EVANSVILLE – If you wondered what it felt like at the exhaustive conclusion of a First World War offensive, having moved just six inches closer to Berlin at the cost of four months and tens of thousands dead, Tuesday’s election results probably felt somewhat like that. The key differences are of course that no one is dead, we live in relative comfort, the war actually did end, and you will never make it to Berlin.

Following the highly anticipated 2018 midterms, neither Republicans nor Democrats perceive much incentive to adjust their approach, victory and defeat having been almost perfectly apportioned to validate the most powerful forces within any institution, those militating toward the status quo.

On the one hand, Hoosier Republicans managed to hold onto their congressional seats and kept their super majorities in the state legislature, despite some of the strongest challenges from Democrats in years. Meanwhile the national GOP took small gains in favorable Senate races (including Indiana with Senator-elect Mike Braun) and fended off high-profile governor challenges.

On the other hand, Hoosier Democrats did make a couple of gains in Indiana House and Senate seats, most notably in well-educated suburban areas such as J.D. Ford’s district. Even when Republicans like Speaker Brian Bosma and Sen. Jim Merritt won, they did so with a smaller margin than before. And national Democrats re-took the House of Representatives with at least 34 new seats as of this writing. With a solid majority we can expect subpoenas to rain down on the Trump administration like a torrential downpour.

Many Hoosier Democrats will nevertheless view Tuesday’s results as a defeat, particularly because of Joe Donnelly’s high-profile loss. One lesson is that Republicans will not vote against their own interests or ideology (taxes, judges, guns, etc.) because of President Trump’s character flaws. Democrats will need to offer Republicans more to cleave their partisan default.

Another lesson may be to market (and truly believe) the Democratic ideology as applicable to everyone everywhere. Older rural white voters once formed the backbone of the Democratic base. But today the party performs worst among this large group. Without engaging in more identity politics – which turns off vast swaths of society – the message may need to be more universal in applying to all occupations, genders and races.

Rather than equal outcomes as preached by Bernie Sanders, Hoosier Democrats could focus on equal opportunities. That message supports a broad range of policies including strong public schools, vibrant regional hubs of cultural amenities, and sensible social safety nets.

Hoosier Democrats remain a potent force and Hoosier Republicans would be wise not to underestimate that potential. Nothing was resolved Tuesday. 

Trumpism was not rejected by the nation; and neither was the general Democratic temptation to transform themselves into the leftward version of Trumpism. Decisions on where American society goes from here were punted to 2020.

So we can see the same battles we’ve grown weary of waging occurring all over again, starting in earnest in just a few short months. Fundraising for the 2020 contests begins now, and formal announcements of candidacies will begin in about six months. 

The Iowa caucuses are just over 14 months away. 

Joshua Claybourn is an attorney and author in Evansville.