OPINION: The 'Audacity of Hope' was so last decade. Have a whiff of this decade's new eau-de-stink, the 'Audacity of Lies'. Here's the kicker too-lies that work, lies that pay political dividends. Lies that become weapons. Ask Donald Trump.
Let me be clear, I'm not talking about some sniffy 'misrepresentations' or 'distortions of truth'. The correct word here is 'lies'. To all my journo colleagues out there, use it. Donald Trump clocked in an average of 30 lies a day in the seven-week run-up to the midterm election, according to The Washington Post. More documented whoppers were spewed forth to turn this election in his direction than he made in the entire first nine months of his presidency.
Did it work? 'Bigly' - if you ask him. It gave him what he needed. Trump kept control of the Senate in a year that mostly had safe Republican seats up for grabs anyway. This was base-wrangling. Messy - sure. Ugly to many, but effective.
But don't ask him. Because reality is very different. Ask the Women's Wave that was ushered in this year with a record number about to enter Congress. These 118 leaders are sprinkled with first timers that show the real diversity of the voters who got them there; the first two Native American women, the first two Muslim women, one a refugee, and even the youngest woman to enter Congress, who won with an astounding 78 percent of her district. Democrats gained footholds we haven't seen in years. Tellingly, Democrats won independents by 10 points. A historic 59 percent of women voted Democratic.
Indeed, if you read the tea leaves across the board, 45 million people voted for a Democrat, versus 33 million for a Republican. How could Democrats win by 12 million votes but still lose the Senate? The reality is, midterm elections are targeted to individual races, not spread across a nationwide tally.
What does this mean for the next two years of shouting across the aisle? The Democratically-controlled House can now thwart Trump's worst instincts by killing legislation before it sees the light of day. They can launch investigations and have a foothold toward accountability as he tries to kill the Mueller probe in bite-size pieces, as seen by his first post-election act, something he'd been itching to do for months. Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with an acting Attorney General who has publicly stated that neither Trump's nor his families' finances should be investigated. How convenient.
How will Donald Trump deal with his new split-Congress reality? He will double down. He will double down in lies when he needs them, largely because he hasn't suffered any lasting repercussions to teach him otherwise. He will double down on firing who he needs to and when because he has a Republican-controlled Senate who will approve his new cabinet appointees. He will become dear friends with executive orders, until the House or the Constitution rein him in.
You have to give him credit. He knows his base. Fear is a powerful political weapon. Why tolerate a few thousand small-pox-leprosy-carrying terrorist migrants 700 miles away among friends? Stick with me, the president intones, and I'll keep you safe.
American just needs to figure out how to keep safe from him in the next two years.
Tracey Barnett is a political commentator based in Auckland.