For once, it all happened more or less as we foresaw — and by “we” I mean risk-averse political commentators who hugged the polling averages and projections tight while resisting both Betomania and the occasional flashbacks to 2016. A good night for Republicans in the Senate. An excellent night for Democrats in the House. The Trumpian Upper Midwest swinging back toward Democrats. Red-state senate voters sticking with the G.O.P. The mobilize-the-base strategy falling just short for Democrats in Florida and Georgia. A rebuke to Trump in the overall returns, but not a presidency-ending repudiation. Two years of chaos and hysteria ending in a return to stalemate.
Between their Senate gains and a few surprising gubernatorial victories Republicans probably have enough consolation prizes to feel O.K. about the outcome. Trump critics on the right will feel a little better than O.K., since now the House can check and investigate our morally challenged president while the Senate keeps confirming conservative judges.
But this election confirms that, contra certain Trump enthusiasts, the #MAGA era in right-wing politics is essentially a defensive era, in which G.O.P. leverages a fortunate Electoral College win and an advantage in the Senate to fill the courts and delay liberal ambitions for a time — but fails, conspicuously, to reap political rewards from the current economic expansion and to build an actual popular majority.