WTF Just Happened?

A Confused Person’s Guide to the Results and Aftermath of the 2018 U.S. Mid-Term Election

2wtpclear_17x11OK, so, short answer: It’s good. Mostly. (Unless you’re a raging bigot, in which case it’s not so good.) Democrats (the Avengers–mostly good guys but a few dipshits) just took the House and a number of governors’ seats away from Republicans (The Children of Thanos.) We did lose a couple of seats in the Senate and a couple of other big races (some of our team got hit with The Snap), but many of us lived to fight another day, and there’s a very good sign that we have a small army of Captain Marvels taking office in January who will come give Thanos a bit of a thrashing, if not take him out entirely. We’re not going to be rid of the monster anytime soon, but we can at least stop him from doing more egregiously horrible shit (even if he gets the DOJ on his side and manages to quash the Mueller investigation, which seems likely right now.)

For the long version, including a primer on how our government works, read on! 

U.S. Government 101

For those who don’t understand how we’re structured, here’s a bit of an overview. Feel free to skip to the next section if you already know all this.

First off, we’re not a single-nation democracy. We’re more like 50 little countries that share a military and a few other federal-level functions, but otherwise operate independently. We have three branches: Executive (president or governors), Judicial (courts), and Legislative (Congress or state legislatures.) The legislative branch is split into two sections: an upper and lower chamber, usually called the Senate and the House (Nebraska doesn’t have this split, though.) And then there’s the District of Columbia, which is a whole ‘nother section on its own I won’t bore you with.

Each branch is elected differently, and election rules vary from state to state, but generally, governors and U.S. senators are elected by a popular vote in their state, and the U.S. House and state legislatures are elected by a popular vote of their districts. Most low-level judicial seats are voted on, but high-level federal ones are appointed/confirmed by Congress.

Unlike governors, however, the President isn’t elected by a national popular vote, but by the electoral college, which represents the states. That’s where things get weird.

That whole 50 little countries thing? That mostly grew out of shitty slavers wanting to have more representation in the federal government than they would otherwise be allowed with a popular vote. So they decided that they needed each state to have two senators, giving the states equal representation in that chamber without regard to population. Representation in the other chamber, the House, would be based on population: Each state gets a certain number of seats that corresponds (theoretically) to their population. This is kind of what most parliaments are, with each member representing a local district.

But rather than just have disproportion in the Senate, the asshat states decided they wanted a bigger say in electing the president, too. So they gave each state a number of electoral votes that matches how many seats they have in the House, plus their two Senators.

How this works in practice is waaaaay fucked up, because some states are so small, and others so large, that their proportionate say is completely off. No matter how few people a state has, it will always have at least three electoral votes, representing their two senators and one House member. And since House seats are only apportioned every ten years after the Census, that means that states with dramatic changes in population can be under- or overrepresented the longer it’s been since the last Census.

What that leaves us with is Wyoming getting one electoral vote for every 190,000 people, and California getting one for every 750,000. Net result: Hillary Clinton wins the national popular vote by three million, but it doesn’t matter because some shitgoblin in Assboil, Nebrahoma got his vote multiplied several times over.

OK, we know why Trump won, despite more than half the country hating his festering guts, but what about THIS election?

So! A little more about our structure, to explain where we are.

We elect the President every four years, and every two years, every House seat is up for election, and 1/3 of the Senate seats are up. The next presidential election isn’t until 2020, so this year was just the House, 1/3 of the Senate and some state-level offices (more on those in a bit.) Hence the whole “middle of the presidential term” nickname for it. The state-level stuff is similar, though what governor seats are up each time is kind of a crapshoot, since the states have different terms. More on the gov thing in a bit. For now, let’s look at the…

Senate Results

The Senate seats that were up this year were mostly held by Democrats, or by Republicans in very safe (red) states. A few of the Democrat seats were already at risk going in, because they were in red states to begin with. We lost two of those. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, but we know the sexist fuckwads of your state were never going to let you stay. We kept a couple more, Jon Tester in Montana and Joe “I’m a Kavanaugh-supporting fuckwit, but I’m still a Democrat” Manchin in West Virginia. We may have also lost another, Bill Nelson of Florida, but that race might be heading for a recount, so stay tuned (do all y’all Millennials and Gen Z even know what that means? Eh.)

There were also a couple of Republican seats we thought we might pick up, though. The biggest was Ted “Probably not the Zodiac Killer, but who knows?” Cruz, from Texas. This was the one with the Democrat challenger, Beto O’Rourke, who got his Bernie Sanders vibe on and made young folks get all starry-eyed about him, and who dropped an F-bomb during his concession speech just for the lulz. Sadly, he lost. But he’s probably going to run for President in two years, I guess? We’ll see.

There were also two other important tossup Republican seats, though: Dean Heller in Nevada and the seat in Arizona vacated by the retiring Jeff “I talk a lot but don’t do shit” Flake. Heller got his ass handed to him by a woman, Jacky Rosen (yay!) The race is still too close to call in Arizona, where we had an openly bi House rep, Kyrsten Sinema, running against the least evil (by, like, a mousefart) of the three Republican ghouls that wanted the seat.

