November 07, 2018 - Wednesday
Midterm Voters Go Their Separate Waves
If last night was a referendum on Donald Trump, it probably wasn't the one liberals were hoping for. In what could have been a bruising night for Republicans, Democrats walked away with a big prize, to be sure, but it wasn't the historic drubbing most liberals were counting on. "This is no blue wave," CNN's Jake Tapper said, as the returns were pouring in. And while retaking the House is nothing to sneeze at, most liberals will tell you it's where they lost the ground that hurts: the U.S. Senate.
In a night where both parties have something to hang their hats on, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has to be incredibly proud of not only keeping his chamber – but widening the margins. For all of the GOP's challenges over the last two years, Senate Republicans managed to turn 2018 into a mandate on one thing: the courts. That's no small accomplishment, especially since it bucks 70 years of electoral trends. Most presidents lose seats in the House and Senate in their first midterm election. (Barack Obama leads the pack at 63!) In fact, there've only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off-year election. And President Trump just became one of them.
Most experts will sum up that success in two words: Brett Kavanaugh. It's no accident that almost every Democratic senator in a red state who voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court lost -- Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.). The only one who voted for the president's pick -- Joe Manchin (W. Va.) -- survived. Coincidence? Hardly. Americans on both sides were disgusted by the Democrats' treatment of the father of two. The Left's strategy -- trying to destroy an innocent man's career and family -- backfired in a spectacular way. "I think it was like an adrenaline shot" to the Republican base, McConnell said earlier today. Now, ironically, GOP leaders have an even bigger majority to confirm constitutionalists.
And McConnell intends to. Although the president will have his hands full with a Nancy Pelosi-led House, the Senate can push down even harder on the accelerator when it comes to their dizzying pace of judicial confirmations. That's critical when you consider that apart from the tax cuts, most of the heavy lifting under President Trump has been done by the Senate in nominations, personnel, or by the administration itself through executive order. That won't stop. While House Democrats are busy investigating everyone under the sun, the Senate will keep cranking out judges whose impact will outlast everyone's. And after last night, they'll have more committed conservatives to help them do it.
Despite a split decision Tuesday, there was one big loser -- Hollywood. Turns out, Americans don't really give a rip what celebrities think about politics. They might like your song lyrics or cheer your jump shot, but when it comes to influencing elections, most stars don't. In a poll after Taylor Swift's big gamble -- publicly bashing Tennessee pro-lifer Marsha Blackburn -- Americans were blunt. If you want to encourage people to vote, that's one thing. If you want to criticize Republicans, that's another thing entirely.
A laundry list of celebrities stuck their necks out for radical candidates and hardly any of them have a seat to show for it. Swift, who stunned fans by calling Blackburn "sickening" and accusing her of "systematic racism," lost more than respect Tuesday night. After insisting that Marsha Blackburn's record "appalls and terrifies" her, Swift's candidate, Phil Bredesen, lost big. "I hope it was worth it," tweeted Katie Pavlich, noting how many people the singer alienated. So much for star power.
Elsewhere, Hollywood fared just as badly. In Georgia, where Stacey Abrams (D) is still trailing Republican and religious freedom advocate Brian Kemp for governor, not even Oprah or Will Farrell's stumping seem to have pulled her over the line. In Texas, NBA star Lebron James whiffed with his Beto O'Rourke (D) endorsement, while Cher and Alyssa Milano's picks for governor in Idaho and Florida fell flat in races with Brad Little (R-Idaho) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). Over at "Saturday Night Live," where Pete Davidson made fun of war veteran Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), saying his combat injury made him look like a "hitman in a porno movie," the joke was on SNL. "[Navy] SEALs don't get offended," he said in his victory speech. But this one did get even.
At the end of the day, the biggest winner may have very well been democracy. With a record-breaking 114 million voters -- the high-water mark in midterm election history -- Americans on both sides took their responsibility to vote seriously. For evangelicals, who'd been counted out months ago by the mainstream media, last night's results sent a clear message that when we have a chance to make a difference, we will. In states where the battles were fiercest, our enthusiasm was highest. Almost every exit poll credits the GOP's gains in the Senate to people like you, who committed to pray, to vote, and to stand.
Were there disappointments last night? Absolutely. Our preference would have been for those aligned with the conservative agenda to retain control of Congress. That didn't happen. So what do we do going forward? We continue to pray. We pray for our country. We pray for our government. We pray for our leaders -- those we agree with, and those that we don't agree with. We keep our eyes on the prize. We voted, and we'll vote again next time. But for now we stand on the transcendent truths that we know are unchanging -- no matter who's in power.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.