It seems that voters did not, in fact, repudiate Republicans at the ballot box this week—at least to the extent that electoral projections based on off-year history and media hopes for a “blue wave” failed to materialize.
Even so, Nancy Pelosi and #resist-fueled Democrats will control the House of Representatives at least for the next two years. This gives them control of the crucial congressional committees from where they are poised to begin investigations meant to harass and hobble the Trump administration. On the menu will be RussiaGate, the emoluments clause, hunting for tax returns and, as Raymond Chandler once put it, “all the usual vices, besides those they’ve invented for themselves.”
As the party of the administrative state and the one that benefits from its sympathetic accomplices in media, Democrats’ abilities to wage political war on their domestic enemies will be at their peak. When I first arrived in Washington, I learned that, in general, GOP staffers do their time on the Hill before decamping on K Street; Democrat committee staffers, on the other hand are enthusiastic lifers—they know where the bodies are buried and are experts in using leaks offensively. It will get ugly, and fast. Look for non-stop campaigns and audacious information operations run from Capitol Hill committees as far as the eye can see.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the GOP’s gains in the Senate are substantial, and especially useful with regard to judicial confirmations. In recent years, Ruth Bader Ginsberg has become the kind of media and pop culture icon only an unabashed progressive can now be—but, despite the superheroine memes and fawning press coverage of her strenuous workouts, she remains mortal; at age 85, she must be nearing the end of her judicial career. If that end comes while Donald Trump occupies the White House, Republicans will be in a good position to prevail in what will surely be the most bitter, hysterical and overheated nomination fight in recent American history. This, too, will be exhausting.