The end of Robert Mueller’s investigation. The loss of health insurance for several million people. New laws that make it harder to vote. More tax cuts for the rich. More damage to the environment. A Republican Party molded even more in the image of President Trump.
These are among the plausible consequences if the Republicans sweep the midterm elections and keep control of both the House and Senate. And don’t fool yourself. That outcome, although not the most likely one, remains possible. The last couple of weeks of polling have shown how it could happen.
Voters who lean Republican — including whites across the South — could set aside their disappointment with Trump and vote for Republican congressional candidates. Voters who lean left — including Latinos and younger adults — could turn out in low numbers, as they usually do in midterm elections. The Republicans’ continuing efforts to suppress turnout could also swing a few close elections.
No matter what, Democrats will probably win the popular vote in the House elections, for the first time since 2012. Trump, after all, remains unpopular.
But the combination of gerrymandering and the concentration of Democratic voters in major cities means that a popular-vote win won’t automatically translate into a House majority.
In the Senate, the election already seems to be slipping away from the Democrats. Several of this year’s close Senate races happen to involve Democrats defending seats in red states. As a result, Republicans may expand their current 51-49 majority, making it easier for them to win close votes on legislation and nominations.
If Republicans do manage to keep both chambers of Congress, it would cause a political shock. So far, much of the speculation has focused on what a Democratic House takeover might mean — attempts to rein in Trump’s executive actions, subpoenas, investigations, maybe even impeachment. But it’s important to understand that a Republican victory would also change Washington.
It would be validation for Trump, who could then brag that he had defied the experts once again. It would mean he had outperformed Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman, all of whom suffered drubbings in the first midterm election of their presidency. It would embolden Trump to push even harder toward the America he wants — where corporate oversight is scant, climate change is ignored, voting rights are abridged, health care is a privilege, judicial independence is a fiction, and the truth is, well, whatever he says it is.