The dust has not quite settled on the November 3rd election and we could be headed into weeks of legal challenges, recounts, misinformation, and uncertainty; but it seems clear that neither party should be walking away unscathed and victorious.
Both parties look to have delivered some serious blows in expectations to the other. For Democrats a tentative and narrow White House victory, relatively straightforward experience at the polls, and a showing in the popular vote look great. For Republicans they significantly tampered the Democrat’s hopes for a big electoral college win and have had a lot of success in the House and Senate races, perhaps even denying Democrats a Senate majority.
Both Parties Should Be Happy
It looks like Joe Biden is going to squeak out a narrow victory in the Electoral College, which Democrats should take as a bittersweet cocktail: happy to be winning the White House (so far) and with a lot to address within the Party… more on that next. This narrow victory will be chalked up to the reclamation of the Blue Wall: Michigan and Wisconsin, specifically. We’re still too close to know what will happen in Pennsylvania.The Democrats have so far ousted incumbent Republicans in Colorado and Arizona, furthering their progress in the Sun Belt.
Meanwhile, Republicans dealt significant blows to House Democrats and appear to have definitively stopped Democrats from taking a significant majority in the Senate. Republicans may even hold the Senate majority and there will be a showdown in Georgia, potentially with the Senate in the balance, on January 5th. If Biden is able to take the White House, Republicans will be able to make a strong pitch for denying Democrats a government trifecta with a Senate majority or even another seat.
Both Parties Should Be Sad
Trump’s approval rating has been below 51% his entire term, over 200,000 American have died from COVID-19 on his watch, the economy might be on the rebound but is certainly still in significant pain, and — of his many scandals — President Trump was impeached earlier this year. With all of those factors heading into November, Joe Biden should have destroyed Donald Trump by traditional understanding and have come much closer and/or won more swing states. The American Political Psyche needs to completely re-evaluate how we judge advantages and outcomes in elections.
Republicans might not relish losing the White House, but reasonable observers knew that was the likeliest outcome. Democrats should be terrified for 2024 and how they will fare if they are the incumbents in the White House.
The Democratic Wish List of D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood (and their attendant Senate seats), adding justices to the Supreme Court, and big policy reforms on health care are probably off the table for at least 2 years if not much longer.
Both Parties Should Be Critiquing Themselves
Republican elected officials and operatives know that Trump has been an exhausting and risky proposition. If Biden holds his preliminary totals, Republicans will head into a 2022 midterm with a traditional advantage (though entirely new district maps for the House) and an open 2024 Presidential Primary. You can expect to see Vice President Pence, at least Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Cotton entering the fray — Mitt Romney certainly seems possible too — and several other new faces on the national stage. Republicans need to, as always when they lose the White House, figure out what their future will be, how America is changing and where, and how they can get an Electoral College victory back. With a legacy of Trump around their necks it will be a battle for the soul of their party. Clearly as America grows more diverse, the Republican party fails to replenish its ranks with youth and middle-aged voters, and as they battle for suburbia they need to rethink their messaging and ideas as soon as possible.
If Joe Biden is a one-term, or even partial term, President then the clear frontrunner to be the 2024 Democratic Nominee will be Kamala Harris. For Progressives in the Democratic Party a Harris ticket may not be enough, even though they will have just seen a narrow victory for a centrist Biden. Whoever is the standard bearer for Democrats should very clearly be able to make a case for holding the Blue Wall, furthering competition in the Sun Belt, and restoring Democratic standing with working class white voters. Or just spend four years switching to a National Popular Vote.
Centrist Democrats will have a strong case that America probably is not ready for a Progressive darling as the nominee, lest they lose the Blue Wall again. Had Biden run up the score, if not flipped, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania then Progressives would have been able to point to a buffer available to move further left. With current numbers being reported, the Democratic establishment will be extremely hesitant to do anything risky.
Meanwhile, House Democrats clearly need to rethink their strategies. Perhaps the best way to start would be ousting Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. I have long been a fan of parliamentary democracies wherein if you lose your majority or confidence in the legislature… you’re gone as a legislative leader. By that measure, Speaker Pelosi should have ridden off into the sunset many, many elections ago. Still, the Pelosi Triumphant returned to the gavel in 2018. Well done, Nancy. But House Democrats have overplayed their hand, lost key seats, and are heading into a midterm wherein — if Biden is President — they will be underdogs as the President’s party usually loses seats in the midterm… as was done in 2018. House Democrats need new leadership as soon as they return in January.
2020 should go down as a draw, at best.