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Boyd Matheson: What we learned in the 2018 election

SALT LAKE CITY โ€” In the run up to Tuesday's vote many candidates breathlessly declared that the election was a battle for the heart and soul of the nation. A friend passed along this thought to me just before the polls closed:

"If elections decide who we are as a country, then we will always be at war with ourselves."

That could be the most important lesson in a day filled with them. The heart and soul of America will always be defined by the daily actions of citizens, not by politicians or by which party secures the majority of the votes. The lesson of 2018 should be that as a nation we rediscover where the power truly resides and what makes America so extraordinary.

Other lessons also must be learned. Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives. Will President Trump learn the lesson of President Bill Clinton's first midterm loss?

Clinton was on shaky ground and on a trajectory to be a one-term president. Following the crushing midterm defeat by Newt Gringrich-led Republicans, Clinton pivoted to the middle and worked across the aisle on key initiatives โ€” which ultimately ensured his reelection.

President Trump campaigned for Republicans saying that he was on the ballot. He didn't win. Does President Trump have the capacity and the will to work with Democrats in the House to get important work done to address vital issues including healthcare and immigration? The 2020 election has begun and President Trump is now officially on the ballot.

The biggest political miscalculation of the election cycle was the president focusing on immigration as his central issue during the past two weeks of the campaign. Exit polling showed health care was the top issues for voters followed distantly by the economy and then immigration. A full 86 percent of voters said they were as well off or better off economically today than they were two years ago.

"It is the economy stupid" is still the right mantra during a period of prosperity.

The projected blue wave turned out be only enough prop wash to propel Democrats to the majority. However that prop wash delivers to Democrats in the House the speaker's gavel, committee chairmanships and subpoena power. Democrats should learn the lessons Republicans failed to understand during the Obama years โ€” just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Republicans squandered countless opportunities by becoming the party of obstruction, investigation and division. Lessons of history are often lost on politicians, especially politicians in power. Talk of impeachment proceedings have already begun swirling among House Democrats and left-leaning organizations in Washington. The lesson for House Democrats should be, restraint always works.

In this election the irresistible force of the blue wave crashed into the immoveable object of the red wall and Americans voted for the checks and balances in divided government.

The echo across the country is a collective sigh that the midterm elections are over. The negative ads are done and cable TV stations will be figuring out how to find ad revenue for December. The rest of the country, exhausted and exasperated will return their focus to home, community and careers. The important lesson is that if we want elections to have less of an impact on our lives, we need to have Washington less involved in our lives. In this area Utah is poised to lead and thrive.

The lesson for Utahns is that every voice makes a difference and every vote matters. Regardless of which side of the issues or candidate citizens landed, showing up, speaking and standing up is what makes Utah one of the most successful laboratories of democracy in the entire country.

As a nation we cannot remain at war with ourselves every two years. Setting aside the purely political rhetoric of campaign years to focus on the real issues that impact hard-working citizens, families and communities should be the unifying force for the future.

That is a lesson we should learn and repeat.