As they have so many times before, Americans went to the polls on a Tuesday in November.
Expectations ran high for this election – a rarity for a mid-term.
Exuberant Democrats predicted a blue wave.
President Donald Trump – always most alive during a battle – said he’d energized his base enough to build a red wall and preserve Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
So, what happened?
Did a blue wave swamp all the GOP barricades?
Democrats captured the House, resoundingly, and made some gains in statehouses across the land, gathering governorships and control of state legislatures in some key places.
Was the election the Republican triumph President Trump said it was?
The president campaigned hard in places that had been secure in his column two years ago. With the help of a generous Senate campaign map, he managed to avert disaster and hold onto the Senate.
Having both the House and Senate in Democrats’ control would mean no end of headaches for Trump, given his pugnacity and his aggressive disregard for the restraints of both propriety and law.
Thus, even as recounts continued in Florida, Arizona, possibly Georgia and elsewhere, both Republicans and Democrats across America found themselves saying:
Could have been better. Could have been worse.
That’s the way it so often is.
An election, like life, is often messier than we think it will be.
Because the results were messy, it has been easy for many people to miss perhaps the most important thing this election revealed.
We may be at the start of a revolution.
We focus a lot of attention on the divisions in America. That’s understandable, because we are divided – divided in ways we haven’t seen since the 1960s and perhaps even since the 1860s.
Our public discourse ranges from acidic to toxic. Nastiness is now the norm.
And anger is the driving force in our political life.
This is true on both sides of the divide.
President Trump’s rise was nothing other than a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, his message little more than a snarl, his agenda as easy to understand as a raised middle finger. His supporters rallied to him because he gave voice to their grievances, their feeling that the game had been rigged not just so that they couldn’t win but that they couldn’t even survive for much longer.
As long as Trump speaks to their hurts, they won’t desert him, even if the tariffs he promotes pummel them and the market correction that seems in the offing wipes out what little they have in savings. From their point of view, he’s the only leader in a generation who has understood and expressed their sense of being abandoned, even betrayed, by their government and their country.
Even when he fails, they won’t punish him for trying.
Democrats have their own version of this drama.
They too have energized and, in some ways, enraged new constituencies demanding that their country, their government and, yes, their party change its ways and speak to their hunger for change. They too have looked to new and non-traditional faces – Beto O’Rourke, Stacy Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Jared Polis, etc. – for leadership, faces that embody their sense that they’ve been on the outside long enough.
The rise to these two outsider movements has thrown our politics into upheaval.
Both sides have brought new voters by the hundreds of thousands and even the millions into the process and crushed partisan calculations in the process. (That’s why pollsters now make prognostications at their peril.)
Much divides the outsiders in each of these parties – and they have many historic reasons to distrust and dislike each other.
But they both are driven by a conviction that their needs, their hopes and their dreams have been disregarded by a rigged system that has no respect for them as people or citizens. For that reason, they’ve both rebelled against the establishments in their own parties.
At the moment, they’re also fighting against each other.
What happens, though, if they figure out that they have at least one thing in common – a burning desire to kick down the locked door and take their place at the table?
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.