A Good Election: Reflections on the 2018 Midterms

Not a great election, but a good election.

Was it a blue wave? The Democrats made sizable gains facing headwinds of gerrymandering and a strong economy. Whether it’s called a blue wave is immaterial.

More women in the House than ever before, which we can all hope will become a springboard to even more equal representation. They will be able to offer their own perspectives and help erase the blind spots in thinking that contribute to poor decisions when representation isn’t diverse enough.

Democrats with control of a chamber in Congress means we can have oversight of the executive. There will be surprises as their oversight unveils things the media either couldn’t find or just missed. The people will be informed moving forward and in 2020 can make better decisions based on better information about how our government is operating.

Ex-felons in Florida got their voting rights back, which should mean that state will be more representative and responsive to the people living there. When more people vote, good things happen. We need people to vote, and we need the government to let them share their voice. It’s what makes America work.

Several states voted to expand Medicaid in their states: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. This is a strong issue that allows more people to have access to vital health services, but it also creates jobs. It’s good for the economy and good for people.


While a few results are still outstanding, we know that the Democrats taking the gavel in the House of Representatives marks a turning point for our troubled nation. Without good information, we are left to the gaslighting of bad-faith actors in the Republican party who failed to provide oversight of this administration. If the full truth of the misdeeds had been known going into this election, it’s safe to say that the Republican party would have done worse for it.

But that’s why information is so important: we don’t know what we don’t know. We need journalism. We need checks and balances. Without them businesses make poor decisions and state and local governments miscalculate. The whole system suffers from bad information and from information droughts.

By opening this one spigot of information, the American people will empower themselves to make better decisions in the future. Businesses and communities rely on knowing that they get a fair hearing, that their concerns are heard by the executive branch. But under Trump there has been this lingering question about how much abuse, how much fraud, was happening. We’ll finally know, and businesses that were short-changed on bidding, or otherwise misrouted by a bad administration, will seek redress in the courts and other venues of appeal.

The 2018 Midterm Election is Tuesday: ⓋⓄⓉⒺ✔

When you vote, you will be given a sticker. It’s a piece of paper with adhesive on one side and decorations on the other. You put the sticky side on your clothes. Also, you get to weigh in on who does what in the government. It’s fun! Will you elect a dog as dog catcher? A cat? A fox to guard the henhouse?! It’s up to you! Choose wisely!


Predictions for the Midterms

There is a lot of misery from the muralists’ failure to make any attempt to govern in an inclusive way. Trump stomps on the values of America on the regular. The Republicans sit at the table counting their money. They pause on occasion to look over at what the president is doing to the country but don’t do anything about it.

That is not a healthy dynamic. Everybody knows it, including the elected Republicans who keep following along, wayward elephants who think Trump’s their mother. They don’t want the music to stop. Keep dancing, Trump says, and nobody (who’s a Republican politician) gets hurt.

But the voters know. Even the Trump supporters know. They think it’s all a game. They think Jesus is coming soon to put them in the goat pile and that it’s too late to fix climate change or the crumbling bridges. But the rest of us, who plan to be alive through and after Day Zero, want good governance.

In the House things look good for the Democrats. They currently hold 193 seats (two vacancies) to the Republican party’s 235 (five vacancies). The magic number is 218, so they need 23 seats.

FiveThirtyEight: “2018 House Forecast” gives them a chance in the mid-80s of winning control, but where within that range they’ll fall is harder. The median and average are both short of a direct reversal of the numbers (a 40-seat swing), and in recent history the largest the Democrats gained was 2006 with 31 seats (in 2010 the Republicans had a 63 seat pickup).

Signs point to turnout exceeding 2006 and 2010, so I’m predicting the Democrats beat their numbers but fall short of the Republican record: 42 seats putting it 237 to the Republican party’s 198.

In the Senate, as anybody who’s looked knows, the Democrats have a rocky path. I will be very surprised if they can make the climb, but it could happen if there are enough draw races (like the gubernatorial election in Florida and some of the House races, particularly in red districts that might have gone uncontested in other years). Democrats should learn that contesting races (with reasonable candidates) always helps: if it gets just a few more people to get an “I voted” sticker, that can turn the tide for other races.

I predict a 50-50 Senate (net gain of one seat for the Democrats) with a very busy Vice President Pence (Mother will be pissed).


We should all have the luxury to vote by mail, but for those of us who don’t, it’s to the polls on 6 November 2018. Even if we don’t have vote-by-mail, we should vote as though we are post carriers:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Because that’s what voting is: it’s sending a message, a signal, to our nation’s capital. And boy do we all have a message to deliver in 2018. We want America to be what e’s meant to be. Smart and ready for the rest of this century and the centuries to come. Self-improving steady and dependable. Welcoming and helping eir neighbors and strangers alike.

