Wednesday, November 7th, 2018


Purp Walk

Election Special

If we still believe the phrase "United we stand, divided we fall," then the message of the midterms was, Look Out Below. Even with new variables like Trump in the White House, higher turnout, and a massive (almost obsessive) interest in politics, America's long division held. A blue wave helped Dems take back the House. A red wall enabled the Senate to maintain control of the Senate. And the president (surprise) declared victory. As FiveThirtyEight's Clare Malone explains, Election Night Defied A Single Takeaway. "Instead, the election was an accurate reflection of where the country stands: existentially muddled, politically divided and historically engaged with its politics."

+ CNN: A divided Congress, a divided America.

+ Ronald Brownstein: "The evening amounted to a simultaneous repudiation and reaffirmation of Trump from two very different Americas, and underscored the fundamental demographic, cultural, and economic changes reshaping America and its politics."

+ "The midterm elections have ended in a mixed result. The vote certainly was not a decisive repudiation of Trump, nor was it anything like the resounding endorsement he craved." The New Yorker's David Remnick reflects on the 2018 midterms.

+ We'll dig in more below, but for a quick overview, here are twenty-five election highlights from NBC News, seven takeaways from Reuters, ten midterm takeaways from WaPo, and 4 key takeaways from the NYT. (Maybe the big winner of the night was the word takeaways...)


Dropping a Jeff Bomb

"In February 2016, Mr. Sessions became the first sitting senator to endorse Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, and in the months leading up to the election, he became one of the candidate's closest national security advisers." Things changed early and often in a relationship that took center stage in the country's legal battles and the president's personal ones. As of Wednesday morning, the relationship is over. NYT: Trump Forces Out Jeff Sessions as He Cleans House After the Midterms. (So much for the post-election news cycle lull...)

+ If you live around the DC area, you shouldn't be concerned if your lights dim briefly. It's just Bobby Three Sticks firing back up the indictment machine. "In the run-up to Election Day, there were no indictments or public pronouncements by the special counsel's office, in keeping with Justice Department guidelines that prosecutors should avoid taking steps that could be perceived as intending to influence the outcome of the vote." WaPo: With the midterms over, Mueller faces key decisions in Russia investigation.


The New Math

We are a nation obsessed with politics and the related battles have drawn our attention like no other reality show ever (including sports). And during this election, (for once) the obsession actually got us off the couch and to the polling place. "At least 48.5 percent of eligible voters participated in this year's midterm election cycle, reversing a more than half-century decline in voter participation during the midterms, starting in 1964." Vice: Americans turned up in a big way to this year's midterm elections — in numbers not seen since the 1960s. And from Vox: Early numbers suggest voter turnout soared in the 2018 midterms.

+ The impact of that larger turnout was not exactly what you might have expected. Here's a pretty amazing look at the new math from The Atlantic: "The reality of the numbers: America is a country where the government is much more closely divided than the voters are. Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate to 51 seats—though 10 million more people voted for Democrats than Republicans. Democrats took the majority in the House, picking up 25 seats; that's more tide than wave, though 3.5 million more people voted for Democrats than Republicans."

+ How to explain that Democrats can have over 10 million more Senate votes and still lose.


Bounced Checks and Balances

Russia, money laundering, business corruption, and of course, those pesky tax returns. All of it is suddenly on the table in a serious way now that the Dems control House committees. The excellent Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: "There will now be a massive check on this presidency that brings with it subpoena powers, the authority to compel the Trump administration to produce evidence, and the power to call witnesses to testify."

+ "The majority means Democratic chairs of committees will have subpoena power, and are likely to deluge the Trump administration with requests for documents and testimony on a range of issues. They could demand to see the president's tax returns. They could even attempt to impeach him." David Graham: The Democrats Are Back, and Ready to Take On Trump.

+ Trump's preemptive response: "Two can play that game!"


