…and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they’re talking about.
Now that the dust from the midterm elections has settled, we can finally draw some meaningful conclusions from the results. While there is much to be learned from this election’s outcome, there is one top-line result that perhaps outweighs the rest: this was a very good election for Democrats.
…and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they’re talking about. Okay, I generally try not to be so dismissive of other people’s opinions, but the numbers speak for themselves.
In the days after the election, many professional pundits like the New York Times‘ Nick Kristoff and Bret Stephens dismissed the results as mediocre or even a “warning to the Democrats.” Those takes were dubious at the time, and they’ve only grown more inaccurate as results continued to trickle in.
Reasonable people can disagree as to just how good of an election this was for Democrats, but it’s undeniable that the results fall heavily in their favor, regardless of President Trump’s hasty proclamation (does he make any other kind?) that this was a “big win” for Republicans. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert’s signature dichotomous question, 2018: great election or greatest election (for Democrats)?
And in case you are wondering: yes, this qualifies as a blue wave.
House of Representatives
The Democrats took back control of the House, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate a victory. For the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency, he’ll have a meaningful check on his power. No laws will get passed without House Democrats’ say-so, and he and his administration will no longer get a free pass on the oh so many scandals, unethical practices, and conflicts of interest that have piled up or come to light while Trump has been in office.
But the Democrats didn’t just win in the House—they won big. When all is said and done, Democrats will have won the House popular vote by roughly 7.5 percent. That’s a larger margin than in veritable midterm “wave” elections like 1994 and 2010. As FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver pointed out on Twitter:
The only two elections since 1992 in which the margin in the House popular vote exceeded that of 2018 were the Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008.
Though there are still some races that are too close to call, Democrats are projected to win 38 House seats, some of which were previously Republican strongholds. Yes, Republicans picked up 63 seats in 2010, but that was largely because 2008 was such a bad year for the GOP, meaning there was a lot more to be gained. Plus Democrats have a built-in structural disadvantage thanks to geography, self-sorting, and Republican gerrymandering.
The news for Democrats is less sanguine in the Senate, but there is a silver lining—or at least a pretty damn good excuse.
Yes, the Democrats will lose one or two seats in the Senate once all the results are in (goddamnit, Florida). But that’s actually an impressive feat considering they faced a comically unfavorable map this election; Democrats had to defend 26 seats, 10 of which were in states Trump won in 2016, while Republicans had to defend just nine seats, only one of which (Nevada) was in a state Clinton won.
Further, with the exception of Florida, where the race hasn’t been called, all of the Democratic losses (North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana) were in states that they wouldn’t have had any chance of winning in 2020 anyway. Meanwhile, they picked up seats in Arizona and Nevada—two states that are sure to be battlegrounds in the next election.
And then there’s Texas. No, Beto O’Rourke didn’t win. But he only lost by a scant 2.6 percent to incumbent Ted Cruz, the closest a Democrat has come to winning a Senate election in Texas since Lloyd Bentsen won in 1988. This continues a trend of Texas getting more and more purple over the past few elections.
Over the course of Barack Obama’s presidency, Democrats lost nearly 1,000 state legislative seats and nine governorships. Or as FiveThirtyEight‘s Claire Malone put it, “Obama won the White House, but Democrats lost the country.”
Though the losses weren’t entirely undone in this election, Democrats made a huge dent. They flipped seven governorships, 300 state legislative seats, and now have control of the majority of state attorneys general offices. They also established several new state trifectas (control of the governorship and both legislative chambers) and broke several Republican trifectas.
The importance of these victories cannot be overstated. This will have an immediate, palpable effect on millions of people’s lives more so than any other outcome of the election. With Democrats taking more control at the state level, they can expand access to healthcare and to the ballot box, extend LGBT and women’s rights, raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, and on and on and on.
To give just one example, the outgoing Republican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, blocked Medicaid expansion in the state on numerous occasions when his constituents voted in favor of it through ballot measures. Now with incoming Democrat Janet Mills taking the reigns, 70,000 more low-income Mainers will have access to the federal program.
And then there are all the progressive ballot measures that passed in states across the country. There are too many to list here, but just to name a few:
- Medicaid expansion in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, covering an estimated 325,000 additional low-income residents
- Marijuana legalization in Michigan
- Restoration of the right to vote for most convicted felons in Florida
- Raising the minimum to $11 per hour by 2022 in Arkansas
For a more comprehensive list, check out Ballotpedia.