Bottom line on this: Even though we had a net loss in the number of seats, that wasn’t a big surprise, and we managed to keep it to a minimum. When the next round of seats are up in 2020, there will be 21–twenty-godsdamned-one!–Republican seats up for grabs, which could potentially become an all-out bloodbath. Hang on, folks.

House Results

The thing about the House is that it’s gerrymandered all to fuck. What that means: When it’s time to reapportion seats, the states get to decide where those seats go and draw new district lines. If there are asshats in charge of this, they will draw them in such a way as to pack the most people of color and other left-leaning voters into just one or two districts, giving them control of the rest. This is why it’s so damned hard for Democrats to get a toehold in the House, and why it’s so damned satisfying that we flipped so many seats this year–at least 29 of them. So when people try to tell you that we “lost” because we didn’t take the Senate, know that they’re full of shit.

Not only did we take a lot of those seats, but we took a lot of them from some very awful people, including Putin puppet Dana Rohrabacher in California (which yes, has some hardcore red districts.) We also elected a lot of first-timers: Muslim, Latina and indigenous women, queer folk, etc. and for the first time, have reached 100 women in the House (out of 435 seats.) Some of those are Republicans, but still. We’re ever-so-slightly less dominated by abled cishet white Christian dudes now.

Having control of the Senate would be great, but having control of the House is a major step. We’re going to get Democrats heading up a lot of committees now, which will mean a lot of things won’t just get shoved to the side when Republicans don’t want to deal with them.

Most importantly, the House has the power to investigate and, if warranted, bring charges against the President. It can’t remove him from office–that would take 2/3 of the Senate–but it can certainly write him up. More on that later.

Governors, issues, and other notable state-level stuff

Not getting a lot of press, but still very important is the fact that we also picked up several governors’ seats this year. Nevada’s getting its first Democrat governor in two decades, Maine finally has someone sensible, and Paul “So what if I’m a racist, fuck you” LePage is retiring. Michigan has a Democrat now, so those poor folks in Flint might FINALLY get clean water. And, joy of joys, we booted the fuck out of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who with his cronies had so crippled the state’s elections that it had gone from being reliably blue to stubbornly red just during his tenure. We also got the country’s first gay male gov in Colorado, and Oregon’s Kate Brown, openly bi, also won her first full term.

Best of all, we got a Democrat, Laura Kelly, in Kansas. KANSAS, FOLKS. Not only that, but she beat Kris Kobach. This oozing mountain of maggots was personally responsible for disenfranchising a metric fuckton of people nationwide by expanding the ugly “Crosscheck” program, and heading up Trump’s “voter fraud” commission, which despite finding only like a couple dozen intentional fraud votes out of hundreds of millions cast nevertheless pretended like there’s an epidemic of dead people and non-citizens voting. Buh-bye, you waste of carbon.

The frustrating races, of course, were in Georgia and Florida, which were both on the verge of electing some wonderful Black governors (Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum), but appear to have just fallen short. There might be a recount in Florida, but Gillum already conceded (not entirely sure if that holds legal weight.) Abrams has not conceded, though, and given the utter fuckery going on in Georgia, thanks to the guy who’s in charge of elections NOT FUCKING RECUSING HIMSELF when he decided he wanted to be governor, there may yet be hope there, at least through the courts. We’ll see.

In addition to those pickups, we also got a lot more seats in state legislatures, and now have a few more that are entirely under Democrat control.

Why is this important? Well, because that’s how we avoid the gerrymandering I mentioned above. When states have Democrats in charge, we don’t get shit like this:

image

Additionally, we had some interesting issue stuff that got voted on. In my state, Washington, we passed a terrific gun-control law and also passed a requirement that police officers get better training on non-lethal conflict resolution. We also got a few states that expanded Medicare coverage and protections for Trans folks, legalized weed and upped the minimum wage. We also got a few good voter-rights ones. The most important of these is probably Florida, which restored voting rights for non-violent felons that have served their sentences. So someone who served a few years for, say, check fraud can vote again. This instantly added 1.5 million people to Florida’s eligible-voter list, a significant portion of whom are people of color (since they get convicted at higher rates thanks to, you guessed it, racism.) Not all of those will register and vote, but enough should to make a huge difference in Florida’s next elections. Those razor-thin margins on the gov and Senate races this year? Could be blown out of the water in the future.

Even better, this means there’s a very realistic chance of flipping Florida’s electoral votes in two years, too. And given that there are 29 of those, that is ENORMOUS. I can’t even tell you how big of a deal that would be.

I’ll get into that more in the summary section next.

“OK, thanks for that long-winded-af explanation, but can you boil all this down into something smaller? I’ve got Doritos to eat, fanfic to read, bubble baths to take. Y’know how it is.”

Right, my busy friend! Here’s what this all means going forward.

