Democrats take the House, Republicans take the Senate, Trump? Well that is more difficult.
For the first two years of his Presidency, Trump nominally enjoyed the “support” of both the House and the Senate. However, between the never Trumpers and the GOPe, that “support” was mixed at best. He was stuck with insane spending bills, hamstrung on immigration and required to make nice with members of his own party even as they refused to use their majorities to pass his legislation or confirm his appointees. He had serious opposition but he was limited by party loyalty from calling out that opposition.
Trump now has a Democratic opponent which is not just the mainstream media. Better still, it is an opponent which contains a legion of quite sensible, moderate, people and a wonderfully unhinged minority – many of whom are in line for Committee Chairmanships. If we have learned anything about Trump it is that he thrives on opposition.
At the same time, Trump’s people will have to recognize the weaknesses the House races outlined. Winning a second term and taking back the House requires some hard work from the White House. The Democrats held their urban base and there is no reason to think that will shift much in 2020, where there are gains to be made is in suburbia. Which means Trump has to combine running against the crazies in the Democratic Party with an appeal to suburban women. It’s a tough get because what drives suburban women crazy about Trump is more about demeanour and style rather than policy. The “tough guy, NYC real estate tycoon” persona is a hard sell on the school run.
Trump has about six months to get his White House in order, deal with Mueller, goad Maxime Waters into trying to impeach him, fire Jeff Sessions (and restore the rule of law), and reach out to the many, moderate, Democrats who will be going to Washington to get things done. In a sense he needs to be running on two tracks: the first in defiant opposition to the crazy wing of the Democratic/Media Party, the second is to rack up a steady string of accomplishments, bi-partisan engagement and reasonable appointments.
The way to win in the suburbs is to look less crazy and more competent than the Democratic alternative. Given that Trump is resolutely non-ideological and, so far as can be seen, has no non-negotiable policy positions whatsoever, running the Presidency on the basis of MAGA and America First, this should not be difficult.
Of course, that sort of strategy depends on the Democrats in the House being unable to restrain their crazies. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that the Democrats won’t give Trump the foil he needs. The party elders – if there are any left – may be able to persuade the hotheads that impeachment without any chance of conviction is a very bad idea. Or that holding hearings into the details of Trump’s 1984 tax return will not galvanize the citizenry.
The one great impediment to the restraint of the crazy wing of the Democratic Party is the Trump Derangement of the mainstream media. CNN, MSNBC, the networks, the NYT and WaPo and even Fox realized some time ago that opposing Trump was very, very good for business. But that opposition needs fresh meat every news cycle. Where better to find that fresh meat than in the crazy wing of the Democratic Party. Especially, if many of the crazies are now, portentously, House Committee Chair _______.
There are incentives for both Trump and the non-crazy wing of the Democrats to moderate the tone of political discourse in America. There are opposite incentives for the media and for the crazies. Television, and to a lesser degree, print media thrive on conflict. So do ambitious Committee Chairs and agenda driven “backbenchers”. It is a marriage made in Hell.
From Trump’s perspective, the media was and is the enemy. He is entirely unafraid of the media because two years of unrelenting hostility has not hurt him a bit. If anything, stoking the partisan fury of the MSM will simply help Trump appear reasonable in the suburbs he needs to win. If the media in its fury promotes the loudest, most divisive, craziest Democratic Party voices, Trump wins. Trump likes winning.