Editorial

The Observer-Reporter building in Washington

No matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican – or not affiliated with any political party – all of us should be heartened by Tuesday’s relatively high turnout for the midterm election.

Across the country and in our region, voters flocked to the polls in unusually high numbers. Nationally, voter turnout is estimated to be above 50 percent. That might not sound great, but it typically bottoms out in the low 40s or high 30s in most years.

However, our counties did even better than the national average. Both Washington and Greene counties are expected to reach 57 percent turnout when all of the votes are counted, which would be the highest marks they’ve seen in a midterm for years.

So, why does this matter?

Well, self-governance is at the very foundation of our country. It offers “we the people” a chance to express our opinions whether the mood of the country is sour or hopeful.

In this case, it clearly was a referendum on President Trump. But both political sides are claiming victories with Democrats poised to take control of the House of Representatives and Republicans expanding their majority in the Senate.

Trump himself declared a “Big Victory” in a Twitter post Wednesday. While his campaigning across the country may have helped to dissipate the expected Democratic “blue wave” in the election, his party still lost control of one chamber of Congress.

In reality, there were no decisive winners Tuesday night. Not when you have a split in who controls the legislative branch. But more concerning, there seems to be a split through the heart of the country, which feels more and more these days like the Divided States of America.

While it’s clear that Trump still has incredible sway in rural areas, there was a revolt against him in urban and suburban districts. Just as we saw in the 2016 presidential election, cities are becoming more liberal while rural areas are increasingly conservative.

That doesn’t bode well for how our government has to function.

In some cases, a divided government can be beneficial if both sides are forced to find common ground. But it seems that what we can expect to see over the next two years isn’t compromise but gridlock.

Add to that the ability by Democrats to now investigate Trump and his administration – which is one of the important checks Congress can have on the executive branch – the discord will likely get even worse.

While the high turnout Tuesday night was a positive for the country, the outcome may not be. Not unless we move away from the tribalism that has formed an “us versus them” mentality that is tearing our country apart.

The partisan fever has to break eventually. Now that the midterm election is over, it’s on all of us to fix the civil discourse.

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