.
In his first reaction to what CNN describes as “a mixed night” for the US president, Donald Trump chose to celebrate Republican gains. “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, the current House minority leader and now front runner for the position of speaker, praised her party’s performance and pledged that the new Democrat majority would work to rein in the White House.
“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It is about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” she said.
The election marks “the end of the Republican legislative agenda and the beginning of an era of accountability for President Trump”, says Vox.
Here are five key takeaways from yesterday’s vote results:
Dems take it to the House
In many ways, the night was a definitive success for the Democrats. Although Republicans “will pitch this as a split decision... it’s not”, says The Washington Post. The newspaper argues that the Senate race was skewed in Republicans’ favour and that the fact “Democrats just took over a chamber of Congress is a big thing for them, period”.
With Democrats running key House committees from January, “you can expect to see subpoenas flying in for the president’s unpublished tax returns, for example, and a more stringent inquiry into Trump’s links with Russia”, says Politico’s Jack Blanchard. It’s a recipe for “yet more partisanship and acrimony in DC”, Blanchard adds.
But while control of the House means that Democrats can thwart new laws and policies, including tax cuts and plans to scrap healthcare reforms, these votes can in turn be blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
Republicans outperform in Senate
On the whole, Republicans outperformed expectations in the Senate. Three incumbent Democratic senators lost their seats to Republicans - an occurrence so rare that “it didn’t happen to anyone in 2004 or 2006 or 2008 or 2010 or 2012 or 2014 or 2016”, says Vox. Despite Democrat successes in the lower house, “the fact remains that Trump’s personal focus during the closing months of the campaign was on defeating incumbent Democratic senators, and he pulled it off in an unprecedented way”, the news site notes.
An increased majority in the upper chamber also means Trump can continue to appoint federal judges with little resistance.
A nation divided
The overall results “suggest a nation that continues to be deeply divided along geographical lines, with rural areas and southern exurbs tilting ever more strongly toward the Republican Party, while cities and suburbs with highly educated populations lurch to the left”, says Vox.
So although areas that backed Trump “bigly”, to use his own term, in the presidential election generally did so again this year, an anti-Republican backlash was seen in prosperous urban districts populated by college-educated professionals.
It was a night of firsts in terms of diversity. Democrat victories saw Colorado’s Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor, while Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim women to gain seats in Congress. And two Native American women - Kansas’s Sharice Davids and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland - will be the first to enter the House of Representatives. In fact, “more women won House seats than ever before”, says The Guardian. At least 87 new congresswomen will enter the House, of whom all but a dozen are Democrats.
The power split “has the potential to dramatically shift things for the Democratic senators with an eye on running for president in 2020”, says Axios. The imminent congressional gridlock “could inspire some Democratic members to be open to more compromise and less confrontation with the other side, which would change the tribal 2020 calculus that we see building right now”, the news site adds.
For Trump, “while Tuesday’s results may have been bruising, in historical terms they are far from a re-election death sentence”, says Politico. Indeed, both presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama survived worse midterm results in their first terms to be comfortably re-elected two years later.