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Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor: Two years of political ugliness await us

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 7:03 p.m.
Conor Lamb greets supporters at the DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Mars after winning the race for Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District Nov. 6.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Conor Lamb greets supporters at the DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Mars after winning the race for Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District Nov. 6.

The midterm election of 2018 is finally over. The impact nationally and locally will be significant, and signals much political ugliness ahead.

The big news, of course, is the U.S. House and Senate. At the time of my writing, tracking polls have the Democrats with a lead of roughly 25 seats. Democrats will and should see that as a victory, even though it might be considered an under-performance given how fired up their base was and given the history of midterm success for the opposition party (see the election of 2010).

But what does this mean for the country? It means we’re about to enter a nasty period of awful acrimony over the next two years.

The Democrat-controlled House will unceasingly pursue the political scalp of Donald Trump day by day. If you thought civility in politics was already at a new low, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

A Democrat friend of mine sent me a text on Election Day urging me to vote a straight Democratic ticket, quoting an infamous admonition about Germans who failed to heed the warnings about Hitler. That’s the mentality on the left. Liberal pundit Van Jones describes it as not a blue wave but a blue war, an “infestation of hate and division.”

It is just that.

On the Senate side, Republicans are thrilled. Quite the opposite of the House, they gained seats, and are likely looking at a 54-45 majority. They achieved major pickups and flips in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota, apparently in Florida, and probably in Arizona and Montana. In Texas, Ted Cruz squeaked by. Marsha Blackburn will be a very popular Republican senator in Tennessee, and Mitt Romney will be a high-profile leader from Utah.

David Catron of The American Spectator is calling this “the Kavanaugh revenge.”

Of note to our region in Western Pennsylvania, the governor’s race and senatorial race were not even close, with the incumbent Democrats, Tom Wolf and Bob Casey Jr., crushing their opponents.

Most notable are three critical House races that were being watched closely nationwide.

In Pennsylvania District 14, Guy Reschenthaler, Republican, soundly defeated Bibiana Boerio, Democrat.

In Pennsylvania District 16, Mike Kelly defeated Ron DiNicola in a race that became closer than anyone expected. Kelly retained his seat by a small margin.

The same wasn’t true for Congressman Keith Rothfus, who was defeated overwhelmingly by Conor Lamb in District 17. Rothfus is a cancer survivor who decided to run for Congress several years ago. He believed his survival was a sign that he should serve a larger purpose. He isn’t the typical politician. Ironically, he probably lost precisely because he isn’t the typical politician. Rothfus was not one to blow-dry his hair, put on makeup and dash to the camera gallery. Isn’t that what people claim they want in a congressman? Apparently not.

If there’s a saving grace in this for Rothfus, however, it’s this: At least he will not be there to watch the spectacle in the House over the next two years. Lamb, Kelly and Reschenthaler will be witnesses. We get to be observers as well. It will be political theater at its ugliest.

Prepare for a divisive two years of nastiness in Washington.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His column appears twice a month.

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