The 2018 election results were a split decision. Democrats won enough seats to take control of the House of Representatives, yet Republicans gained at least three seats in the Senate — with a few close races yet to be determined. The “Blue Wave” some were forecasting didn’t really materialize, but the Democratic gains mean that we’ll have at least two years of divided government, with Ds in charge of the House of Representatives, the Rs controlling the Senate, and President Trump in the White House.
In Ohio, Republicans held on to the governorship and statewide offices, our Democratic Senator was reelected, and Republicans retained control of Ohio’s House of Representatives delegation. Despite a lot of spirited contests, the overall makeup didn’t change much. It’s notable, however, that the voter turnout in this election appears to have been significantly higher than in 2014, the last off-cycle election. More than 4 million Ohioans cast their ballots in the governor’s race this year, compared to only about 3 million Ohioans voting for governor in 2014. I don’t know what that works out to as a percentage of registered voters, but the increase in the raw number of voters is very encouraging. And Ohio voters also overwhelmingly rejected a referendum to amend the state constitution to reduce sentences for drug offenders.
And speaking of constitutions, you could reasonably argue that the federal Constitution had a lot to do with the split decision that we saw from voters yesterday. The bicameral approach that the Framers reached as a compromise has every member of the House of Representatives up for election every two years, making the House the voice of the people on the current issues of the day, whereas Senators, holding six-year terms that require only one-third of the Senate to stand for election in any two-year cycle, are supposed to be less prone to popular passions. In short, it’s harder, and takes longer, to change the makeup of the Senate — but things might be different next time around, when more Republican seats are in play.
And the Constitution also will have something to say about what happens in the next two years, too. With Republicans controlling the Senate, they’ll be able to provide advice and consent and confirm judicial nominees and other nominees, but since all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives, Democrats will have the ability to thwart any tax or spending initiatives they don’t find palatable. Each House will have the ability to conduct any investigations they deem necessary, and legislation will be approved only if the House and Senate leaders, and President Trump, can find common ground — a compromise approach that both parties can swallow.
“Common ground”? It sounds like an almost mystical place in these days of incredibly sharp and heated political differences. One of the more interesting things to look for over the next few years is just how much “common ground” can be found.