Divided and divisive government is here to stay
Forget nuking the filibuster, packing the Supreme Court and dismantling the electoral college—the prizes that bold Democrats salivated over after their expected landslide victory. Those dreams are now dead. The pre-existing Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has weakened, though it has still held. The Senate, on the other hand, looks likely to remain in Republican control, even though some results are yet to be finalised. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader who coasted to a seventh term representing Kentucky, was perfectly content to stymie Barack Obama for years. At 78, he would probably remain set in his ways if Joe Biden has indeed won a narrow presidential victory. That promises another four years of gridlock and hyper-partisan dysfunction. Forget, too, the chance of a green-infrastructure plan, a reform of health care—or much serious legislating of any sort.
Opinion polls not only overstated Mr Biden’s national standing, but also the prospects for down-ballot Democrats. In races for the House of Representatives in 2018, Democrats captured a resounding 54% of the votes cast for either major party. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, thought she would be surfing another blue wave. But preliminary results suggest that in 2020 that national margin actually shrank by four percentage points to near-parity. Given that Mr Trump is facing a clear loss in the popular vote, that suggests that down-ballot Republicans overperformed relative to the president all over the country.