A substantial majority of voters has rejected Trumpism. The problem is that Trumpism doesn’t need anything like a majority to retain control over some or all veto points:
Democrats this year won the popular vote over the Republicans in House races by a 7.1 percent margin, but that didn’t translate to massive gains in actual seats. So far, Democrats have won 28 GOP-held seats for a net gain of 26 seats (they lost two seats previously held by Democrats in Minnesota and Pennsylvania).
But it’s important to note the result is not because Trump’s agenda has widespread support. Time and time again, the American public has rankled at Trump’s hardline immigration agenda, the GOP’s attempts to cut Medicaid funding and repeal Obamacare, and historically unpopular Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The only reason many lawmakers who back these ideas were able to maintain power is because these are the voices most protected in the electoral process.
For years, Republicans, with their hands on the levers in state legislatures and governors’ mansions, have made it incredibly hard for Democrats to make gains in Congress, redrawing congressional boundaries to favor Republicans and passing laws that make it harder for Americans to vote.
The combination of Trump turning the Republican Party into an explicit party of white nationalism, the nearly unconstrained ability of plutocrats and corporate donors to swamp small advertising markets, and aggressive voter suppression is making the math in the Senate particularly brutal. The Democrats had several strong candidates get absolutely destroyed in predominantly white red states yesterday. Take a look at the states of the senators every one of which was necessary to pass the ACA — most of those represent states Dems can’t carry even with proven candidates in a wave year. The next two years are going to involve a lot of discourse from people on the left with the implicit assumption that the precise ideological positioning of the next Democratic president is the most critical factor in determining what agenda can be enacted, when in fact a president coming out for something like Medicare For All gets you about 3% of the way there. Trump is remarkably unpopular given the structural conditions, but is unpopular in a way that guarantees the huge representation of his party in our undemocratic political institutions.