It’s no coincidence that many men and increasing numbers of women follow politics and sports. The two activities do have a lot in common, starting with the fact they both eventually produce clear winners and losers. And, as tantalising as they can be, near misses and close losses are still defeats.
This is proven every week in NFL stadiums, as the margins of victory often become closer, but the winners still rise and the losers still sink.
Politics is similar, though some optimistically see a near miss as a sign of future changes. Recent headline-grabbing political contests in Georgia and Florida come to mind. In Georgia, the electrifying Stacey Abrams streaked across the political sky like a comet, first startling her Democratic party by winning the nomination for governor and then taking incumbent Republican secretary of state Brian Kemp deep into the fourth quarter before finally admitting that it didn’t look like she could win the contest.
In Florida, handsome and progressive Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum upended the political establishment in somewhat similar fashion to force congressman Ron DeSantis into a recount in their race for governor to succeed Rick Scott. But DeSantis, too, has emerged victorious. Scott, meanwhile, also had to survive a recount before winning his own race for a US Senate seat against incumbent Bill Nelson.
Many observers are stressing that Gillum and Abrams are both African Americans in red Southern states whose opponents were in positions where they oversaw voter registration and the conduct of the elections. So liberals across the United States are trumpeting these near misses as signs that American politics run by aging white older men is changing.
In Washington, the US Senate, still controlled by older white Republican men, will probably change very little.
A challenge is building to the continuing reign as leader of House Democrats of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco area congresswoman from a safe liberal district. As Hillary Clinton discovered two years ago, a woman with a long tenure in American national politics still attracts a virulent response from significant portions of the electorate – men and women alike. Pelosi has been an easy, familiar target of Republican polemicists for decades, and some of the many Democratic congressmen and women who were just elected ran with a pledge to overturn her bid to again become Speaker of the House.
Pelosi is nonetheless a heavy favourite to retain her leadership position and serve again as the presiding officer in the House of Representatives.
Gillum and Abrams have made a huge impression in their states and nationally. But the election is over.
The election changed little in nearby Florida. DeSantis has amply demonstrated during the campaign and recount that he is as partisan as anyone, and is likely to use the power of his governorship to manipulate the state’s political machinery to favour his Republican party and its incumbent president.
During the upcoming 2020 America census and the redrawing of congressional district lines that will follow, governors like DeSantis and Kemp will exercise major influence in trying to forestall the progress of Florida and Georgia from reliably “red” Republican states to “purple” states where Democratic and Republican candidates can compete on reasonably even terms. In Florida particularly, Republicans now control virtually every significant statewide position.
Since Florida has now in many minds replaced Ohio as the key national bellwether state without whose support no presidential candidate can reasonably expect to prevail, these are significant developments.
Nationally, Democrats will use their new control of the House to obstruct, undermine and try to help bring about the first defeat of an incumbent US president since 1992.
The House has budget and subpoena power, so the Democrats can be expected to compel compromises with the White House and Congressional Republicans on various issues. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act seems mercifully dead. It is possible that immigration reform and progress on rebuilding America’s highways, bridges and other infrastructure can move ahead.
But the big headlines will come from reinvigorated Congressional inquiries into the 2016 presidential election and general misbehaviour by the president and his cabinet appointees. And protection of special counsel Robert Mueller will be a particular priority.
Things should get interesting.