Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
President Donald Trump loves to complain about how the media doesn’t give him credit for his accomplishments. Well, let me correct that right now. Trump absolutely, unequivocally deserves credit for one big thing: Making the Democratic party great again. This achievement deserves its own hashtag #MDGA and maybe even a blue hat with the embroidered slogan that Trump could give away or, in traditional Trump fashion, sell on his website.
In fact, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders should send Trump a fruit basket or 10 for helping them succeed at something they haven’t been able to achieve since 2010 – taking control of the House. This alone is a tremendous accomplishment. Every House committee come January 2019 can have a Democrat as chair. The party will also be able to set the House’s legislative agenda and engage in oversight of the Trump administration, including over Trump himself for possible violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
And Democrats won a handful of governorships that had been held by Republicans, including in Kansas where Democrat Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach, who Trump had appointed to co-chair his now-abandoned voter fraud commission. All of that is thanks to the President. Although we can’t take away from the great Democratic candidates we saw this election cycle who worked tirelessly to win, some of the candidates ran this year in reaction to Trump.
As I heard first-hand when speaking to Democratic congressional candidates, from New Jersey to Texas to California, on my SiriusXM radio show, Trump’s election spurred them to want to do more than just vote or be active in local politics – to seek congressional office as a form of resistance to his right-wing policies and his bigoted and sexist views. And as Emily’s List, a Democratic organization that supports women candidates in favor of abortion rights, noted, the surge in interest by women to run for office in 2018 came in the aftermath of Trump’s 2016 win.
That’s why we saw so many firsts on Tuesday. We witnessed the first Muslim woman elected to Congress - in fact, the first two, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, both Democrats. Then there’s Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna Pressley and Connecticut’s Jahana Hayes, who not only became the first black women to be elected to Congress from their respective states but from the entire New England region.
But despite Trump almost making the Democratic party completely great again (Democrats lost ground in the Senate), in fairness it can also be said that President Obama helped make the GOP great – or at least helped rebuild itself. And the same case can me be made about George W. Bush helping rebuild the Democratic Party and even playing a role in Obama’s 2008 victory.
The reality is that when voters want to send a message that they aren’t happy with the President, they vote against the President’s party in the midterm elections. Look what happened to Obama in his first midterm election in 2010 shortly after the ACA passed which then was very unpopular. Going into the 2010 election, Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. But after the votes were all counted, the Democrats lost a whopping 63 House seats and control of the House, plus six Senate seats. And by the time Obama left office, Democrats had lost control of the Senate and Republicans picked up nearly 1,000 state legislative seats overall.
Same scenario with Bush, but in his second midterm in 2006. Despite a solid economy, Bush’s handling of the Iraq war soured Americans, leaving Bush with an approval rating in the area of 38% that election year. American voters sent Bush a message in that midterm election by making the Democratic Party pretty great again. The Democrats remarkably regained control of the House for the first time in 12 years in addition to seizing control of the Senate. And Democrats even flipped six governorships, taking control of 28 nationwide.
Now the big question going forward is: Does Trump make the Democratic Party really great again by helping the party win the White House and control of the Senate in 2020? Given Trump’s track record, I’d say there’s a pretty good shot that the hashtag #MDGA will be trending come 2020.