Riding the Midterm Wave

What one sees in the 2018 midterm election, obviously, depends on where one looks and what one came in expecting.

After the 2016 election, I remember repeatedly commenting to people saying “Just wait for 2018!” that 2018 wouldn’t be able to do anything good because:

A) The House districts are so overwhelmingly gerrymandered in favor of the GOP;

B) The Senate races up for vote this cycle had at least ten extremely vulnerable Democrats in red states and very few vulnerable Republican senators;

C) Voter suppression and obstruction and disenfranchisement efforts have been legalized in many places in the wake of court decisions favoring voter ID laws and striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act; and

D) Democrats, in the past several decades, have shown up for presidential elections but have sat out midterm elections and all of the hundreds of thousands of local races, state races, and federal down-ticket races — sat out both by not even bothering to field candidates, assuming either the races didn’t matter or were “unwinnable,” AND by not working to get out every vote possible everywhere, every time.

Because those were my expectations, I had very little hope two years ago of seeing any significant electoral change in these midterms.

What I saw last night was a House that flipped blue in highly significant numbers despite overwhelming odds against it due to gerrymandering & disenfranchisement attempts — a House where the vast majority of seats were vigorously contested, in many cases fielding serious candidates for the first time in decades; a House where people historically left out of positions of power ran and won, elected by people who want their voices included as those who craft our country’s laws.

What I saw last night was, as expected, most of the extremely vulnerable Senate Democrats losing their races. This is a disappointment but not a surprise, particularly in the wake of the GOP being able to get two new justices on the Supreme Court, thus delivering to GOP voters on the thing they look most to the Senate to do for them. HOWEVER, I also saw the one vulnerable Republican in a purple state, Nevada, lose to a Democrat, which may be a forecast of contests in 2020 when there will be more vulnerable Republican seats up for election.

What I saw last night were seven Governor seats flipping, with all of the flips going blue, and flips in six state legislatures with the flips all going blue, delivering either all blue legislatures or split party control. Outside of those flips, there were gains that solidified Democratic seats in already blue state legislatures, including in New York’s Senate which is now strongly Democratic for the first time in a very long time and should be able to circumvent games where a few “rogue” Democrats caucus with the GOP to give them control of the state Senate.

What I saw last night were significant wins, along with some significant losses, on several ballot issues that Democrats have championed for a long time, including Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, and restoration of voting rights to felons who have served their sentences.

What I saw last night was the overwhelming majority of actual, individual votes cast nationwide being cast for Democrats; Democrats putting up highly competitive battles that came very close and would have been unthinkable in the past several decades, in GOP bastions; 20 to 30 million more voters turning out for midterm elections than did so in past midterms; explosive early voting numbers; explosive voting engagement among young voters, with two thirds of voters aged 18–29 voting blue.

What I saw was, in virtually every single respect, something that seemed impossible to me after the elections in 2016.

What I saw was a blue wave. A blue wave that has built, and that is building, and that has the potential to keep getting bigger and stronger if people keep running and working and showing up and turning out and voting.

I didn’t see everything I wanted or hoped for, but I saw infinitely more than I expected or imagined.