Women on the Verge of a Service Takedown

"By press time, at least 92 had won in the House and 10 had won in the Senate (joining 10 already in the upper chamber) for a total of 112 women — the most women to serve in Congress at once in history." Vox: It's official: a record-breaking number of women have won seats in Congress. Here are some photos of women candidates celebrating the historic night.

+ Massachusetts elected its first black woman to Congress, Jared Polis will be the first man to win a governorship as an out gay man, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids are America's first Native American women in Congress. WaPo: The historic firsts of the 2018 midterms.


Cruz Control

The GOP was victorious in two of the most-watched statewide races (that felt more like national races). In Texas, Ted Cruz defeated Beto O'Rourke in a close race. And Ron DeSantis held off the challenge from Andrew Gillum in Florida's gubernatorial race.

+ "Tonight we have closed the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. But we still have a few more miles to go." So said Stacey Abrams who has vowed to fight on as her Georgia governor race against Brian Kemp remains too close to call. A runoff is still possible.

+ "Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson called Wednesday for a recount in his race for re-election against Republican Gov. Rick Scott." (I mean, it wouldn't really be an election without a recount in Florida...)


Kin Dumb Come

During the last few weeks before the election, racial and antisemitic dog whistle morphed into screams from the rooftops (and even troops along the border). And the sad lesson is that those tactics still work in America. "By diagnosing America's problem as tribalism, chin-stroking pundits and their sorrowful semi-Trumpist counterparts in Congress have hidden the actual problem in American politics behind a weird euphemism." Adam Serwer in The Atlantic: America's Problem Isn't Tribalism—It's Racism.

+ Voter suppression, as it turns out, works pretty well too. Nowhere was that more true than in Georgia. Under Secretary of State Brian Kemp, "Georgia purged more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls, eliminating 10.6 percent of voters from the state's registered electorate from 2016 to 2018 alone. The state shut down 214 polling places, the bulk of them in minority and poor neighborhoods. From 2013 to 2016 it blocked the registration of nearly 35,000 Georgians, including newly naturalized citizens." Carol Anderson: If the Georgia governor's race had taken place in another country, the State Department would have questioned its legitimacy.


Health Care Package

"The results highlight the divide between voters, even in conservative states, who generally support providing health benefits to the poor, and conservative politicians who have rejected the expansion, which is a central part of the Affordable Care Act." NPR: Medicaid Expansion Prevails In Idaho, Nebraska And Utah. These results are connected to what could be the longest-lasting prognosis related to the midterms. The Affordable Care Act is safe for now.


Wanted Felons

"Hunter is accused of illegally using campaign funds for personal expenses. Collins allegedly provided insider information on a pharmaceutical company to his son ahead of a stock trade." Both just got re-elected.

+ Florida votes to restore ex-felon voting rights with Amendment 4. (Hey, if prospective felons can get elected, then former felons should sure as hell be allowed to vote...)


Other Interesting Results

Buzzfeed with the most 2018 lede of the day: "Dennis Hof, a pimp turned Trump-inspired Republican candidate for the Nevada State Assembly, died last month. On Tuesday, he won his election." For a very interesting look at this race and what it all means, check out Claire Vaye Watkins' New Yorker piece: The Ghost of Dennis Hof Haunts the G.O.P. in the Nevada Midterms.

+ Homelessness is one of the biggest issues facing major cities. The conundrum is that money can't solve the problem but the problem can't be solved without money. In a move that defied the city's mayor, San Francisco voters passed a tech tax that will raise $300 million a year to address the challenge. Many mayors around the country will be watching to see if the money can be deployed effectively.

+ Housing Is Unaffordable. Here's How People Voted To Solve The Crisis.

+ Wired: Weed wins on election day. (It definitely won in my house...)

+ "Despite months of tireless campaigning, student activists watched with frustration as Florida races failed to bring change." Pain for Parkland students after pro-gun candidates win.

+ "Fossil fuel companies spent record amounts to oppose pro-climate ballot initiatives, and it paid off." America Voted. The Climate Lost.

+ In Pictures: The 2018 Midterm Elections.