We do not want America back, as though we could own it. We want to share America again. To share it here at home, and to share the values of America with the world. We must be rid of the feeling this nation is held captive by those who want to possess and decide without hearing the thing out. They do not own America, and any who seeks to conquer her, internal or external, by force or by deception, will hear us all tell them exactly where they can stick that notion.


The midterm election is on Tuesday, 6 November 2018.

(The 2020 election is in about 104 weeks. hehe)

18-ish Weeks Until the 2018 Midterms

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

Handicapping the 2018 Midterms comes down to Mr. Trump, not messaging. The president who makes everything about himself inevitably makes the 2018 elections a referendum on his policies and his abuses.

That’s a bad sign for Republicans. Depending on how the announcement of a replacement for Justice Kennedy goes, and whether confirmation proceeds apace, the wind may be entirely let out of the Muralist voters’ sails. Nobody expects another justice beyond Kennedy to retire, so that’s one fewer reason for Muralists to turn out in 18 weeks.

The party in power does better in midterm elections when voters feel like they’re making an adjustment to their representation rather than having to weigh the overall direction of the country. People don’t like to make weighty decisions, and so when they feel like they’re forced to do, they tend to be irritated that the incumbents have put them in the position.

Mr. Trump has spent his entire time in office sticking his thumb in the eye of over half the voters, including his own. The notion that they’ll reward him for it is a bad misreading of America. And the voters will not reward all of the Republicans who have failed in their duty to conduct oversight of the tyrannical instincts of not just Mr. Trump but his cabinet as well.

Add to that the fact that there are so many Democratic women running, which can fuel female turnout (and to a lesser extent youth turnout). You have whatever spoils the hard work of things like the March for Our Lives and March for Science may offer. There will be people turning out to support public schools and health care.

Democrats also have a message: good governance. Social programs that work. Environmental policies, labor policies, and financial policies that build the middle class.


The man is an abuser. He abuses his office, his employees, his rivals, his friends, his family, his foundation and company, his country. America has no quarter for abuse. We split from an abuser before, and we will split from this one.

But just as there were Loyalists then, there are those who do not see the abuse for what it is. There are evangelicals, by some bad combination of drugs, who support Mr. Trump. Others, Republicans coddled by tax cuts, fetch him Diet Cokes (Mr. Nunes famously took a ride share under cover of night to deliver one to him). They lie for him. They hawk his cheap resorts and cheaper merch. They iron his clothes while he wears them. They arrange backchannels to hostile foreign governments on his behalf.

For that lot, there will be no second act. They will exeunt from public life. We will only be reminded they exist when future documentaries pan across their picture while recounting how foolish humans can be when they don’t bother to self-reflect.

For those worrying over who will wear black robes in the years to come, the only decision you directly have is to vote. Vote, raise your voice. For even though courts can undermine unions, harm women’s rights, and all the other things, they cannot fix the problems they create. The legislators alone can fix the messes left by bad judges. Your voice is more important at the midterms than it is at the general. On average your vote is worth 1.7 votes in the general election (to account for those who don’t vote). It’s worth 2.5 votes in the midterms. That’s nearly a whole other citizen that a midterm voter is counting for.

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

The Balance of America

It’s understandable for the press to worry about its reputation. It’s natural to not want to alienate Trump voters, however much damage their political choice may have done and will do. Most of them are still good Americans, if a bit lost.

But that should not bleed into defending the indefensible. It should not give a whit of cover to lies from the highest offices.

Now, maybe some of the liars are, behind the scenes and as anonymous sources, fighting the good fight. They still do not get the kid gloves. If they are secretly helping, they are still publicly harming, and any balancing of the books should and will come in the course of history. Keep your notes, journalists, and you can publish your memoirs of how and who helped once they are no longer a privileged source.

But the Office of the President is not a toy. It is being treated like a toy by its current inhabitant. It is being treated like an alternate reality game (ARG) in which the only thing that matters is winning. We heard that same “winning” drool spew from Charlie Sheen at the peak of his meltdown. Fuck winning. Good governance is much more important. Good comport and walking away from bullshit is better.

There may come a day when America itself is untenable. Far better, if that bad moon ever arises, that we should move on to a better system and not lament or limp about at it. That day is not yet come. For now the correct behavior is to keep aware, speak up when lines are crossed, be ready to vote. The lines varies depending on the rhetoric and behavior.

Be tolerant of the ignorant that do support the wrecking of our values for mere winning. But do not tolerate the wrecking itself.


One question that comes up a lot with the midterms is whether and how Democrats should court Trump voters. They should. They should do it by laying out the basic values and policies that have always worked and will always work for America.

