The results of the 2018 midterm elections confirmed expectations: the Republicans strengthened their grip on the Senate, while the Democrats won the House by a wide margin. There were some bruising losses for both camps: the Democrats were faced with the defeat of prominent gubernatorial candidates in Ohio, Georgia and, shockingly, in Florida—where the polls had pointed to a clear Democratic victory. In turn, the Republican candidates lost in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico and Michigan.
The Democrats also won the Senate and governor races in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states which had played a decisive role in Trump’s 2016 victory.
Things didn’t go so well for them in Texas, where, in truth, a victory by Beto O’Rourke had never seemed all that likely: the very fact that the mayor of El Paso managed to get so close to unseating Ted Cruz is an extraordinary achievement in itself. “I’m so fucking proud of you guys!” O’Rourke said—on live national television—to his supporters during a concession speech that struck a triumphant note and in which one could hear echoes of a possible 2020 presidential run.
Despite his loss, something is happening in Texas—as shown by the victories of Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, the first women of Latin American origin to represent Texas in the House of Representatives, in a state with a population that is almost 40 percent Hispanic.
Stacy Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, has refused to concede after being down in the initial vote count. Her opponent is the sitting Secretary of State, who refused to recuse himself from his role overseeing the elections. Abrams has cited irregularities in the election, and thousands of voters have complained about malfunctioning voting machines.
“Friends, we are still on the verge of history,” Abrams said in a speech to her supporters. “We believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach, but we cannot seize it until all voices are heard, and I promise you tonight we’re going to make sure that every vote is counted.”
But while some big names lost their bid, there was a group of new winners from the left.
Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota are the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. Omar began her acceptance speech with the greeting “As-Salam Alaikum!”
As expected, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected in the 14th District of New York and is now the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
In turn, Deb Haaland in New Mexico and Sharice Davids in Texas are the first Native American women to be elected to the House of Representatives.
Jared Polis, the winner in Colorado, is the first openly gay governor.
For the first time in the history of the United States Congress, over 100 women were elected as representatives, showing that the “pink wave” was there just as expected.
“I’m not a particularly charismatic character,” Julia Salazar, the Socialist candidate, told me shortly after being elected to the New York State Senate. “What has brought me forward are ideas. Socialist ideas of a right to health, to education, to an adequate minimum wage. What I hope is that many more young socialist women will be inspired by my example and will decide to run for office in two years’ time.”
Ultimately, there were two very different elections taking place on Tuesday. For the Senate elections, where Republicans won seats, only a third of US states—the most conservative—went to the polls, where Democrats were mostly on the defensive. For the House of Representatives, however, all the states voted: the Democrats won the nationwide popular vote by 8 percent and increased their seats from 193 to around 230, wresting control of the House away from the Republicans, who will have around 200. Most importantly, the Democrats gained seats in the Midwest and in the South, where Trump won big two years ago.
There was no all-encompassing wave that could unify and restore a common identity to the people of the US, as many had hoped. The country came out of the midterms in the same condition as before: divided and polarized.
Now, over the next two years, with Congress no longer fully loyal to him, Trump will have to deal with a real opposition, one which seems to have no intention to make concessions—and will have to keep in mind that the House has the power to open parliamentary investigations, subpoena administration officials and initiate impeachment procedures. An impeachment would probably not result in a Senate vote to remove him from office, but it could cause problems for Trump going forward.
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