Even as people spilled into the streets of Washington D.C. over the weekend to celebrate the proclaimed defeat of President Trump, political insiders on the Left were feeling a bit unsatisfied. This was supposed to be their year. All the stars had aligned for that big blue wave to usher in their wildest progressive dreams.
No one doubts that Trump was polarizing. He energized opposition unlike anyone before him and, thanks to the coronavirus, it wasn’t just his hyperactive Twitter feed that was the problem. The nation was struggling. The pandemic wreaked psychological havoc on the country and had destroyed 30 million jobs. News stations kept a running toll of dead bodies from the coronavirus and tried to make sure President Trump was held personally responsible for each one of them. When things are going poorly, incumbent presidents are held responsible. This is the stuff that political landslides are made of.
Of course, they wanted to remove Trump, but the Left wanted to do much more than that. They wanted a pound of flesh from everyone, at every level, who made Trump possible – and in doing so they expected to claim the long-awaited mandate for a wave of “progressive” reforms like the Green New Deal, court packing, a single-payer health care system, and the Equality Act. This was the dream; maybe even the expectation.
But none of it happened, at least not in the way they hoped.
Beyond proclaiming the defeat of Trump, the best news for Democrats was that they managed to barely hold onto control of the House of Representatives. But even this victory felt hollow since they had every expectation of significantly expanding their majority. As of this writing, Republicans have gained five seats in the House, but that number could easily be ten or more when the counting is finished.
The blame game has already begun in earnest. More moderate House Democrats believe left-wing affinity for socialism and talk of defunding the police are to blame. The far-left wing of the Democratic caucus believes they lost because they weren’t progressive enough. The conflict has Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wondering whether she even wants to be in politics anymore.
The Senate delivered similarly underwhelming results for progressivism. As of this writing, Democrats have gained one seat in the Senate, with two run-off races in Georgia looming in January. The best-case scenario for Democrats now is a tie in the Senate, but that isn’t likely.
Perhaps the best representation of how badly Democrats misread the room was in Kentucky and South Carolina where Democrats decided to invest $157 million in challenges to Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Despite the record setting money spent against them, Graham won re-election by more than 10 percentage points, and McConnell by nearly 20.
As a result, Joe Biden is now preparing to be the first Democratic President since 1864 to enter office without a Democratic House and Senate. Biden had hoped for a mandate, but voters gave him handcuffs instead.
The Left’s electoral disappointments were not limited to Washington, D.C. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats controlled both chambers of 27 state legislatures. When he left office, Republicans controlled both chambers in 27 state houses.
During the Obama Presidency, Democrats lost over 900 state legislative seats and 11 Governorships. 2020 was the year Democrats hoped to make up lost ground. They were confident that anti-Trump sentiment could be used to flip state legislatures that had been stubbornly held by Republicans for most of a decade.
It was especially important to accomplish that this year because next year state legislatures will be drawing new boundaries for Congressional districts, which will impact the political majorities in Washington D.C. for the next decade. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, out-of-state funders poured more than $11 million into Texas state legislative races in support of Democrats.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the return on these funds was no better than the funds spend against Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell.
Republicans held control of every state legislative chamber they controlled prior to the election and even picked up control of legislative chambers in Montana and New Hampshire. It seems that “orange man bad” didn’t have the coat-tails they had hoped.
These aren’t just partisan victories for Republicans. In many cases, these are victories for candidates who care about faith, family, and freedom. The Republicans in Congress look to have added at least 14 additional pro-life women as a result of this election, including Michelle Fischbach in Minnesota and Yvette Harrell in New Mexico.
If voters rejected Trump in this election, they have rejected Leftism as well. Regardless of how you felt about Trump, that’s something to feel good about.
Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.