The 2018 U.S. midterm elections turned out as many observers had expected: Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, and Democrats rode a modest blue wave to gain control of the House of Representatives. Political pundits and congressional candidates of both major parties had framed the midterm elections as a referendum on President Donald Trump, whose policies and rhetoric have divided the electorate and galvanized each side to support or reject his agenda at the ballot box on November 6.
The political landscape of the 116th Congress, which will convene in early January 2019, creates a new balance of power in Washington. No legislation will reach the president's desk without bipartisan support, and House Democrats will exercise their constitutional duty to conduct more robust oversight over this administration differently than their Republican colleagues have. Senate Republicans, emboldened by gains in Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota, will continue efforts to scale back entitlement programs and shape the judiciary in favor of conservative ideals. They will be pressed over the next two years to address legislative priorities sent to them by a House of Representatives keen to deliver on the priorities for which Democrats campaigned including infrastructure, immigration reform, and healthcare.
If the midterm election was, in effect, a referendum on Donald Trump, the electorate expressed neither a full embrace nor a complete repudiation of the president and his policies. The resulting composition of the incoming Congress portends a more aggressive, and, potentially, politicized House, and — if compromises can't be found — little meaningful legislation. The run-up to the 2020 presidential election has already begun as Democrats and Republicans alike seek to parlay policy success or failure into their next bid for power.