Our Take on the Midterms

With the 2018 elections behind us, it's time to reflect on what happened, what didn't happen, and what it all means for our country going forward.

(1) Pay no attention to the spin: Democrats were the winners.

Donald Trump went into full media-narrative combat mode Wednesday to convince us that it was a good night for Republicans. And in a few races it was. But overall, Democrats were the clear winners Tuesday night, taking back the House with a strong margin as well as many wins in key state races. We also padded our bench with fresh new talent for elections to come.

(2) The "Blue Wave" rhetoric lost us the expectations game.

Election Night pundits made comments about how the blue wave "crashed early", and it was underscored by a few disappointments in the Senate and in Florida. But the expectations pundits had were frankly ridiculous. Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams weren't long shots, they were full-court shots, and they both hit the rim. Democrats won plenty of races they wouldn't have in most years, including House races in Kansas and Utah.

(3) The real victories were in the statehouses.

The period of redistricting after the 2010 Census and midterms had a devastating impact on our party's performance these last eight years. Taking back the U.S. House of Representatives was important, but the long-term victory will be the flipping of 6 state legislative chambers and several governor's mansions. But we're going to need more statehouse victories in 2020. Besides defeating Trump, this should be our top priority moving forward.

(4) There's a geographic divide over #MeToo.

On the coasts and in urban areas, the Kavanaugh hearings were seen very differently than they were seen in the South and the agricultural Midwest. Their votes against Kavanaugh cost Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly their Senate seats. The one Democrat who voted for him was re-elected in West Virginia. Throughout October, we heard even Republicans in coastal states take Ford's side and even Democrats in rural states take Kavanaugh's. While we're far from understanding this divide, we see it clearer than ever.

(5) There's a clear realignment taking place.

Every election cycle, political scientists like to ask themselves if a "realignment" in the electorate is underway, and it happens basically anytime a chamber or office changes parties. But it really does seem to be happening under Trump. Rural districts across the country have been gradually going red over the last few decades, but until recently many could still reliably elect Democrats. Now suburban districts are starting to consistently go to Democrats. Most surprisingly, southern suburban seats, like those around Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas, flipped blue last week. Higher education levels in a district used to correlate with higher Republican support. Now it's the opposite. This may be the most significant legacy of Donald Trump.

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