|AARON P. BERNSTEIN / GETTY|
Hate was on the midterm election ballot and hate lost.
In a rebuke of President Trump and his Republican enablers, voters returned the House of Representatives to Democratic control and made statehouse gains although falling well short of narrowing the GOP's Senate majority.
Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to attain a House majority as a counter to Trump, got at least that and may end up with a 20-seat edge. Significantly, they were projected to flip at least 29 districts currently held by the GOP while surrendering only a few seats.
As America awoke on Wednesday morning, Democrats had not quite pulled off a blue wave -- the midterm equivalent of a presidential landslide -- but did extraordinarily well in suburbs from coast to coast, and most importantly in the Trumpian heartland, because of women and minorities who saw Trump for who he is -- a predatory thug, racist and liar who is profoundly unsuited to be president.
Democrats had lost the House in 2010 in large part because of Republican attacks on Obamacare. In one of the stranger reversals in American electoral history, they won the House back on Tuesday in large part because of Republican attacks on Obamacare.
Indeed, beyond rebuking Trump, the great unifier was health care. Many Americans -- notably those suburban voters, thank you -- have come to embrace the modest if historic progress toward access to healthcare that the Affordable Care Act represents while rejecting eight years of relentless Republican lies and fear mongering.
From the perspective of recent political history, the Democratic House takeover is remarkable. The Republicans' redistricting advantage after the 2010 election was so huge and their sleights of hand through gerrymandering and voter suppression so successful that some observers wondered if it was even possible for Democrats to win back the House.
The electoral map had heavily favored Senate Republicans and the outcome was never in doubt. More than half of the Democratic caucus was on the ballot, and 10 of those 26 incumbents were in states Trump had won, sometimes by huge margins. Republicans, meanwhile, defended just nine of their 51 seats, only one of which was in a state Clinton won, but their gain of at least two seats still is deeply disappointing even if Democratic chances to take back the Senate will be markedly better in two years.
Democrats were projected to win 20 of the 36 governorships in play.
That is a pickup of seven, including a huge win in ruby-red Kansas and Republican governorships in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, although Republicans maintained control in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa, states likely to be critical in the 2020 presidential elections.
The Democratic wins have significant implications because legislatures in those states will redraw congressional districts after the 2020 census and governors have veto power over redistricting in most of them.
Voters, of course, could not reject Trump outright.
But beyond his inherent awfulness was a relentless campaign for midterm candidates built on lies, fear and resentment. Indeed, despite the Senate gains, Trump was the biggest midterm loser because the robust economy and historically low unemployment rate did not translate into House votes as they have for a president's party in other off-year election boom times because of his unpopularity in the suburbs and the bitter reality on Main Street that the economic boom has not extended to many wage earners.
Meanwhile, Democrats face an enormous task when the 116th Congress convenes in January.
Although high-profile progressives Andrew Gillum in Florida and Beto O"Rourke in Texas lost, the populism and diversity of many Democratic House winners is welcome. A president who has acted and spoken with such obscene disregard for women will now have to deal with a record number of them, some 117 and counting. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan will become the first Muslim women in the House, Sharice Davids in Kansas and Deb Haaland in New Mexico will become the first Native American women, and at 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, will become the youngest woman elected to Congress.
Women got the job done, voting Democratic by a 20 percent margin while men favored Republicans by just three points. Married women went for Democrats (55 to 43 percent) as did woman independents (57 to 39 percent), white women (50 to 48 percent) and white college-educated women (60 to 38 percent).
The influx of young Democratic voters who believe they can make a change also is encouraging. But the party is as beholden to big money and nearly as cynical as Republicans even if it more or less stands for what it claims to stand for.
It will be hugely challenging for a party out of power to re-democratize government, which can only be done by neutering the autocratic Trump's scorched earth policies, restoring congressional oversight and prosecuting investigations into his misconduct -- including initiating impeachment proceedings and getting those tax returns-- all in the face of the legislative gridlock that has paralyzed Congress for a decade and will only grow worse as the crisis in governance deepens.
There were other issues of note on Tuesday.
Republicans yet again sought to portray themselves as guardians of the middle and working classes. Many voters saw through that tired deception and the GOP's trillion-dollar tax cut proved to a loser on the stump because it so obviously is an enormous giveaway for the wealthy and corporations. Still other issues included immigration and border security, gun control, the opioid crisis and global warming.
Oh, and after the agita-inducing debacle of 2016, pollsters pretty much got it right, although they again underestimated Republican resilience, or should we say allegiance to the incendiary Trump.
What pollsters and analysts found in the weeks before voting and exit polling confirmed is that the tribalism that has increasingly defined society and politics continues to suck the lifeblood from the diversity that has been an American core strength as Democrats become more entrenched in urban and suburban areas, where they reject the siren call to arms of Trump's culture war, and Republicans become more entrenched in exurban and rural areas where the culture war rages on.
Trump, who took the nativist low road after ignoring whispered pleas from the Republican leadership to "play it safe" by boasting about the economy and trying to narrow the gaping GOP gender gap, variously blamed the Democratic House gains on the Florida mail-bomber and Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, among others, because they halted GOP momentum, but nevertheless called the outcome a "tremendous success" while touting himself as "the magic man."
"Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to reclaim the speaker's gavel she lost eight years ago.
While there was a sigh of relief at the overall results, it is not a new day. Despite the Democratic gains and -- finally -- a check on Trump, there is the sense of a job still not done. Trump is the new normal, to use that godawful cliché, and the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Sniveling Cowards. The Democratic House and statehouse victories will not change that, let alone tangibly reduce our immense national stress.
Those victories are merely a small step back from the precipice. Only Trump's removal will really matter, but the midterms were a start.