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EDITORIAL: Democrats take the House, but national ‘wave’ washes out

As the adage goes, close only counts in hand grenades, horseshoes and dancing. But close was also a significant motif of Tuesday’s balloting — in Nevada and across the nation. Many high-profile races throughout the country hinged on only 1 or 2 percentage points either way, highlighting both the enthusiasm of partisans and how evenly voters are divided in many locales.

Nevada vote totals were delayed well past the time polls officially closed at 7 p.m., as state law prevents counties from releasing numbers until all those waiting in line cast their ballots. Lawmakers should rethink this approach. Virtually ever other state releases early voting totals immediately after the deadline without any discernible effect on turnout.

Nationally, both parties could claim some successes.

As expected, Democrats took control of the U.S. House, winning a small majority. That follows the historical tradition of the minority party realizing gains in off-year elections. The question now arises whether the Democratic leadership will focus on legislative accomplishments or indulge their hyperliberal partisans and become mired in pointless investigations intended to overturn the 2016 presidential election.

Nancy Pelosi, who stands to become speaker in the lower chamber, stressed unity and talked about “restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances.” We’ll see. She also said House Democrats would emphasize “transparency and openness” and will “have accountability and strive for bipartisanship.” That sounds laudable, but Rep. Pelosi’s divisive track record doesn’t inspire confidence, nor does the fact that many House committees will now be led by leftist warriors with no fealty to the Constitution.

On the Senate side, Republicans solidified their narrow majority thanks to an advantageous electoral map. Democrats had pipe dreams of taking back the upper chamber on a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, but that proved wishful thinking, particularly because they were defending 24 of the 33 contested seats, including 10 in states the president won handily.

It’s worth noting that four Democratic senators representing a state Donald Trump carried two years ago who also abetted the effort to smear Brett Kavanaugh are now out of work. In addition, by fortifying their Senate majority, Republicans have made it easier for the president to confirm his constitutionalist judicial nominees to the bench.

Reports of a national “blue wave” proved somewhat exaggerated. With a divided Congress, don’t expect much progress on controversial issues such as immigration, taxes, spending and the budget. Perhaps a bipartisan infrastructure bill will emerge, but hope for much else appears dim as both parties and the president position themselves for 2020.

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