Investing in our country (infrastructure and children). Giving people in need a hand up, regardless of their background, and because it’s the right thing to do. Tending the garden of capitalism, weeding it and watering it, as everyone knows a garden needs care.

Basic policy for a basic country that doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. That’s Democrats.

They don’t need to tailor their policy for any groups if their policy is for America. Inner cities need better schools and need interventions economic or judicial. Rural areas need better schools and need interventions economic or judicial. Broadband and healthcare. Better oversight of lenders.

It’s mostly the same problems wherever you go. It’s mostly the same solutions, too.

The same goes for the press. Hiring parrots of the president isn’t balance. It’s exactly what it sounds like. If a president holds positions without reasoning behind them, no amount of hiring can hide that fact. The press should be critical of all bad ideas, but it’s clear that worse ideas more widely shared deserve more scorn (and rebuttal ink).

We are a half-year from the midterms. If you aren’t registered to vote, USA: Register to Vote or search for your Secretary of State’s website.

The Midterms, 2014

Federal Hall, the original meetingplace of the US Congress.
Engraving of Federal Hall By Robert Hinshelwood, 1855

You may have heard, the United States Senate will be in Republican hands until at least 2016. You may have heard, it was a bloodbath, a slaughter. One of the two is true, the other is silly.

In 1972 or 1980 the presidential elections could arguably be called slaughters. Republican presidents elected by huge margins (Nixon by about 23 points and Reagan by about ten). But in the 2014 midterms, although the Republicans picked up a number of seats, the spreads were not at levels to be called pummelings.

The media, for their part, don’t care. If a boyscout helps an old lady cross the street, the media would call it a mugging for the ratings. The media is a waste of our time. The result, predicted in advance, was acted as a surprise by the media. There were a few surprises, but all within the margins of prediction.

And now the media trots out their analyses of “what went wrong” or “what went right.” Tries to distill some lasting wisdom from what amounts to business as usual.

In the nine closest races for the United States Senate, the average margin was 4 to 4.5 points. With a turnout likely in the mid-30s, that means if we ever get people to actually vote the results could be wildly different. But it also means that among the close races, where the balance of seats actually changed hands, there was no overwhelming preference.

In other words, the media interprets local elections as though voters have national intentions. They try to pack into the voting public ideas of intention that do not fit there. They harm voter motivation by making it seem like the people who voted against the winners of various races might as well have gone out and flown kites all day.

But that’s not how our country functions. A close race means no mandate. It means that while the balance of power might have swung in the smaller body, all the people continue to be represented. Republicans and Democrats with slim margins, should represent their constituents. Those with big margins should, too. But the media won’t say that.

Even in no-contest states, where the margin might be 20 or even 30 points, where the mandate is clear, there are still a lot of people that voted against the winner. And they should still be represented. The media conflates popular choice of representation with a parlor game where the winner is endowed with only the power of her winnings and not responsibility to use them wisely.

Not so. The duty is to govern, the oath is to do so. The media needs to get its head on straight. They have a bizarre split narrative chalking up the ballot initiatives to being a consolation prize, while painting the elections as a drastic repudiation. People just want a functional government, and the ballot initiatives that passed in most states make that clear.

Let’s just hope the Republicans are smarter than the media. If they are, they may actually prove themselves worthy of their victories.

What should they do? Tax reform. Clear the code out, fund the IRS properly and modernize it. Why they won’t: most of their biggest donors reap huge rewards from the arcane code and broken bureaucracy of the IRS. They want reform (to them meaning tax cuts), but it’s unlikely they want real reform enough to forgo a rate cut to get it.

Financial regulations. Protect the economy from the offenses that caused the recession. Why they won’t: the Democrats barely tried, the Republicans won’t even make an attempt. If they did, they wouldn’t know where to start.

Immigration reform. Build some good-will with hispanics while making for a more robust worker visa program that strengthens the economy. Why they won’t: their base might vote for them less enthusiastically.

Health care reform. The ACA could use some improvements, not abolishment. Why they won’t: they aren’t interested in issues that affect the average citizen, and their base hates the ACA for no good reason.

Climate change. They could introduce some modest legislation that would not be what’s needed but would be a first step. Why they won’t: their party’s position is that it doesn’t exist.

Bolster women. They could strengthen laws protecting women against violence and improving wage-parity. Why they won’t: their base is the employer class, and stronger women means stronger workers, which is seen as dangerous to employers.

Bolster education. Reduce the cost of college, improve the quality of primary schools. Why they won’t: modern businesses think education grows on trees, they don’t train their workforce like they used to, and they certainly don’t want to pay to educate competitors’ workers through public education.

What, oh what, will the Republicans do? This is their chance to step away from the ledge. To actually accomplish something. Even something modest would be a welcome change. The next two years will either be their comeback or their epitaph. Ball is in their court.