Monday, February 12, 2018

Crystal Ball for the 2018 Midterms

The "midterm elections" are the ones held, of course, in the off-even years, when there is no presidential election, but all the House members and a third of the Senators are elected.  Since a midterm takes place two years after a new president takes office, it is invariably assumed to be a referendum of some kind on the new president and his accomplishments.

We must hate our new presidents, then, because the party of the president almost invariably loses House seats, a couple dozen on average, and it is typically regarded as a reaction to the policies of the president.

So ... 2018.

This midterm is not like previous midterms.  Now, the Democrats don't think that, or at least aren't saying that.  They think they can pick up a majority in the House and seats in the Senate that might give them the majority there, too.  They look at the history of past midterms after a change in the White House and take heart.

But not so fast, folks.

Two of the biggest midterm shellackings of a president, to use Barack Obama's words, have taken place in fairly recent memory.  These were in 1994, two years after Bill Clinton was elected, and 2010, two years after Obama became president.  In case you have forgotten, in 1994, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, Republicans defeated enough House Democrats to take a majority in the House, for the first time since maybe 1872 or so.  It seemed like 1872, anyway.  They defeated, in their own districts, the Speaker of the House (Tom Foley) and several committee chairmen, powerful people made to look like the problems they were.

Then in 2010, the Democrats lost their grip on the House and their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Nancy Pelosi lost her speakership (though not her safe seat), and the USA was protected from whatever an unchecked Obama was going to do to it if he had Congress another couple years.

How might 2018 be different from 1994 and 2010?  Well, let's take a look at those years and test the climate of the nation.  In 1994, Bill Clinton was the new president, an he had made the God-awful mistake of turning the issue of health insurance over to his wife, the unelected Hillary Clinton.  What she came up with was socialized medicine of a kind that never got off the ground, and tarred Bill so badly that he lost the House the next year in 1994.

The Democrats were out-strategized by Newt Gingrich that year, who brought out his Contract with America, pledging such nation-friendly proposals as term limits, a balanced budget and tax reform.  The Democrats had Hillary, and that lost badly.  To his credit, Clinton then figured out that he could get reelected himself only by working with the Republicans, and they were successful together.

In 2010, we had a new president again.  However, he decided that, ignoring the lesson of 1994, he too was going to do a health insurance overhaul, and had an even bigger congressional majority to shove through what he wanted to foist on the USA.  This time, though, it was passed, and we immediately recognized that all the promises -- "You can keep your plan", "You can keep your doctor" -- were bogus and intentional lies.

Again, then, in 2010 congressional leadership was flipped, and Obama was stopped from shoving more legislation down our throats.  He then turned to Executive Orders to carry out his dictates, and continued adding stifling regulations to business, resulting in stagnant, low economic growth of the type that eventually got Donald Trump elected president.

But 2018 is not the same thing.  The Democrats, for one thing, do not have a Newt Gingrich on their side.  Gingrich not only found outcomes that the nation wanted, he proposed concrete, legislative actions that he pledged the Republicans to press forward with.  He noted the problems, identified tangible laws to add or change, and won in 1994.

The Democrats not only don't have a Gingrich, they don't have ideas to share even if they had one.  Having just come off eight years of Obama, and a terrible result with a dead economy, allies mistrusting us and enemies not fearing us, President Trump was supposed to address that.

The thing is, he did.  After the tax cut he pressed for, millions of Americans were given cash bonuses by their employers, and tens of millions are, this month, receiving bigger paychecks based on lower tax rates.  Obamacare, on the other hand, had an immediately harmful impact, that continues to cost Americans today.  The tax cuts had an immediately positive impact, that will continue indefinitely.

Americans can look out at our international standing and see that we have stronger allies who actually trust us.  ISIS has been militarily battered and holds almost no territory, although their ideology has not been destroyed yet.  Despite the program trading-driven weirdness in the stock market last week, anyone with a 401(k) is substantially better off today than a year ago, not because of Obama-era interest rate manipulation, but because businesses are more healthy.

Unlike 1994 and 2010, the results of the work of the president's party have been positive for the economy and elsewhere, and it is after all the economy, stupid.

The Democrats can't win back the Senate, simply because the math is not in their favor -- far more Democrats in red states are up for reelection than vice versa -- but hypothetically the House is always up for grabs, especially given a large number of retiring Republicans.

However, unless the Democrats come up with an agenda, they're spitting in the wind in their faces.  Unless they can explain why not one of them voted for the tax cut package, and they come up with a good reason (hint: there is not one), they're going to have a hard time selling their story.  Unless they can come up with someone better than the laughable Nancy Pelosi to tell their story, there's only one outcome.

The 2018 midterms are not going to hurt the Republicans.  One bit.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

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