The results of the 2018 midterm election are in. Democrats achieved some, but not all, of their objectives. Here are ten takeaways from the November 6th results.
1. The Resistance worked. Even before Donald Trump was coronated, Democratic protest groups — such as Indivisible — sprang up across the United States. One of their objectives was to flip congressional districts where, in 2016, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican won the congressional contest. This objective was accomplished: Democrats won at least 225 seats (of 435) with 13 to be determined.
Now Trump is forced to deal with Democratic members of Congress. To say the least, this is a huge accomplishment; for example, it will block any further Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
2. Nonetheless, a lot of work remains to be done. Republicans retained control of the Senate with at least 52 seats. They continue to have the exclusive power to determine appointments to the Federal judiciary — which means that Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will continue to pack the courts with conservative judges.
Democrats came close but failed to win a majority of gubernatorial races; they now hold 23 with one race (Georgia) yet to be decided. (Democrats did not win in Florida, more about that below). Nonetheless, Dems now control most of the populous states — such as California and New York. And they control key swing states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — states that Trump unexpectedly won in 2016 (Democrats did not prevail in the Ohio gubernatorial race).
3. Big voter turnout didn’t necessarily translate into wins. The New York Times estimates, “Approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014.” Most Democrats believe that when there is high voter turnout, their candidates win; but this fails to take into account the electoral college effect, that is, it depends where the voters turn out.
A record 80 million voters participated in Senate contests — not all states had a Senate race. Democrats cast 57 percent of the votes and still lost 3 seats.(!) Because Republicans turned out where they had to. For example, in Texas, Democrats had an excellent candidate, Beto O’Rourke, and Republicans had a loathsome candidate, Ted Cruz. Democrats turned out in record numbers — more than 4 million voters — but Cruz won (50.8 percent) because Republican voters also turned out.
Giving credit to the devil: Trump abandoned House races and, instead, focussed on Senate races that Republicans absolutely had to win. For example, he went to Texas and cajoled Republicans to vote for Cruz — even though Trump and Cruz detest each other. This strategy also worked in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee; and, maybe, in Florida.
Notably, Trump’s strategy did not work in Montana, where Democrat John Tester — Trump’s number one target — won with 50.1 percent of the vote. The New York Times analyzed: “Tester has prevailed as a Democrat in a state that leans Republican largely on the strength of his local appeal: he flies back from Washington, D.C., to work on his farm nearly every weekend, and emphasizes the value of knowing your neighbors.” There was also record turnout in Montana and Tester overwhelmingly won the female vote and 67 percent of the youth vote — it helps that he’s friends with the members of Pearl Jam.
4. Florida remains a mystery: Before November 6th, polls showed Democratic Senate candidate Bill Nelson up 3-5 points over Republican Rick Scott; the polls also showed Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum up 3-5 points over Republican Ron de Santis — who is a turkey. De Santis apparently won by 35,000 votes and Scott apparently won by 15,000 votes — there will be a recount in both contests. Like the situation in Georgia, the Florida vote feels like there was malevolence involved.
5. Republicans like crooks. Remember when Republicans were the “Family Values” Party? Now they’ve become the Trump Values Party; “It’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win.” In New York (CD 27) voters apparently re-elected Chris Collins who is under indictment for securities fraud. In California (CD 50) voters re-elected Duncan Hunter who is under indictment for campaign corruption. (BTW, in the classless move of the election, Hunter accused his opponent Ammar Campa-Naijar of being a muslim terrorist.)
6. Georgia has voter suppression issues. Democrat Stacey Abrams, an African-American, managed to garner at least 49 percent of the vote. the problem is that her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, is also Secretary of State and has done a bunch of things to suppress the vote — particularly that of African-Americans. (On November 8th, a lawsuit forced Kemp to resign (https://protectdemocracy.org/update/breaking-georgia-voters-lawsuit-forces-brian-kemp-to-resign-secretary-of-state-role).) Looks like this election will end up in court.
7. Trump’s popularity tracked the Senate races. The biggest key to the Senate results was Trump’s popularity in the state the contest was held in. Morning Consult (https://morningconsult.com/tracking-trump/ ) has a chart that shows where Trump is most popular: In North Dakota he was +15 and the Democrat lost. In Indiana Trump was +9 and in Missouri +8; Dems lost. In Texas Trump was +7 and that was too much for Beto O’ Rourke to overcome. (The exceptions to this rule are West Virginia, where Democrat Manchin won even though Trump was +24 and Montana where Tester won even though Trump was +10. I think Manchin had local authenticity, like Tester.)
8. Trump motivated his base with immigration horror stories –the “invasion” from Central America. This had an impact in Texas. CBS News reported: “Voters in Texas are relatively split about what they think the most important problem is facing the country, according to exit polls. More than one-third of voters believe that health care is the most important problem and among them, more than two-thirds voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Of the third of voters who believe that immigration is the most important problem, about three-quarters support Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Nearly a quarter of voters things the economy is the country’s biggest problem, and among them, the majority voted for Mr. Cruz.” [Emphasis added]
ABC News reported that immigration was the most important issue for one-third of Arizona voters. “[Republican Senate candidate] McSally overwhelmingly is winning voters focused on the issue of immigration.” (84 percent)
9. Trump voters belong to a cult. They resolutely hold onto their justification for voting for Trump (immigration, abortion, guns…) and close their eyes to his ethical shortcomings, They’ll do anything to win.
10. Democrats prevailed because of the female vote. Pew Research noted: “Nationally, voters favored Democratic candidates for Congress over Republican candidates by a margin of about 7 percentage points… [However] Women favored the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 percentage points (59% to 40%) while men voted for the Republican 51% to 47%.” (White women split 49 percent to 49 percent; while college educated women favored the Democratic candidate 59 percent to 39 percent.)
This was a blue wave. It’s a tremendous accomplishment to take back the House of Representatives and to elect so many qualified Democrats throughout the country. Congratulations!
Now get to work preparing for the 2020 presidential election.