By Robert A. Vella
The hoped for “blue wave” didn’t materialize in the 2018 midterm elections held yesterday, but it still was a good night for the Democratic opposition to President Trump. Dems won control of the U.S. House of Representatives and gained some governorships and in some state legislatures across the nation by about the middle margins that were expected while Republicans added to their majority in the U.S. Senate by the high-side margins that were projected (see the full results here).
Voter turnout was high for a midterm, and the U.S. Elections Project currently puts the number at just over 47% – precisely where my pre-election assessment report had anticipated. However, it did not uniformly favor one party over the other. Democratic candidates did very well in the suburban areas I cited in the report, but Republican candidates for statewide offices excelled in the red states won by Trump in 2016. Female candidates did extremely well, and now there will be more than a hundred in the U.S. Congress for the first time in history.
Progressive candidates like Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor race and Beto O’Rourke in the Texas senate race ran strong campaigns even in defeat which will probably make the Democratic Party reconsider its long losing strategy of running Republican-light centrists in the southern states. Another progressive candidate, Stacey Abrams, also ran strongly and has not yet conceded the governor race in Georgia where a runoff election is still possible.
One of the biggest surprises was the defeat of two Republican governor candidates, Kris Kobach in deep-red Kansas and Scott Walker in purple Wisconsin, who both had angered the people of their states with a barrage of right-wing extremist policies including blatant voter suppression.
For those interested in the accuracy of public opinion polls, they generally were considering their inherent error margins; but, polling in some states like Florida and Ohio were wrong in consistently showing leads for some of the Democratic candidates who ended up losing such as Richard Cordray.
In the many state ballot measures, efforts to reverse partisan gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts and to ease or to increase voting restrictions were largely successful. Pro-marijuana measures also succeeded, and anti-abortion restrictions in two conservative states were passed.
Although Democrats will be disappointed that the wave election they had wanted didn’t occur, they have achieved their most important goal in securing real political power as a check against Trump’s rampaging authoritarianism. Although Republicans will be disappointed in losing control of the House of Representatives, they did excel in the Senate and in key governor races despite an electorate energized against the acrimonious divisiveness of Trump. The bottom line is that these midterms poignantly reflected the intense cultural and political polarization of America today. Look for more of the same in the years ahead.