The 2018 midterm election cycle is mercifully over after months of voter suppression, racist ads and Democrats’ dreams of a Trump enveloping blue wave. Conventional wisdom prevailed—Democrats took a majority in the House of Representatives while Republicans held the Senate.
Democrats didn’t get the blue wave they were hoping for. Republicans retained considerable power. Nonetheless, Tuesday was a solid night for progressive politics. Democrats won their projected house majority. A record number of women were elected and progressive ballot measures prevailed in several states. Here are the main takeaways from the midterms.
Democrats Lose High Profile Races
The earliest Democratic disappointment came from Texas, where Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke lost to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke was a fundraising dynamo, and he’s receiving due praise for his strong showing in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1988 and where high profile Democrat Wendy Davis was pummelled in her 2014 governor bid. He’s also being floated as a potential presidential nominee in 2020. That probably isn’t a good idea, which means it’s totally gonna happen.
In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum lost the governor’s race to Nazi-adjacent incumbent Ron DeSantis. It doesn’t matter that DeSantis openly touted potential corruption with the Trump organization. In fact, that probably helped him.
Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the Georgia governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp amidst rampant voter suppression efforts. There’s a decent chance Kemp was helped by the fact that he was in charge of the entire election as Georgia state secretary. Maybe one day we’ll look back on Kemp’s racist pandering and wonder how the hell a politician who is actively purging voters who will not vote for him from state rolls was ever allowed to run for elected office in the first place. Maybe that day will be after the runoff Abrams hopes to secure.
There’s a reason everyone repeats the phrase representation matters: it does.
In total, a record 118 women will serve in the 116th Congress, including the first Muslim and Native American women. America is still far from being a fully representative democracy, but last night was a large step in the right direction.
Important Ballot Measures
Progressive candidates performed admirably, but progressive ideas did even better. Florida voted to end felon disenfranchisement, which could alter the state’s elections for years to come. Non-partisan redistricting measures (aka anti-gerrymandering) won out in Michigan, Utah, Missouri and Colorado. And both Michigan and Maryland voters approved same-day voter registration for future elections, which should exist everywhere.
It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but it was a success nonetheless, especially considering the strength of the economy.
Exactly! If you'd told people in December 2016 that Republicans would only have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate in the 116th Congress, they'd have said, "Wow, you're bullish on the Democrats!" https://t.co/vbr9g6otLN
— Josh Chafetz (@joshchafetz) November 7, 2018
There’s really only one way this could go badly—if Democratic Party higher-ups use yesterday’s success as a reason to stick with the milquetoast centrism that brought us Donald Trump. But there’s no way they’ll do that, right?