Conceived by those who were distrustful of unconstrained majorities, the Constitution incorporates a series of political checks and balances. The most crucial are the checks that the Legislative Branch might place upon the president.
Over the past two years, Republican majorities in the House and Senate have failed to exercise sensible oversight on President Trump. This past Election Day, the people spoke, and the constitutional system we employ has a fresh chance to work, as intended.
People from all races, not primarily white; all genders, not primarily men; all religions, not primarily Christian; all economic classes, not primarily the rich; along with the young and disenfranchised, came together to end exclusive control of our federal government, dominated by a Republican president and a Republican Congress.
Democratic candidates didn’t have to look or sound like Republicans to win. Led by an uprising of women and people of color, voters who went to the polls represented the diversity and emerging needs of a changing country and saw themselves reflected in the candidates.
After being in the legislative minority for eight grueling years and watching in frustration these past two years as Donald Trump ripped away at healthcare coverage, destroyed consumer protections, eviscerated environmental safeguards and attacked civil liberties, Democrats will again control the people’s legislative branch of government—the House of Representatives—starting in January.
In all probability, the country will still have to stomach Trump’s demeaning treatment of women; his hateful and divisive race-baiting; his vulgar temperament; and his attempts to circumscribe the law. But Democrats, by winning control of the House, will now have some power to correct Republican missteps and offer a tangible rebuke of Trump’s leadership.
Exit polls showed significant Congressional support for Democrats in cities and suburbs, and among independents, young voters and racial minorities. Independent women favored Democrats by more than 20 points. Congressional gains for Democrats were achieved despite ample increase in economic growth and low current unemployment. Exit polls revealed that a majority of voters expressed belief the country is headed in the wrong direction. More than four in 10 voters said that the Trump persona, along with healthcare concerns, were the two most important factors in their votes.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump launched an insidious appeal to rally his base, releasing racist ads, threatening to rewrite the Constitution by executive order, manufacturing a national emergency about a dangerous migrant “caravan,” and using active-duty soldiers as a political prop at the border. Republican candidates echoed his nationalist appeals.
However, in the majority of races, Trump’s tactics did not bring a sufficient number of his supporters to the polls. Though those worried about immigration overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates, the apparent maliciousness of his rhetoric brought out many more Trump opponents.
Democratic victory in the House is, thankfully, a sign of our political health. It is a pushback against the excesses—both rhetorical and in terms of policy—committed by the Trump administration and enabled by the Republican Party. Turning against Trump and his Republican cohorts, especially during this time of economic prosperity, voters refused to accept the degradation of their nation’s political culture.
The new Democratic majority in the House has an opportunity to unite rather than divide. However, to do so, it must offer a progressive legislative agenda, one favored by most American voters. This includes:
• Raising the federal minimum wage to $15, thereby supporting hard-working people still not earning enough to live on.
• Shoring up the Affordable Care Act and enacting common-sense gun laws.
• Putting fourth an infrastructure bill, devoid of pork, with funding for bridges and roads, airports and mass transit, clean-energy projects and new schools.
• Offering incentives for developing and utilizing cutting-edge approaches to climate change.
• Repealing the most objectionable giveaways to the rich in the 2017 tax bill.
• Offering a reprieve to “Dreamers” and other undocumented immigrants who’ve lived in this country for an extended period of time, raised their families here, paid their taxes, and obeyed the laws. A majority of Americans want opportunities for legal immigration expanded, not contracted. They also want the image of the United States restored to its rightful place, as a haven for refugees seeking asylum.
• Reestablishing confidence in our electoral process by reinstating the Voting Rights Act, reversing years of voter-suppression efforts.
• Funding universal child care and job training programs.
• Making public college accessible and affordable.
• Enacting campaign finance reform.
• Giving the people living in the District of Columbia congressional representation; and offering the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico an opportunity for statehood.
Election Day 2018 was a good day for Democrats and a great day for Americans willing to think big.