So the blue wave didn’t quite materialize into the tsunami Democrats were hoping to see, but it’s also clear there is a lot for progressives to celebrate as the dust settles from one of the most closely watched midterms in recent history.
The momentum could well carry the party into 2020, particularly if the trends witnessed this year continue into the future.
One of the biggest stories, on both sides of the political aisle, was the increase in voter participation. While we are still awaiting final numbers, it is clear that this was not a typical non-presidential election. In fact, we haven’t seen turnout like this in half a century.
Blocs that reliably vote left turned out in particular, including women, young people, and Latinos. A look at the growing demographics and how they vote (Hint: Not Republican) should also give pause to those hoping this year’s results were a fluke inspired by anti-Trump sentiment.
Flipping the House Can’t Be Underestimated
The biggest headline of the night was Democrats flipping the House. Yet, as it was more or less accepted to be a foregone conclusion, and, ’What we expected to happen, happened’ doesn’t bring in ratings, it was less celebrated than it should have been.
The House was an easier win, but in politics, particularly in 2018, there are no foregone conclusions. We have collectively learned to distrust polling, prognosticators, and perceived wisdom.
Additionally, with stories of locked polling places, malfunctioning machines, long lines, and Russian interference, there was even more reason for voters to question if their ballots were even being accurately counted. Apparently the system is not yet so broken as to prevent any meaningful Democratic wins.
And now that Democrats have control of the House, not only can they begin to put the breaks on the Trump administration’s plans with good old fashioned D.C. gridlock, they can open investigations the Republicans showed they were not willing to undertake. The Democrats now have the power to approve subpoenas to investigate Trump’s taxes, how the presidency is fattening his business’ bottom line, and his campaign’s ties to Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Historic Number of Female and LGBTQ Candidates Ran and Won
This year’s elections were historic for the number of LGBTQ and female candidates who ran and won seats. With the Trump administration setting its sights on the LGBTQ community, and a president who brags about grabbing women and successfully nominated a judge who also has credible sexual assault allegations against him, it’s not hard to understand the backlash that is occurring. The more historically oppressed peoples gain power, the harder it is to push them back down again, which the regressive right understands better than anyone.
Wins in the States
The blue wave might not have hit quite as hard on the federal level as the hope and hype led some to expect, but it certainly made landfall in local elections.
Democrats won big in statewide races, flipping gubernatorial seats in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. The party also flipped six state legislatures. As the federal government becomes less receptive to minority civil rights, the states are now seen as increasingly important in upholding gains made during the previous administration.
Even in states like Florida, where the outcome wasn’t what progressive hoped for, the increased attention and interest helped down ballot Democrats get into office. The same happened in Texas, where Beto O’Rourke lost his Senate bid but played a part in making the state bluer; as well as launching talk of a potential 2020 presidential run.
With redistricting set for 2020, those wins are key. While they aren’t enough to stop the Democrats’ gerrymandering problem, it is a step in the right direction.
Understanding the Senate Map, This Year and Going Forward
Hopes of flipping the Senate were always a pipe dream. No one who has been paying attention past the Democratic Party mailers believed it realistic when studying the map.
Yet the Democrats managed to win nearly 13 million votes in the Senate races, even as they not only failed to flip it, but lost seats. Still, that’s hardly a win for the Republicans in an election that has been considered a referendum on Trump.
Those numbers should also make conservatives nervous heading into 2020.