It wasn’t a “blue wave”, but the Democratic party didn’t go home empty-handed at the 2018 US midterm elections.
With some votes still being counted, Democrats have already surpassed the 218 seats they needed to flip control of the House of Representatives.
The question is, after two years in the shadows of a President who commands the attention of a nation, how will the party use their midterm gains to wrest the political agenda for the next two years and beyond?
Here’s what the midterm election results mean for Democrats.
What can Democrats do with control of the House of Representatives?
“For Democrats, winning the House is not necessarily about advancing a major agenda of their own, it’s about preventing the Republicans from advancing their agenda,” explains managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at University of Virginia Center for Politics Kyle Kondik.
When it comes to actually passing legislation, the Democrats would still need to rely on compromise with the Senate — and thus the Republican party.
“The only things that would get passed is ‘must-pass’ legislation to deal with the debt ceiling or preventing a government shutdown,” Mr Kondik says. “Democrats would pass a number of bills that would be messaging bills that would die in the Senate.”
Nancy Pelosi, who’s poised to become speaker of the house, has said that the House Democrat’s main goal is to restore some of the power that’s been slowly drained from the legislative branch.
“People will see a Congress that is very different than we have now,” she told The Associated Press, adding that you have to “show the power of the gavel”.
Their new legislative capabilities include launching investigations and subpoenaing documents, and it’s likely that the Democrats will direct that muscle towards checking Donald Trump.
@voxdotcom: Democrats’ House majority will allow them to launch subpoena-powered probes into Trump’s finances, Russian interference, and ethics scandals — and to halt the conservative legislative agenda. They could even demand the president’s tax returns.
And how will Mr Trump take that? As well as you’d expect:
@realDonaldTrump: If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!
Things could get heated.
What will Democrats do for 2020?
“The minute the election ends, the narrative of 2018 will die, and it’ll immediately go to 2020,” says Sally Persons, the White House correspondent for Real Clear Politics.
Consider the midterms a preface for the 2020 narrative, with key races serving as litmus tests for the limits of liberal ideology and testing grounds for the candidates’ abilities to strike a chord with the next election’s voters.
But the party’s supposed rising stars largely saw defeat.
Among the losers was West Virginia House candidate Richard Ojeda, who displayed a fiery brand of populism and refused to conform to the national party’s wishes.
Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to incumbent Ted Cruz, despite busting fundraising records and gaining national affection.
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is losing (and refusing to concede), even after campaigning with former president Barack Obama and popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
An exception is the now ubiquitous Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who safely won her House seat in the Democratic stronghold of New York, as was predicted.
She’ll continue to serve as a case study in effective candidacy, while the others might fall to the wayside, only to be replaced by a new set of stars ready to audition for the ‘unconventional candidate’ role.
Still, some candidates — O’Rourke especially — may use their narrow defeats as the base of a 2020 presidential campaign.
But it all depends on this next question.
Will the Democratic party ever be the same?
During the Democratic primaries of 2016, the battle for the soul of the Democratic party was laid bare.
And while Hillary Clinton’s establishment wing won out then, it’s easy to forget the backlash from progressives within the party, who wanted to take it in a new direction.
“Democrats still have to answer this question that they still haven’t answered after 2016, which is: what is the party going to look like going forward?” Ms Persons said.
“Is it going to be the party of Obama with a moderate coalition? Or is it going to be this very progressive party of Elizabeth Warren And Bernie Sanders? Will they try to get some of the union votes back?
“They’re going to have to figure it out, and they’re going to have to do it quickly.”
@MEPFuller: Pretty clear that Democrats in 2020 will face a lot of the same problems as 2016: They’re winning districts that Clinton won, but they’re not gaining in areas where Trump won, like Ohio and Florida. And that’s after Republicans voted to gut health care.
There aren’t any easy answers in the midterm results for Democrats.
The profile of a Democratic voter is changing. Women, young and Hispanic voters were the drivers of the Democrats House victories, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
But the next Congress will be a mix of the old-school and the new.
Establishment standard bearer Nancy Pelosi is set to be elected to preside over the House, but she’ll also take watch over the upcoming battle for direction of the Democratic party as a wave a new, more diverse Democratic Representatives head to Capitol Hill.
And against a President who leaves Americans in no doubt as to where he stands, a clear direction from Democrats might be needed more than ever.