The 2018 midterm election results are in. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Most voters in most states with tax initiatives on the ballot made the right choice and voted against higher taxes. This signals that, despite electing Democrats — the party that wants to reverse federal income tax cuts — Americans still like limited government (or at least, limited taxation).
Politically, it will be difficult for congressional Democrats to reverse the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is good news for American families, who are taking home more money as a result of the new tax law.
Remember, passing legislation is hard. The GOP was only able to get the tax cuts through using budget reconciliation with 51 votes in the Senate. While Democrats in the House may propose some changes, those changes would have to pass the Senate (where Republicans now hold a 54-seat majority) to become law. Instead of raising taxes, lawmakers from both parties should protect the individual income taxes both by making them permanent by statute and by reducing spending, deficits, and debt.
Also good: With an increased Senate majority, the confirmation process for political appointments, including judges (and if called for, Supreme Court Justices) will become smoother and less dependent on a few key votes.
When government is divided, the temptation to abuse power grows on both sides. Policy issues are more likely to become political footballs, used to score points rather than solve problems.
If the perception is that the two sides are too far apart to even consider working together (for example, on immigration), then Pres. Trump may choose to use executive power to enact changes instead of the legislative process.
Similarly, the health care issue — a problem of government’s making — will continue to be a quagmire. This issue was the number one issue motivating a plurality of voters (41 percent), and those voters broke about 3 to 1 in favor of Democrats. Sadly, although some progressive healthcare voters might have intended to cast their ballot in favor of a single-payer system or some other dramatic change, they really just voted for more of the same: a limping Affordable Care Act (ACA).
But losing the House means that the Republicans’ goal of repealing and replacing (or even significantly reforming) the ACA is off the table, at least for now. A state-led lawsuit might force the issue, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the two parties could come up with a bipartisan solution after so much poison on this issue.
Democrats should be encouraged that Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah (three red states!) all voted on ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. After all, if single-payer is their goal, increasing enrollment in public programs is an important step to get there.
Red states got redder, but blue states got bluer. Republicans increased their margins in rural areas while Democrats did the same in cities.
According to exit polls, a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents agreed that political division is worsening. This polarization makes it harder for Americans of all political stripes to understand one another and find consensus, and that will also be reflected in divisions among our representatives in Washington.
But, if there’s a silver lining to this division, it’s that divided government is weak, by the founders’ wise design. “Gridlock” has a negative connotation, but for Americans, there are worse things than an under-active government. While we’ve widely adopted the mentality that the federal government should be solving nearly every social problem, the reality is that’s not the proper role of government.
Of course we want to find enough common ground to pass a sensible budget, maintain law and order and support our military, but beyond that, we don’t want to see one the government become so empowered that it dominates the lives of diverse Americans who simply want to live free.