Strange rumblings off F Street: coping with life after midterms

By Nathaniel Klein

Staff Writer

If you’re like me and political addiction rolls around every other fall (or the entirety of every fourth year), you know the dopamine rushes, serotonin fluctuations, and oscillating terror of compulsively refreshing FiveThirtyEight.

Nate Silver’s online political bible long predicted the results on Tuesday: Democrats won the House, Republicans increased their majority in the Senate. But on that fateful night, a kink in the algorithm caused a moment where the Dems’ chances shot from 14 in 15 to one in three.

Somehow, I found myself wound much tighter than I was two years ago. Perhaps it’s simply that I’m optimistic about the force of the “blue wave,” but if memory serves me right, I pretty much knew Trump was going to win from the start.

The algorithm was corrected soon enough, and the Dems’ chances were back to a cool 85 percent. The House returns kept coming in, and once enough of the tight east coast and central districts were called for the Democrats, NBC and ABC declared victory for the Dems in the house. There was much rejoicing, as I busted out my birthday cigar and a box of cookie dough. But there was still the matter of the Senate and the state elections.

I changed my registration to Tennessee to get Phil Bredesen elected, which was a disappointment I saw coming. But when the first returns for Beto O’Rourke in Texas came in, it seemed like he had a real chance. Unseating Cruz would’ve been a big coup to the Republican establishment, and Beto’s campaign was probably our best symbol of the blue wave, and now perhaps it stands as a mark of the depth of Republican’s entrenchment in Trump.

Nevertheless, Beto’s campaign had great down ballot effects for other Texas Democrats, and his name has entered the national political discourse.

Although the basic Congressional situation is baked in, there are still many uncertainties surrounding the elections.

Of course, in the classic tradition that seems to define American politics, the big moves were saved until after the votes were in. The day after the midterms, Jeff Sessions resigned at the behest of Trump. After receiving this news, I ran out of Stirling’s in a fit of confused excitement and called my father, the armchair political wizard, for the perspective from his windowless office on F Street.

“Did you hear the news? Jeff Sessions resigned! Is this the start of a Saturday Night Massacre?”

“Almost certainly not. This was a long time coming.”

“Oh,” I said. My father keeps up with the news much more acutely than I do. Trump and Sessions’s mutual animosity has long been noted, and although Sessions certainly knows whatever there is to know, his departure from the Justice Department is likely not due to some moral objection or self-preservation instinct relating to the Russia investigation. Sessions’s replacement, however, bodes quite ill for Mueller.

“Matt Whittaker, the dude who Trump has appointed as acting AG, looks like a ‘Trumpite’ stooge,” Pop said. “He’s on public record as attacking the Mueller investigation on several occasions. Not good. I sense a constitutional crisis on the way sooner or later.”

“Oof,” I said. With Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 perpetually on my person and the Ghost of Nixon possessing me every week or so, flashbacks to political turmoil from before I was born are always close at hand.

Democratic control of the House of Representatives means partisan legislation won’t make it to Trump’s desk, but with the Senate under Republican control, the Supreme Court colored additionally red, and the fate of Mueller interminably up in the air, it seems unlikely that anything more than a Democrat holding pattern will play out in Washington for the foreseeable future. And in case you weren’t paying attention in 2016, holding patterns don’t win.