The pendulum swings again. This time hard and true. Democrats gained roughly 30 seats in the House of Representatives and mitigated losses in one of the toughest Senate maps in a century. The national vote margin between Democrats and Republicans was the largest in decades, surpassing the 2010 red wave that led to Republican control of the House. The blue wave was not what many had predicted: it had a purplish hue, not a deep blue one.
Moderates under the Democratic umbrella swept into traditionally conservative districts. Our Revolution, which is Bernie Sanders’ political group, didn’t endorse any candidate that flipped a district. They might have been close in two surprising districts (in upstate New York and Iowa) but the liberalism they preached didn’t go far enough in defeating Republican incumbents.
In an age of such stringent divisiveness, I’m glad there are more members of the Democratic Party in office willing to negotiate on some policy positions. Candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley — both young liberals representing coastal cities — are quite unlikely to bridge any divides. When you support impeaching the sitting president without the conclusion of the investigation looking into his actions, you’re feeding your own political base.
However, there certainly should be liberal firebrands like Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, as well as their conservative counterparts in Congress. But that shouldn’t be every politician.
While moderate Democratic representatives faired well, the same cannot be said for Senate Democrats. Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly all lost their seats in deep red states — at least Jon Tester and Joe Manchin were able to hang on for another six years.
But enough about moderate Democrats, because the real issue this country faces is the death of the moderate Republican. To paraphrase the common political saying, a moderate Republican is as common as a real bigfoot sighting. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are arguably the only moderate Republican senators. Collins also represents Maine — a lean D state — making Murkowski the only red state Republican senator willing to buck the leadership.
Moderate Republicans in the house aren’t much more common. Democrats, through the last election, just swept almost everyone who is remotely willing to compromise out of office. In the current divided government, this concerns me.
Starting in the 1990s and escalating with John Boehner as Speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, Republicans have rarely — if at all — reached across the aisle on major legislative issues. McConnell is perhaps the most destructive politician of the modern era. Sure, President Donald Trump can be described as misogynist, racist, authoritarian, etc. by his critics, but he never pretended to be anything but what he campaigned as.
McConnell, after taking leadership in 2014, has held up dozens of judicial appointments, ambassadorships and a Supreme Court nominee. As the leader of the Senate — traditionally the cooling saucer for the House — McConnell’s role is to bring both sides of the aisle together. Has he done so? Quite the opposite.
So what will 2020 hold? A resurgence of moderates, progressives or conservatives? Most likely it will be one of the former options. But perhaps a progressive is the best choice for many red states. Progressives in red states and conservatives in blue states can both be essential. Massachusetts re-elected a Republican governor at the same time it easily re-elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
What the United States needs from local elections to national elections is the ability to be open to new ideas, to negotiation, to deliberation. Maintaining the status quo leads to further division, corruption and stagnation. Corporations constantly talk about diversity and new hires. The country — in that sense — should operate in the same fashion. Diversity also does not strictly mean your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It extends to your upraising and political beliefs.
But moderates still need room to breathe. In toss-up districts and states, those willing to cross party lines can enable greater legislative action. Gridlock is the death of good governance. Moderates aren’t the solution everywhere, but they are a primary element. We shouldn’t argue that liberals need to take over, that conservatives need to reign or that moderates are the only ones who can win elections. We should argue for diversity in political ideology. The next wave can be blue, purple and red and still symbolize progress. One color will simply lead the pendulum to swing back — hard and true.