Land of the not-really-free unless you’re a white Christian dude

The sad fact about the U.S. of A. is that it’s full of a lot of bigots. We kind of got the worst of the European Christian dudes who decided to sail around the world 500 years ago, pissing on territory and calling it their own (but do you have a FLAG?) Their descendants have been fighting like rabid wolverines to keep that control ever since. Emancipation? Voting rights? Women not being owned by their husbands? Not treating indigenous folks like fauna? People not being forced to go to church? HDU CHALLENGE MY DIVINE RIGHT TO WHATEVER I WANT?!!

A lot of those bigots are concentrated in the former Confederate states, and seem to think they never really lost the Civil War, and thus are entitled to prevent Black and Brown folks from exercising their voting rights–or even existing, in some cases. While said Black and Brown people have been steadily expanding their numbers in these states ANYWAY, YOU RACIST FUCKERS, they’re still not quite enough–and more importantly, not enfranchised enough–to override those guys.

White folks in many Northern states aren’t much better. Some of the worst of the ex-Confederates decided to skip town after emancipation and attempt to go develop themselves some White Dude promised land farther away from where Other People lived. Pioneers, disliking the rabble showing up on the Eastern shore, did the same expansion, and next thing you know we have shit like Idaho and Wyoming.

In the meantime, a lot of people of color and queer folk, rightly noting that they would be Seriously Fucked if they remained in KKK Disneyland, got the fuck out and headed for the cities and other states that seemed to be at least slightly less awful than the rest. While, yay for them surviving (I did it, too, folks. I hear ya), that means that the conservative states have largely stayed conservative, while liberal states just keep growing in population, while not getting a corresponding boost in national-level power.

All of this puts us non-assgasket people in a shitty position, because we’re always climbing uphill. Until demographic change pushes the needle far enough to the left to overcome the structural problems, or until white Evangelical women stop fucking themselves over, we’re just treading water.

Are we rid of Trump, yet? No? How about now? NOW? Aw, damn. 

Yeah, sorry folks. We’re still stuck with his suppurating ass for a while, yet.

See the other little shit-sundae surprise the framers gave us was that the POTUS is kinda sorta semi-officially above the law, and can’t be taken down by mere mortal district attorneys and the DOJ. In order for him (it’s always been hims, so let’s go with that) to face charges, the House has to investigate and do the charging. In order to be convicted and sentenced (removed from office), we have to have 2/3 of the Senate on board. Good fucking luck getting that anytime soon. The last time any party had that much control, people were still saying “groovy” and debating whether The Pill should be legal.

The only other way the POTUS can be taken out is via the 25th Amendment, which allows the Cabinet to remove him if he becomes unable to perform his duties without actually being dead. Trump is clearly unfit for office. Everyone except his full-on culties knows that. But even though he goes through them like a five-year-old goes through a bucket of Halloween candy, Trump’s cabinet pals are still pretty loyal to him, so that ain’t gonna happen.

The primary benefit of having control of the House now is that we can get in the way of him doing a lot more damage. Those “let’s kill Social Security and kick out Brown citizens because they got food stamps once” bills the Senate is going to keep pumping out? Not going anywhere. Obstructionism isn’t a great thing, generally, but when we’re trying to keep human beings, y’know, actually alive, then hell, yes.

The other benefit of this is that even if we can’t get a full-on impeachment, we can certainly fucking investigate his ass, and lay those findings out for all to see (likely with Mueller’s help, too.) With clear evidence that if he weren’t the POTUS, he’d be frog-marched to the nearest cell, that puts him in a bind: The absolute instant he becomes a private citizen again, whether that’s in two years or six, he’s going to get arrested. With the Democrat success in this election, especially in key electoral states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida, that puts us in a very good position to take the White House in two years. Even with a Trump-friendly majority in the Supreme Court, that means if Trump doesn’t want to die in prison, he had better fucking resign ASAP, while Pence can still pardon him.

Then there’s also the 1974 deja vu that could happen: Mueller indicts Pence, who resigns. Trump appoints some other stooge as VP, and seeing the writing on the wall, resigns himself so Stooge can pardon him. Stooge serves out the rest of the term, always looking over his shoulder, and we beat his ass in 2020. hopefully with someone who has more staying power than Jimmy Carter (gotta love him, but it just wasn’t meant to be.)

In the meantime, there’s also the likelihood of picking up more House and even Senate seats as the Republicans currently squatting there face their own indictments. After all, every last one of them who took NRA money while knowing it was being laundered for Russia is in deep shit. And FSM knows most of them probably have other felonies sitting around waiting to be discovered. While we can’t trust a GOP-led DOJ to do anything about federal charges, those state-level charges can be just as effective.

But really, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

What it means is that we’re still fucked, and still will be fucked for a while, yet, but we’re somewhat less fucked than we were before, and with the potential to be even less fucked going forward.

Have courage, folks, and don’t give up. We still have a fuck of a lot of work to do.

 

(Crossposted from my original on Tumblr)

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About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
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