Not a red wave, not a blue wave, but a blue trickle and a new era in Trump’s presidency. Were the legislature in both houses of the US Congress made up of objective individuals, voting on the merits of proposed legislation with a willingness to vote across party lines and compromise, the Democratic house of representatives would mean factoring in an era of less aggressive legislation and a simple counterweight to the party in power. This is obviously not the case.
Today’s Congress is gripped by constituents’ demand of votes along party lines, meaning that what we will see is more of the same bickering with much less progress. Ideally, legislative proposals that appeal to the moderate Democrats in the house of representatives would mean bringing legislation more to the centre. However, party leaders are required to approve what is even taken to the floor to be voted on, and both Republican and Democratic leaders are not looking after the interests of their moderate constituents. It is because of this polarization that what we will most likely see with a Democratic House of representatives is not more centrist legislation, but legislative gridlock instead.
Legislative gridlock seems to be the name of the game when it comes to Democratic strategy. By taking back the house of representatives, a certain level of vindication has been given to their strategy of appealing to identity politics and a strong focus on the rebuke of Donald Trump. Similarly, Republicans have used their quasi-absolute power in the last two years to aggressively push very solidly-conservative policies which have made them unpalatable to most democratic constituent blocks, thus elected Democrats cooperating across party lines could be akin to political suicide.
What Democrats will now have is a strong authority to subpoena documents and call for investigations. Under this paradigm, it would not be a stretch to consider that we will see a swift effort to release Donald Trump’s tax-returns. We may also see investigations relating to the Trump Family’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia and the possible violation of the emoluments cause on behalf of president Trump by having his businesses accept payments from foreign governments and dignitaries during his time in office. Though these investigations may seem frustrating to Trump supporters, they may not be baseless; however, the power to order investigations and probes could just as easily be weaponized.
Investigation past investigation could be used as a tool to frustrate Republicans’ agenda by claiming credible conflicts of interest or possibly illegal activities by the proponents of certain initiatives, and kick-starting investigations and demanding documents. This would naturally weigh on the politician’s time and political efficacy, all of which would most likely lead to increasingly heated rhetoric on both sides.
Republicans may see themselves playing their role as culture warriors against the left, claiming that the Democrats are acting as obstructionists. An easy rebuttal on behalf of Democrats would be that investigations are simply a way to make sure the rule of law is being followed and that if they have nothing to hide they would welcome the investigations, not to mention that Republicans have no moral legs to stand on in this case after their hostile obstructionist tactics during the Obama administration. This will most likely lead to increasingly heated rhetoric on both sides against each other, making the viability of bipartisan cooperating even less likely than it once was.