It’s been a long two years since the 2016 election, an election which dealt a painful blow to both the Democratic Party and the United States as a whole. The future looked grim as Americans came to terms with the fact that a minority of the country had elected a man who had run a campaign based on bigotry, fear and division. From the very beginning, our worst fears about what a Trump presidency might look like were confirmed. But soon it became apparent that something else was happening; Americans were pushing back. We marched, we protested and, even when faced with lies, cynicism and overwhelming odds, we did not let up.
The question on everyone’s mind heading into the 2018 midterms was whether or not this spirit of resistance would lead to electoral victory for the Democrats. Was 2016 a fluke or would it set the future for the nation? Going into the election, the number one priority for Democrats was winning back a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. They raised unprecedented amounts of money, fielded a diverse range of candidates all across the country, the president remained extremely unpopular and, as election night went on, voter turnout was the highest it’d been in a midterm for 50 years, which gave the Democrats a significant majority in the House. While we didn’t take the Senate, the Senate map was always a long shot this year and taking the House was always the goal.
In the short term, even just winning the House means a lot. In Jan. of 2019, when the Democratic speaker, presumably Nancy Pelosi, wrests the gavel from Paul Ryan’s hands, Democrats will go from having essentially no power in Washington, to having a substantial say in the way the nation is run for the next two years. It’s doubtful that Democrats will be able to pass any liberal legislation given that Republicans still control the White House and Senate, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything.
First and foremost, the Republican legislative agenda is almost certainly dead in the water. Democrats would likely be willing to work with Republicans on truly bipartisan issues, such as infrastructure or the opioid epidemic, but the Democratic House means that Republicans will be unable to implement the more unpopular parts of the agenda. Any plans to cut social security, medicaid, or healthcare are over. The same goes for further tax cuts for the wealthy or Trump’s proposed wall. Even a federal budget can’t pass without Nancy Pelosi signing off on it, and that kind of leverage might even win Democrats some small concessions. But, beyond stopping bad things from happening, the Democrats will finally have the ability to act as a check on the Executive Branch. They can use the subpoena power of the House to investigate potential legal and ethical violations by Trump and his cabinet. In fact, Republicans were so scared of this before the midterms they actually created a list of potential scandals the Democrats might look into; that seems like a pretty good place to start looking. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cast aside the fate of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his ongoing investigation is uncertain, but a Democratic House will be able to take actions to uphold the rule of law.
Ultimately, taking the House doesn’t mean the struggle is over, but the fact that Democrats now have a seat at the table with real leverage means that now, more than ever, they can make their voice heard, and the struggle will be that much easier. Finally, the dissenting voices will no longer come from a minority party with no legislative power, but from a party that the Nov. 6 election has shown voter support for. That may seem small, but it really does matter. We finally have the power to show the country and the world what real, inspired leadership looks like, and remind them that America’s greatness does not lie in hollow promises or bigoted ideas of small men, but in a spirit of forward progress and a constant striving to truly extend liberty and justice to all.
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