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It was a good night for the Democrats. It wasn’t the liberal “blue wave” some hoped for, but it might be the beginning of one. It wasn’t a decisive referendum on President Trump, but it created a check on his authoritarian power. [..]
But Democrats have to be smart and not play on the president’s turf. It was heartening to see Democrats have a coherent message on the campaign trail and, with uncharacteristic discipline, focus on healthcare and the importance of coverage for pre-existing conditions. They need to keep it up.
Democrats must also look forward and face a crucial test, whether to lean to the left, responding to the success of candidates like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or whether to stay closer to the middle, in hopes of cementing their 2018 success with suburban Republican voters, especially women, who deplore the racist, relentlessly negative tone their party has adopted in slavish devotion to Donald Trump. Democrats are still badly split, just as they were in 2016 with Bernie v Hillary. While former president Obama emerged late in the campaign and fired up the party troops, there is no clear future party leader.
Deep in the darkest recesses of Donald Trump’s very, very large brain, there is now a nagging feeling that gnaws at his braggadocious narcissism. His own supporters are just not that into him any more.
Not all of them have abandoned him, for sure. The angry old men are still there, screaming their insults at immigrants, the media and anyone else who isn’t an angry old man.
But all those white women – the people he called a majority of women (because the rest of them don’t count to him) – they just ran for the doors that say Trexit.
The exit polls gave Democrats a massive 21-point advantage among women, while Republicans scored just a two-point lead among men. White women split 50-48 for the anti-Trump movement known as Democrats. The only age group that Republicans won were 65 and older – and that was only by one point.
Just two years ago, in those same exit polls, white women gave Trump a nine-point lead over the first woman to hold a major party’s presidential nomination. Married women were pretty divided in 2016, but leaned heavily towards Democrats on Tuesday.
In the end there was no overwhelming blue wave. A wave washes all before it. But when Republicans expand their majority in the Senate, win governor’s races in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire, Democrats cannot claim a broad and decisive shift in electoral opinion towards them.
But there is now a dam. Democrats won the House of Representatives. For the first time since his election there is the potential for some kind of legislative check on Donald Trump’s presidency. The House has subpoena power. Democrats can set their own agenda and block the president’s. For the first time since Trump’s election there is the potential for resistance to move from the streets to Congress.
It was not a victory for Trump. Democrats won the popular vote by more than 8% nationally, and illustrated how he could be a liability for Republicans. It was to vote against him and his agenda that the young and Latinos turned out in huge numbers and why women and suburbanites threw their lot in with the Democrats, delivering a Nevada Senate seat and creating the closest race in Texas for a generation. It was in no small part in response to his victory that so many women and minorities decided to run, making this Congress the most diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity in history.
But it was not the defeat that many wished for or that Trump deserved.
Welcome to the start of the 2020 presidential race. If Democrats look at their impressive wins in governors’ races (despite losing in Ohio), suburban wins in the House and a huge gender-gap advantage coupled with some big disappointments for high-profile progressives, the arguments for candidates in the mold of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) look weaker Wednesday morning. (House candidates whom Sanders campaigned for batted only .500, with five wins and five losses.)
When you look to the Rust Belt and Upper Midwest, moderate Democrats such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former vice president Joe Biden look like they could duplicate wins in gubernatorial and Senate races in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Watching the close-but-no-win races in Florida’s governor’s and Texas’s Senate races, Democratic primary voters may be nervous about nominating a fast-rising liberal such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s more moderate image may convince Democrats that he’s the safer pick. The biggest takeaway for Democratic primary voters for 2020 should be: Not just any candidate is going to win, certainly not a progressive star who can be painted as a far lefty and will struggle in purple states. The question should be: Who is going to keep all those suburban voters in the Democratic fold?
Enormous turnout. A record number of women running — and winning, some of them in squeak-out victories unseating incumbents and turning red districts blue. Mikie Sherrill, who talked about her time as a Navy pilot and mother of four on the campaign trail, won in New Jersey. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger both won in Virginia. Lauren Underwood won in Illinois. In the Kansas governor’s race, Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach, one of the nation’s leading architects in voter suppression.
A significant number of women of color ran for office this year — and though it looks like Stacey Abrams is not going to win in Georgia, after a long fight not just for voters, but over voter suppression — many of these candidates won. Some claimed victory with small, mostly-female campaign staffs. All of them did it with the energy of female voters, many of whom said they were disgusted by President Trump and the chauvinistic shenanigans of our male-dominated White House and Congress. [..]
It is exhilarating and remarkable to see so many women succeed against long odds, and heartening to see so many take their place as “firsts” in what has never been a truly representational democracy.
But I am worried, too. The women are here, and the expectation is that they will do what women so often do: act as a cleanup crew.