The 2018 Mid-Terms: Après le Déluge

Joel Bellman

As I write, it’s the morning after. But as you read this, more than a week will have passed, so my comments will fall somewhere between a hot take and cold leftovers.

To keep it as fresh and original as I can, I’m purposely avoiding reading or listening to anyone else’s analysis, but I beg your indulgence if by now you’ve heard it before. I want to try and chart the general direction of where we’re going, as opposed to the more minute zigs and zags along the route.

I’m chronically a glass-half-empty kinda guy, so my first reaction was disappointment that Democrats did not retake the Senate along with the House. Top of my wish list, of course, is presidential impeachment, conviction, and removal. Second would be blocking all future federal judicial appointments, particularly but not exclusively for the Supreme Court, in order to thwart the imposition of a reactionary policy agenda that would be cemented in place for decades after Trump is gone, I’m gone, and would continue to curse the world of my children and grandchildren.

Recapturing the Senate this year was always a fool’s errand, and wishful thinking aside, we’ve known it for many months. The math just didn’t favor Democrats this year—too many Democratic seats to defend, or to flip relatively hard targets of Red-state Republicans. So as expected, despite a few happy surprises (e.g. Jacky Rosen in Nevada, and what at this writing seems like a tie and looming Florida recount that could possibly return Democrat Bill Nelson to the Senate), the predictions were correct: Dems picked up House seats and Republicans picked up Senate seats, while blue states got more blue, red states more red.

Here in California, it seems that we successfully flipped congressional seats formerly held by the odious Darrell Issa (mastermind of the inexcusable Gray Davis gubernatorial recall in 2003), and OC’s Dana Rohrabacher, who had somehow morphed from a Mini-Me for Ronald Reagan, the hardest of Soviet hardliners, into a ridiculous yapping little Putin poodle.

And a personal point of privilege: I was especially elated at the victory of newcomer Katie Hill in CA-25, the High Desert seat formerly held by Steve Knight. I was introduced to Katie by a mutual friend at an event last December and was immediately impressed with her.

After a trusted political consultant friend told me that she had a real shot at winning, I encouraged my son to volunteer for her, which he was doing for much of this year. I’m delighted that his first campaign experience was more successful and rewarding than mine was when I spent the summer and fall of 1972 volunteering for the doomed presidential campaign of George McGovern.

Once again, Californians leaned progressive in their state races, electing a top-to-bottom slate of progressive statewide officeholders, and generally leaning progressive on state ballot measures—a far cry from the blighted Dark Ages of reactionary voting in the wake of Howard Jarvis, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson.

Voters approved two funding measures for homeless housing and related social services, as well as funding for children’s hospitals. They turned back an unconscionable effort to create a massive new property tax loophole that would primarily have advantaged the wealthy, and resoundingly defeated a measure to defund critically needed road and infrastructure investment—measures which together would have cost the state billions annually in lost revenue.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, voters succumbed to a massive scare campaign funded by the real estate lobby and rental-housing industry to defeat a measure to modify state law to restore a local rent-control option. In so doing, they flouted the principle of home rule and ignored the ruinous effects of runaway housing costs on California families.

They also rejected an environmentalist-backed water bond that would have invested almost $9 billion in a variety of projects to clean up, recycle and store rainwater, upgrade dams, restore fisheries, and other projects. Ironically, it was mainly supported in a handful of Northern California counties centered around the Bay Area, wine country, and Central Valley—the very same areas that so often overwhelmingly defeated previous water bonds to fund projects designed to bring more water to Southern California. But if turnabout’s fair play, it’s still a setback for better protecting, managing and allocating California’s water resources.

Voters in LA County surprised me twice: approving by more than two-thirds our own local water project measure for stormwater cleanup, reclamation and storage projects—an overdue effort we had been unable to accomplish back when I worked for the County. And they replaced an incumbent sheriff, who’d originally been elected only four years ago as a reformer, with a previously unknown candidate backed by the sheriff deputies’ union, which has vigorously resisted previous reform and accountability efforts. A major setback for police reform.

Nationally, between a newly empowered Democratic Congress and a besieged and increasingly combative president, the next two years will be a very rough ride. Even so, this past election also offers fresh evidence of how truly blessed we Californians are to live in our own blue heaven.


Joel Bellman

Joel Bellman worked in journalism and local government in Los Angeles for 35 years. He now teaches and writes on politics and pop culture. He can be contacted at

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