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A nation divided: the US after the midterms 

A fair number of Democrats seemed to be happy the day after last week’s election, but I’m not finding much to celebrate.

It’s good, of course, that Democrats won the House. They can investigate people in the Trump administration (although it’s hard to know whether those investigations will hurt Republicans).

They can pass progressive legislation, and while the Senate will reject it, it could mean some uncomfortable votes for Republicans.

And they can push policies and positions that the public ought to hear about. The Brookings Institution highlights the need for a focus on right-wing terrorism in the US, internet policy, US military involvement abroad, problems in Afghanistan and Libya, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

But the Republicans will still be in the majority in the Senate. They’ll be able to block anything the House Democrats try to do. And Republicans will have an easy time in confirmation hearings, including those for the Supreme Court. (As if to emphasize the fragility of the Democrats’ presence there, the day after the election, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was hospitalized after she fell and broke three ribs.)

Republicans’ control of the Senate isn’t likely to change two years from now, either. Democrats’ odds will certainly be better than this year, when 26 Democratic seats were up compared to the Republicans’ nine. In 2020, the Republicans will have to defend 22 out of the 33 seats on the ballot.

But most of those seats, as Michael Tomasky noted in the New York Times, “are in states that would elect a dog before they’d elect a Democrat.”

And so even though the majority of Americans live in states with Democratic senators, it’s likely that most senators will still be Republicans.

This is just a deeply divided, deeply polarized country, with urban areas Democratic and rural areas Republican, the northeast and west coasts Democratic and the South and mid-sections Republican.

This isn’t the first time we've been divided, obviously. We were divided – along similar lines – at the nation’s beginning, and sometimes we’ve found ways to come together. But that’ll be particularly hard right now, given the behavior of the man leading the country and the complicity of the elected officials of his party.

Can anything overcome that? The president and many of the Republican leaders have effectively used lies and exaggerations to turn a lot of the country against common-sense measures on health care, drug abuse, gun control, and immigration. I still think – naively, maybe – that it’s possible to overcome that, that the people of this country can find common ground on every one of those issues.

It’s hard to be optimistic, though, because hate and prejudice are such huge factors in our division. And Donald Trump and a number of other Republicans have made them acceptable.

Hate and prejudice have become so acceptable that the president is cheered when he sends troops to protect us from a fabricated invasion of brown people at our southern border. And Iowa Representative Steve King – who the day before the election joked that Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor might elope to Cuba – eked out a narrow win and will be taking his virulent, open racism back to Congress.

The hate has been there since the country's founding, but we overcame it, elected Barack Obama president in 2008, and re-elected him in 2012. Something has changed, though. There is an ugliness loose in the country. And two years seems like an awfully short time to put it back in the box.

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