What the 2018 results mean for 2020

The establishment Democrats won the 2018 primaries and general election.  They could win the 2020 presidential election if the presidential vote mirrors this year’s congressional vote.

By establishment Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Nancy Pelosi, seek to strike a balance between the desires of the donor class, who finance campaigns, and working people and racial minorities, who are their core voters.

The establishment Democrats focus on President Trump’s obnoxious personal behavior, the Russiagate investigations and racial and gender issues that don’t affect the power elite.

By progressive Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Bernie Sanders, raise money from small donors and regard the Wall Street banks and the billionaire class as enemies.

The progressive Democrats advocate policies such as Medicare for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage and the breakup of the “too big to fail” banks.

The establishment Democrats’ strategy is to win over independents and moderate Republicans who are disgusted with Donald Trump.  They see their mandate as putting things back the way they were before President Trump was elected.

The progressive Democrats’ strategy is to rally labor union members, people of color and other historic Democratic constituencies who’ve grown apathetic because of failure of the Democratic leaders to represent their interests.

Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019, said she will pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility, which rules out much of the progressive agenda.

She will insist all new spending be on a pay-as-you-go basis—that is, every new appropriation be accompanied by a tax increase or a spending cut elsewhere.  She also will insist on supermajorities for tax increases on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers.

This would rule out an ambitious infrastructure program, a Green New Deal jobs program, Medicare for all and most of the other programs of the progressive Democrats. What she will offer instead is strong support for reproductive rights and investigations into Trump administration scandals—although she has ruled out impeachment of the President.

Democrats got 8.9 million more total votes than Republicans in elections for the House of Representatives.  Their margin of victory in the popular vote was 8 percent, versus 2.3 percent for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.

Democrats raised much more money than Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.  The average Democratic Senatorial candidate raised $3.5 million; the average Republican, $1.5 million.   The average Democratic House candidate raised $612,203; the average Republican, $502,805.

Catalyst reported that 56 percent of voters lived in suburban census tracts, versus 26 percent in rural tracts and 18 percent in urban tracts.  The voters were 76 percent white and 63 percent age 50 or older.

The influence of big donations and the nature of the electorate explains why establishment Democrats did so well.  But progressives made gains.  Democrats gained compared to 2014 among their historic core supporters as well as independents and moderate Republicans.

∞∞∞

Democrats have good reason to be hopeful for 2020.  Right now President Trump has a 40 percent approval rating, compared to 46 percent for Barack Obama and 45 percent for Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies.

The Republican loss of 39 or more Congressional seats is above average for an incumbent party in a mid-term election, but it is less than the 63 lost by Democrats two years into the Obama presidency and 54 lost two years into the Clinton presidency.

Fifty percent of the electorate voted, the highest mid-term vote since Watergate as a percentage of the voters.  Roughly 113 million Americans cast votes, the first time the mid-term vote exceeded 100 million.

Many attribute this to the polarizing power of President Trump.  Of course this is a smaller turnout than in most industrial democracies.

Democratic congressional candidates won overwhelmingly in urban districts and did well in suburban districts, but won few races in rural districts.  The 20 highest-income congressional districts were all carried by Democrats.

The biggest divide among voters was between white and non-white voters.  But the divide between urban and rural voters was nearly as big.

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Democrats won control of the governorships and both houses of the state legislatures in New York, Illinois, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Nevada.

Two extreme right-wing Republican gubernatorial candidates—Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Kris Kobach in Kansas were defeated.  Kobach as Kansas Secretary of State was the author of the Republican voter suppression strategy.

Democrats won the governorships and Senate races in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three states that gave President Trump his margin of victory in 2016.

Republicans won the governorships in Georgia and Florida, defeating credible black candidates, through voter suppression.  They also won Senate elections in Florida, Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.

Florida voted to restore voting rights to convicted felons, which had disproportionately affected blacks.  Louisiana repealed a rule allowing for non-unanimous jury verdicts, whose purpose had been to prevent black jurors from creating hung juries.

Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah voted to reform redistricting, making 12 states that have anti-gerrymandering rules.

Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to expand Medicaid in their states.

Two self-described Democratic socialists—Rashida Talib in Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City—were elected to Congress.

Click to enlarge

Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019, said she will pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility.

She will insist all new spending be on a pay-as-you-go basis—that is, every new appropriation be accompanied by a tax increase or a spending cut elsewhere.  She also will insist on supermajorities for tax increases on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers.

This would rule out an ambitious infrastructure program, Medicare for all and most of the other programs of the progressive Democrats.

What she will offer instead is strong support for reproductive rights and investigations into the Trump administration scandals—although she has ruled out impeachment.

Some conservative writers think the Republican Party could become the workers’ party.  The Republicans in theory could combine their cultural conservatism and antagonism toward immigrants and minorities with a platform that actually benefitted working people.

If the Republicans pulled away from our present military interventionism, shut the revolving door between Wall Street and government, and adopted a rational trade and immigration policy that benefitted American workers, which they could do without ceasing to be conservatives and nationalists, I might vote for them myself.

I don’t see any sign of this happening.  I expect the Republicans to continue in the path of Mitch McConnell—stirring up racial and religious antagonism and trying to suppress and discourage voting by African-Americans, Hispanics and young people.  Voter suppression probably gave Republicans their margin of victory in a number of races.

What we don’t know is what will happen between now and Nov. 3, 2020.  There is a strong possibility of another financial crash like the one in 2008.  There is a possibility of full-scale war with Iran or some other country.

Depression and war would give the Democrats one more opportunity to show they can govern.  What they would do with that opportunity is an open question.  There are Democrats with good ideas for economic reform.  I don’t see any noteworthy Democrats with ideas for achieving peace.

LINKS

Democrats lead popular vote in House by largest margin in history by Chris Baynes for The Independent.

What Happened List Tuesday Part 1 – Who Actually Voted? by Yair Gitza for Catalist.

Catalist worksheets for Part 1 .

What Happened Last Tuesday Part 2 – Who Did They Vote For? by Yair Gitza for Catalist.

These 5 charts explain who voted how in the 2018 midterm election by Bruce Schaffner for The Washington Post.

Voter Enthusiasm at Record High in Nationalized Midterm Environment by Pew Research Center.

Progressive Democrats running in competitive House districts had a bad night by Ella Nilson for Vox.

House Democrats prepare for majority after midterm election wins by Jacob Pramuk for CNBC News.

51 Percent Losers by Max Karp for Jacobin.

The Midterms Showed Democrats the Way Forward: Class War by Matt Taylor for VICE.

The States That Elected Trump Have Turned Against Him by John Nichols for The Nation.

In Defeat, Beto O’Rourke moves Texas closer to purple by Gromer Jeffers Jr. for the Dallas Morning News.

A “Failing Franchise”: Is the California GOP Doomed? by Ben Christopher for CALmatters.

Can a Republican Lose in Mississippi? by Alex Shephard for The New Republic.  An African-American Democrat has a chance to win a run-off election for U.S. Senate in Mississippi.

What Can Democrats Do to Prevent Voter Suppression? by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone.

The Left Is Already Winning the 2020 Presidential Race by Theo Anderson for In These Times.   The Democrats have come a long way, but they don’t understand that the ideas mentioned in this article will be negated unless Washington can pull back from endless war.

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One Response to “What the 2018 results mean for 2020”

  1. Fred Says:

    Spot on. They don’t focus on issues that might annoy those with power. I don’t think anyone does for very long. Once you get elected to “power” you tend to want to become one of those power elite yourself. The kind that doesn’t have to worry much about elections.

    Human nature.

    Like

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