What You Missed This Month, November 2018: The Midterm Elections

We can all agree: sometimes, the news can be overwhelming. Due to the sensationalism of today’s media, it can be difficult to parce through stories and tell which are important and which aren’t. But, this month, one event stole the show: the midterm elections. So, I’ll be running through the most important events, races, and outcomes of this election cycle:

The Blue Wave Crashes Down: 

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The most relevant question during this cycle for both Democrat and Republicans alike was: would the blue wave materialize? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it comes from another political term, a “wave election”—when one party overwhelmingly beats the other. Therefore, a blue wave would be an overwhelming Democratic victory. And, in this election cycle, the answer to “was there a blue wave” is an emphatic yes.

Democrats made incredible gains in the House of Representatives, gaining a whopping 38 seats. In many of these races, Democrats beat out Republican incumbents overwhelmingly, and many of the Democratic candidates were historically marginalized groups—young women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. In many states around the country where districts are gerrymandered, Democrats were still able to drive out their bases and eek out wins.

Despite the Democrats’ failure to win back the Senate, this election can easily still be considered a blue wave. The Senate map for the 2018 midterms was the most unfavorable one in almost 100 years, and Democrats were nonetheless still able to pick up two seats in Arizona and Nevada. Their losses in North Dakota and Missouri weren’t surprising; Trump won in those states by 36% and  19% respectively. This loss in the Senate therefore cannot be used as a litmus test as to whether there was a blue wave or not.

What were the two most important takeaways from the blue wave?

  1. Youth turnout rose drastically; young people early voted 188% more this cycle and in 2014. This is notable due to the fact that midterms typically feature lower voter turnout than presidential elections, so if this trend keeps up, it bodes well for Democrats in 2020 (young people voted for Democrats overwhelmingly, 67% to 32%).
  2. Democrats carried previously GOP controlled suburbs. The suburbs were parts of the country that seemed to rebuke the Republican’s turn to Trump, so it was hotly watched whether or not the suburbs would actually hold to their convictions and turn away from their party’s president. Whether the Democrats can keep the suburbs come 2020 is a question that is still up in the air.

The New York State Senate Flipped:

For the first time in a decade, Democrats are in control of the New York State Senate, giving the party a trifecta control of the state. The cohesion of the state government has been marred for decades, as Democrats have held the State Senate a measly three times in the last 50 years. The liberal Assembly and the Republican controlled Senate constantly butted heads on liberal legislation like the New York Health Act and the New York Dream Act.

Before November 6th, the Republicans controlled the State Senate by a single vote. All the Democrats needed was a single seat to be gained on election day, and the majority would be gained. Three main favorites for the spot were the Brooklyn Borough President’s head legal council, Andrew Gounardes (featured above), an environmental activist and legislator, Jen Metzger, and politician Jim Gaughran. One of these three seats would have been enough—but Democrats didn’t win just one seat. They won eight.

Another relevant aspect of the night was the lingering anti-IDC wins from the Democratic primaries. The IDC, or Independent Democratic Conference was a group of rogue Democrats who began to caucus with the Republicans. There was an immense push to unseat the members of this Conference (who had recently begun to caucus with the Democrats again), and 6 out of their 8 members were unseated in September. All of the anti-IDC candidates, Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Rachel May, went on to win on election night.

Now, the question remains: what will Democrats actually do with their newfound power? Their main agenda seems to be codifying Roe v. Wade’s protections in state law, a New York Dream Act, the Child Victims Act, and improving voting laws.

Beto 2020?:

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Two months ago, I covered the intense Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and El Paso Representative Beto O’Rourke in Texas (take a look at it here, if you need to catch up). I pointed out the very possible chance that O’Rourke would win on election night—he made an incredible effort to get out the vote in historically ignored communities. This is a good possibility as to why he only lost to Ted Cruz by a mere 2.6% in a state that is historically deep red.

Normally, when politicians lose, they either attempt to run for the same office a second time, a lower office, or step out of politics. However, there is intense speculation as to whether O’Rourke will run for president in 2020. Many cite his Kennedy-esque qualities: his boyish charm, his charisma, and his ability to whip up suburban support.

O’Rourke has seemingly changed his tune as of late. In a 60 Minutes interview, he stated, unequivocally, “I will not be a candidate for president in 2020.” However, not too long after, he said, “You know…I haven’t made any decisions about anything is probably the best way for me to put it.” Of course this is speculation, but this change could be due to prodding from his supports and donors to run in the next election. O’Rourke was the third most popular candidate for president in a Politico poll, at 8%, behind two far more well known candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. However, in an actual election, his youth and vigor as compared to the other two front runners (who would be 77 and 79 on election day respectively) may allow him to seem more appealing to voters.

It seems that, for O’Rourke, losing the battle may not mean losing the war.

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