Jim Collins, one of the gurus of modern business, identified that high-performing organizations understand the importance of “confronting the brutal facts.” Here is the brutal fact for us Republicans: America handed our party a trouncing which had little to do with Donald Trump and everything to do with what happens when the party in power doesn’t get stuff done.
We went into the elections with the most favorable unemployment statistics since 1969, low inflation, robust GDP growth and a rising stock market. We started the night with a 23-seat majority in the House of Representatives and a redistricting advantage after the 2010 census that had most analysts believing the U.S. House might never leave Republican hands. Yet by the time the votes are finally counted, we’ll lose as many as 40 seats, plenty in formally reliable Republican states like Texas, Utah, Kansas, South Carolina and Oklahoma. Even more troubling, we lost the popular vote by the greatest margin in the history of the House of Representatives: 8,800,000 votes. Given the importance of federal policy for Wyoming, the loss of control is an especially big deal, because under the “Hastert Rule,” the minority party in the House of Representatives is essentially powerless. Wyoming is now voiceless in the lower house.
Democrats gained control of six state legislatures and at least eight governorships, along with busting several key supermajorities in bellwether states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, governorships like Georgia, normally won by the GOP in double digits, ran the risk of a run-off. This especially matters because in two years there will be a new census and it is the state legislatures that do all that partisan gerrymandering. In the upcoming elections our playing field is getting tougher, not easier.
The results in the Senate were a huge disappointment if we consider that of the 35 Senate seats up for election this year, Democrats defended 26 of them and Republicans just nine — six of them in deep red states like ours where there was zero chance of losing. We even struggled in states like Texas. To maintain our majority in 2020, Republicans needed to pick up far more seats than we did, because in 2020 the tables turn. We will have 21 Senate seats to defend against the Democrats’ 12. Complicating our situation, in 2020 we have to hang on to seats in states like North Carolina, Colorado and Maine which just went from purple to blue. The brutal fact is we are far closer than we realize to seeing our Wyoming senators lose their committee chairmanships and finding themselves reseated in the back row.
The brutal truth we must recognize is that this trouncing was not a referendum on Donald Trump as the media would like us to believe, but a reaction to our failure to get stuff done. Moderate Americans, who determine most elections, would have looked past any gripes they may have about the president if under a Republican-controlled House and Senate healthcare costs had come down. There would be no Speaker Pelosi if instead of passing the second highest spending bill in U.S. history, Republicans did what Republicans were once good at: taking a sledgehammer to an out-of-control federal government. American voters wanted a comprehensive immigration reform bill and a solution to save Social Security, and Americans are exhausted with our pleas for campaign finance reform and federal term limits — two winning issues that were once pillars of Republican ideology and would have earned us huge victories in the 2018 midterms.
Here in Wyoming we have hitched our wagon to one political party, and like it or not, America was not impressed. Confronting the election with brutal honesty is critical for Wyoming families, given the vast federal control of our land and our dependence on energy policy. The lesson of the 2018 midterms is that the party that shows they can get stuff done will be the one that wins in 2020. For the sake of Wyoming families, let’s hope that can be the Republican Party.