The story line coming out of Tuesday’s midterm elections will be: The two Americas drift further apart. Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate by cleaning out Democrats in states that voted for Donald Trump. Democrats won the House by cleaning out Republicans in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton. In the next Congress, Democrats will be even more liberal. Republicans will be even more conservative. Most of the members of Congress who expressed any ambivalence about Trump will be gone.
But it’s important to remember that although the country is deeply and closely divided, it’s not divided between similar things. Because the Democrats ran more African Americans and women candidates this year, and because many Republicans campaigned on immigration and Brett Kavanaugh, it’s tempting to describe both parties as waging a culture war. That’s misleading. The culture war was waged mostly by one side. Democratic candidates embodied racial and gender diversity, but they didn’t generally campaign on it. Their message, overwhelmingly, was that they would protect the middle-class safety net. They realized, early on, that absent Barack Obama, Obamacare was extremely popular. As The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted, the Democrats’ campaign could be summed up as: “a noun, verb and preexisting conditions.”