A message from the midterms? Not really

I know, I know. This is Canada and I should be concerned with its politics and not those of another country. And we will get to the newly transparent Conservative Party next week.

However, I defy you to find one person of any political persuasion at all who was not glued to media on Tuesday night to discover the results of the US midterm elections.

It is often said that the midterms, though not directly electing a president, can be considered a referendum on that president’s performance. And in fact it is not uncommon for either the House or the Senate, or both, to flip in the midterms. This year, the House did.

So what did we learn?

Well, we learned that polls — sometimes completely wrong — can occasionally be on the money.

Polls indicated prior to the midterms that Democrats would likely turn the House, which they did gaining 27 seats. Polls also indicated Republicans would retain the Senate, which they did, gaining two seats.

And the general consensus before the election was that turnout would be big, and it was. It was big on both sides, with both bases clearly energized.

So while gaining the House is huge for Democrats, losing two seats in the Senate is somewhat demoralizing.

No clear statement can really be made from this election, except that the United States remains as it was — a nation deeply divided along idealogical lines.

And that is going to continue.

So what now? The Democrats are a party that is no stranger to shooting itself in the foot; snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

With their victory in the House they have an opportunity, but it could very easily be squandered.

Right now, it appears that the ranking Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, will once again be Speaker of the House, a most powerful position.

But just because she is the ranking Democrat, is that the right call? Or would the party be better served by looking to some of their newer candidates for new leadership?

Nancy Pelosi is a polarizing figure, somewhat akin to the President himself. She is deeply despised by Republicans. I was recently in Virginia and actually saw a bumper sticker that read, “Waterboard Pelosi”.

She is not universally loved by Democrats either. There is a view that she is of the old guard and hasn’t been all that helpful to new, young, progressive candidates trying to make their way up the party ranks.

She’s a ready made villain for Republicans, who will be quick to blame her for a lack of progress on legislation — conveniently forgetting that not much real legislation was passed while Republicans controlled all three branches of government this past two years.

Because it’s not easy, even if you are in power. The Republican House was split between hard right, the so-called Tea Party, and more moderate Republicans. Speaker Paul Ryan had a difficult time bringing those two groups to consensus on legislation.

The Democrats have the same problem, with a progressive wing wanting to pursue an aggressive liberal agenda, and a more moderate wing, which may not want to upset the apple-cart too much.

The matter will be decided at the end of November, when the Party will vote on the Speaker. That will be by secret ballot. Then there will be a public vote on January 3.

There will be challengers come forward, but it is likely Democrats will stay with the status quo. The question is, is that the right decision?

Right now the Democrat base is energized. Will that energy be maintained for the next two years as the same leadership runs things the same way?

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