With the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, Donald Trump and the GOP now face two years of public investigations, coming from Robert Mueller and the FBI; the State of New York; and Congress.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats will now be able to flex their muscles. Their majority means that they can launch subpoena-powered investigations into issues such as alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and ethics scandals in the White House.
The shift of committee chairs from Republican to Democrat will have major implications for businesses. Democratic rep Maxine Waters is set to become the next chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee. She recently said that when it comes to the big banks, investment firms and insurance companies, “we are going to do to them what they did to us.”
Stand by for that US political favourite: gridlock. The legislative agenda will almost certainly be blocked for the next two years. A Democratic majority in the House means Republican legislation will only make its way to the president’s desk if it has Democratic support – which seems unlikely.
Absent of a clear path for legislation in Congress, the president could pivot towards expanding his executive actions – focussing on foreign policy and executive orders, continuing to unpick President Obama’s legacy and being defined by pursuing ‘America First’ around the world.
President Trump will be relieved that no clear Democrat emerged from the midterms as a natural leader for 2020
We might also expect the president to double, triple and quadruple down on making decisions aimed squarely at appeasing his base. There seems little appetite either side of the aisle for bipartisan or friendlier politics, which suits the anger that President Trump has capitalised on and Democrats have used to fire up their base in the midterms.
So what’s the impact on the next presidential election in 2020? The demographics are working against the GOP at the exact time that President Trump is pursuing a ‘pale, male and stale’ strategy – typified by the rallies to drive fears of immigrants and change what we saw during the midterms.
The strategy held the Senate for the GOP, since this year’s battlegrounds were largely rural. But in cities and suburbs the Republicans were punished in House elections. Democrats over-performed in areas awash with younger voters, like Texas and Arizona.
In terms of candidates, President Trump will be relieved that no clear Democrat emerged from the midterms as a natural leader for 2020, while there seems little to no point in considering a Republican primary challenger to President Trump before the 2020 general. It is close to impossible to foresee a serious challenge being mounted to a president who has an 88% approval rating among Republicans.