As the run-up to the 2018 Mid-Term Elections drew to a nearly hysterical climax, the races could hardly be closer. As it turned out, this election will be one for the record books. It will be remembered for all the races that were ‘too close to call’.
Traditionally, in a mid-term election, the party in power loses its advantage in the houses of Congress. So in this election, Republicans would be expected to lose an average of five seats in the Senate, and 38 seats in Congress. But that is not what happened. While the Democrats gained 26 seats in Congress and regained the majority, the Republicans gained four seats in the Senate and expanded their majority. It is only the fifth time in the last 105 years that the President’s party has gained seats in the Senate in a mid-term election.
What was most significant about these Mid-Terms of 2018, however, was how close so many of the key races really were. For many hours after the polls had closed, races in Florida, Indiana, Arizona, Iowa, and many more were all too close to call. And when the results were finally in, the margins of victory were incredibly small. For example, in Florida Ron DeSantis won the Governor’s race by a margin of 1% or 79,014 votes out of nearly eight million cast. In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Rick Scott won by even fewer votes, 58,463, or .8%. In Texas, Ted Cruz won his Senate race over Beto O’Rourke by 2.9%, and in Arizona, the race between Republican Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema was ‘too close to call’ until the next morning. By one o’clock a.m. EST, their votes were only .7% apart. Missouri’s Senate race was also ‘too close to call’. And in the Wisconsin Governors race, at 2 o’clock a.m., Evers and Walker were in a dead heat with 49.0% each.
Several records were broken in this election. In New Mexico, Deb Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to Congress. In Iowa, Kim Reynolds became the first woman to be elected governor in the history of the state. And in Colorado, Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to win a gubernatorial race in the U.S.
Once the trends of the evening were becoming clear, Congressional minority leader Nancy Pelosi gave a speech that astonishingly mirrored the language of Republican President Trump. She called for lower costs for medicine, a program to repair America’s failing infrastructure, and a call to clean up ‘the swamp’. She also talked about bipartisanship and “unity for our country”. She called on the memory of the founding fathers and reminded us that we needed to come together in this, the home of the brave. It would be nice if Pelosi used her speech to set the stage for the ‘civility’ that Hillary Clinton recently said could be possible only when the Democrats regained political power. But it remains to be seen if all her references to Trump’s agenda and her use of patriotic catch phrases spelled a change in the Democrats’ strategy. Or whether it was a cliché-filled show of her power and intention to rule Congress with her legendary iron fist.
The mid-term elections of 2018 will be remembered for the vitriol that characterized them, for the violence and bitterness that preceded them, for the Kavanaugh hearings that divided Americans in the run-up to the elections, and for the tiny margins that separated the winners from the losers. Pelosi was right about America needing to come together and heal our wounds.
There will be much to learn as we look back on the last few months and the election results. In the mean time, when the newly elected legislators, governors, and other new officials take office in January, we will be able to better understand what the impact of these most unusual elections on our lives in the future. Of one thing we can be sure. However unique these elections turned out to be, they were a demonstration of what America is all about, an example of democracy at work and working at its best. America is still a leader among nations, and the legacy of our founding fathers still works.