Democrats won in many suburbs and among the upper-middle-class. More surprisingly, Democrats done it during a robust economy that largely benefited these two specific groups who in 2016 backed Trump.
The Trump train derailment was caused by multiple unforgiving, sharp curves. Political analysts believe the Trump-GOP train flew off the tracks among independents and moderate Republicans because of the president’s caustic leadership: his divisive rhetoric, never-ending drama, fear-mongering, false messaging and autocratic tendencies.
The president’s history of misogyny, the rise of the Me-Too movement, and the Brett M. Kavanaugh fiasco also drove many angry women to the polls and to run for political office. Women as voters and women as candidates in record-breaking numbers were key in winning battleground districts. If a rebuke of Trump is the main headline for this midterm election; the next best and most suitable co-headline would be: “Women Won Big in the 2018 Midterms!”
Democrats did their part to create wins. They drove home the point of the urgency to reform healthcare (the number one issue for most Democrats) that brought the party to show up at the polls in large numbers. A favorable trend is blue going into 2020.
The Big Caveat
But conventional wisdom says the 2020 presidential election is clearly still in play – that is the big warning Democrats must take from this midterm.
A Republican political strategist could reasonably make a counter argument that the GOP also did well, even improved their standing in the U.S. Senate.
The harsh truth is the maelstrom of political chaos and racial animosity have not proven to be anathema to large segments of Americans.
So close to the midterms, three major events occurred that normally would have torpedoed the GOP’s odds of winning: a first ever attempted mail bombing of top Trump critics and a former president, former vice president, former secretary of state; the most atrocious attack in U.S. history on the Jewish community at a synagogue; and two black people murdered at a grocery store only because of their skin color. All three hate crimes were carried out by right-wing extremists and arguably inspired by Trump’s rhetoric.
Yet, the sobering alarm of these events, that the political-cultural weather of the nation is dangerously dysfunctional, have not deterred Trump loyalists.
Instead, it’s arguable that mainstream republicanism has embraced a new norm; a new norm in the mold closer to Trumpian-ism, and that this election is evidence of this transformation.
Pluses for Republicans: Trump has delivered his promise of stacking the U.S. Supreme Court with conservative justices that convinced conservative voters to stay red in the midterm.
Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals and policies animated a large xenophobic base. They also voted red in the midterm.
Pundits believe the president’s base is undeterred; no matter whatever unpalatable scandal is thrown their way.
They also believe that Democrats taking the House could actually bode well for 2020 because it will now place shared accountability should there be gridlock and nothing gets done in the next two years.
The stage is set and forecasting 2020 is straightforward: Trump’s victory depends on whether his loyal base will be large enough; while Democrats must win the working-class Midwest, and replicate what they’ve done in this midterm, capture the suburban vote.
Results, Really a Blue Wave, but…
Democrats flipped 41 seats and won in even unexpected deep red districts. It was a history-making win in terms of seats flipped blue. The new House composition is 235-200. Republicans have controlled the House for eight years until now.
On the flipside, Republicans defended their majority in the Senate and picked up three seats. The count: 53-47.
But skeptics say this victory by the GOP comes with a grain of salt because Democrats had 26 seats up for election this 2018 midterm and two independents (who caucus with Democrats). Republicans only had nine seats up for election.
Clearly, the mathematical odds to flip the Senate was grossly stacked against Democrats from the beginning. In the next midterm 2022, the senate seats up for election will be more favorable for Democrats compared to this year. (How it works -- senate races are for six-years each; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the seats are up for election every two years.)
It just so happen this time around that many more Democrat senate seats relative to Republican seats were up for grab.
When looking at raw popular votes nationally in House races, Democrats set a record-breaking total – Democrats received 9 million more votes than Republicans, which brings up old criticisms that Democrats complain about: that the GOP benefits from a faulty system, and not just in the Electoral College.
Gerrymandering (manipulation of drawing districts to favor a certain party) has benefitted the Republican party far more than Democrats, largely because most governorships have been held by Republicans. (How it works – usually the party in power locally gets to draw the districts.) With the advent of computers, the potential for gerrymandering could be executed with precision.
The good news for Democrats is that gerrymandering could be curbed in the next elections because they picked up governor’s seats in seven states this 2018, which also bodes well for federal-state cooperation on important issues such as Medicaid, Medicare, and education funding.
Voter suppression is also a common complaint by Democrats.
But despite excessive hurdles, the 2018 midterm saw the highest voter turnout ever. Some 113 million Americans voted or about 49 percent of the total eligible population. It’s arguable that this trend also bodes well for Democrats leading into 2020.
What people are saying about the midterm elections
University of Hawaii at Manoa professor emeritus and political scientist Belinda Aquino, Ph.D., views the election as a mixed bag.
“I was delighted that the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives. This gives U.S. representatives greater leverage in introducing or supporting legislation for progressive and liberal causes which are aimed at benefiting the underprivileged and underrepresented population.
“I am generally satisfied for several reasons. The Democrats staged a strong comeback to power in the House and the number of women candidates who won was unprecedented in American political history. Also, several candidates from minority populations like African-Americans, Latin Americans and Asians also showed growing political clout. The electorate showed that they had voted for intelligent and competent legislators far different from previous choices.”
Like most political experts, Dr. Aquino says this midterm was a referendum on Trump.
“It may not have been a complete victory for the Democrats and a complete defeat for the Republicans, but it was definitely a referendum of Trump’s performance. At election time, his approval rating had dipped down to 30 and 40 percent, well below previous presidents at midterm. (In other words about 6 of 10 people disapprove of Trump’s performance.) This falling state of his stature with the electorate could only indicate a significant diminution of his power because he had campaigned vigorously for Republican candidates in states that he had won in 2016.”
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