It’s high time for everyone, including disappointed Republicans, to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory.
But there is another story to the 2020 elections that is worthy of Americans’ attention. Despite Trump’s loss, Republicans made astonishing and wholly unexpected gains on the federal, state and local level. And, in that, the GOP can take great pride.
For instance, in the US Senate, as it stands, the GOP has lost just one seat, despite predictions of a national wipeout
. Republicans currently hold 50 seats, while Democrats and the Independents who caucus with them hold 48 seats. The US Senate runoffs in Georgia will determine if Republicans keep their majority or tie with Democrats, but given Georgia’s history
of voting for Republican senators, the odds are likely not in Democrats’ favor. Regardless of the outcome, the closeness of the numbers will mean very few, if any, of Biden’s progressive nominees for his cabinet or federal courts will be confirmed.
In the US House of Representatives, the Republicans gained 13 seats
, with two races still undecided in New York and Iowa. This is only the second time
in about a century that the GOP gained House seats when a Republican president was defeated (and I’m proud to point out the first time this occurred was when I was Republican National Chairman in 1992).
These results give Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a slim majority — one made even slimmer by Biden’s recent nomination of two House
members for Cabinet positions and another
for White House senior adviser. Pelosi will be hard-pressed to hold her fractious caucus together for what will likely be her final term as House speaker. It also means Republicans are well positioned to win back the House two years from now, particularly given that midterm elections historically break
against the incumbent president’s party.
In the last 30 years, Democratic presidents have taken a serious beating in their first midterm elections. In 1994, during former President Bill Clinton’s first term, Democrats lost 52 seats
in the House. And, in 2010, during former President Barack Obama’s first term, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House.
This year, the GOP also gained control of two additional legislative chambers
in the New Hampshire legislature and won back
the governorship in Montana. Moreover, Republicans did not lose control of a single legislative chamber, and they now control
almost two-thirds of the nation’s state legislative chambers. This means the GOP is securely in control of the upcoming national redistricting process
, which decides the lines drawn for the 2022 congressional elections — and again contributes to the likelihood of their success in the House in two years’ time.
So, while Trump’s loss is far from inconsequential, there is reason for Republicans to keep the faith. In the short term, the GOP stands a good chance of blocking Biden’s most liberal personnel and policies in the Senate, and, in the long term, the party has a chance to reshape the congressional districts to serve their ends for the next decade.
Furthermore, given the tight margins in both the House and the Senate, it will take only a handful of centrist Democrats from competitive districts or states to stymie the will of Pelosi and Minority (or possibly Majority Leader) Sen. Chuck Schumer. These razor-thin margins may dramatically increase tensions in the Democratic Party, with progressive members of the party — including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — finding their most left-leaning proposals virtually impossible to pass.
Whether it be the Green New Deal, efforts to defund the police or expand the size of the court, or a vote on statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, progressives will likely be disappointed in the outcome of the next two years. Because even if Democrats win both Senate seats, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has declared
he will not support several of these ideas, and in a 50-50 split, Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote.
Obama famously lectured
congressional Republicans shortly after his inauguration in 2009, saying: “Elections have consequences.” Little did Obama know that his then-Vice President Joe Biden would experience those unpleasant consequences firsthand when he became the nation’s 46th President.