A major political party sweeps in and takes over a major branch of the U.S. government after a crushing defeat just two years before. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s one of the most common stories in U.S. history. 1986, 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014 are just some of the most recent examples. The fact of the matter is, the party of the U.S. president always suffers in the midterms. And now, 2018 is just another addition, another chapter, to that story.
I don’t mean to trivialize what happened Tuesday — the Democrats scored a victory. In fact, they scored a major victory. But what happened last night wasn’t weird or out of the ordinary. The fact that the president’s party suffered losses in the midterms is normal, and the Republican Party might be down, but they’re by no means out.
This may just be the worst time for the Democrats to rest on their laurels. Now isn’t the time to step back. Now isn’t the time to ramp down efforts. Instead, the Democrats need to find a way to sustain the momentum from last night into the real fight, the 2020 elections.
As important as the Democrats taking the House of Representatives is, and it’s important, the Republicans still control the Senate and the presidency. The battle was won, but the war is far from over, and now might just be the worst time to become complacent.
Democrats still don’t have control over the chamber that confirms cabinet secretaries and controls appointments to the Supreme Court. And if Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch or Merrick Garland proved anything, it’s the importance of controlling the Senate.
Furthermore, the presidency, perhaps the most important branch of the U.S. government, is still controlled by the Republicans. The branch with the power to deploy the military.The branch with the power to veto any bill from Congress, is still out of the Democrats’ control. And if Donald Trump has proven anything, it’s the importance of maintaining the presidency.
What happened last night was important, and perhaps it was the first step in the Democrat’s march toward retaking the Senate and the presidency.
After all, the Republicans won the House of Representatives in 2010, and by 2016, they were in control of the both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
But, last night has an equal chance of proving to be nothing but a blip. Come 2020, the Republicans might just as well retake the House, and erase everything the Democrats do over the next two years. If history has proven anything, it’s that liberal Democrats have a tendency to become complacent, while conservative Republicans have a tendency to remain vigilant.
What will decide who’ll control the White House is who can stay motivated over the next two years. The Democrats could use the energy from last night to propel them into the presidency, or they could rest on their laurels and allow for Republicans to essentially erase last night from U.S. political history.
Meanwhile, Republicans could find Democratic enthusiasm and Trump’s unpopularity too much to surmount, or they could use the sting of last night to motivate them to go to the polls and keep Trump in the White House.
The 2020 election wasn’t decided last night.
The battle might be over for the Democrats, but the war is not, and they would be wise to understand that fact. Now is not the time to rest. Now is the time to ramp up efforts even more — to fight harder, because if the Democrats don’t fight for the 2020 election with the fervor they fought for the 2018 election, then what happened last night might become the only victory they have for a long time.
The Battle is Over, the War is Not