In nature, waves are not solitary events. Another wave usually follows. The same is often true for politics. In 2014, the Republican party saw a wave of victories, spurred on by voter apathy and low turnout, resulting in broad based gains for the Republican party that included pickups of 13 House seats to add to their existing House majority, pickups of 9 Senate seats to give the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in eight years, and pickups of 2 Governor’s houses. It could have aptly been described as a Republican wave. But, that wave didn’t just end with 2014. Another wave came through for the Republicans in 2016, as the Republican party kept their majorities in the House and Senate and in state Governors, and helped a political neophyte named Donald Trump win the Presidency for the Republican party, giving the party full control over Washington DC, and full control in several individual states. This same case of back-to-back waves occurred for the Democratic party in 2006 and 2008, enabling the Democratic party to first win a majority of House, Senate, and Governor seats in 2006, then add to that the Presidency in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama.
We cannot and should not allow the recapture of the House by Democrats in 2018 to be a solitary wave. This wave was just the first. Another Blue Wave should follow: Blue Wave 2.0.
The Blue Wave of the last two years can and should be celebrated. It has resulted in the Democratic party taking a majority in the House for the first time since 2010. Seven Governors were picked up by Democrats, almost pulling the party even with Republicans on a national level, and in a year that was the worst setup for a single party for the Senate in some 60 years, Democrats were able to limit losses to a couple of seats, setting the table for Democratic control of the Senate to be within reach in 2020.
In the House, Democrats were able to pickup seats from Republicans across the country. In the Northeast, there were pickups in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In the Southeast, there were pickups in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. In the Midwest, there were pickups in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. In the Plains States, there were pickups in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the West, there were pickups in Arizona, California, and Utah. Besides these pickups, there were districts that came very close to being flipped to Democrats in states like Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 2018 proved that the Democratic party could compete in almost every state in the country. Another Blue Wave in 2020 could easily see some of those near misses help Democrats increase their House majority even further.
In the Senate, Democrats lost seats in Indiana, North Dakota, and Missouri, but did so by much closer margins than Donald Trump had won each state just two years earlier. In Indiana, Trump won in 2016 by 19 points. The Indiana Senate race in 2018 saw the Republican win by only 8 points. In Missouri, Trump won in 2016 by 19 points. The Missouri Senate race in 2018 saw the Republican win by only 6 points. In North Dakota, Trump won in 2016 by 36 points. The North Dakota Senate race in 2018 saw the Republican win by only 11 points. While still losses, these were massive improvements for the Democratic party over the election of just two years prior. Democrats did pickup a seat too, in Nevada, where the Democratic candidate easily cruised past the Republican incumbent, winning by 5 points. There were also near misses in Arizona and Texas, both states that Trump had won easily two years before. Though there were losses, the Senate races of 2018 also showed that the Democratic party can compete all over the country.
Governor’s offices saw big gains for the Democratic party in 2018, with pickups in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Three of these states had been won by Donald Trump in 2016. There were also near misses in several other states that had been won by Trump: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Pickups and near misses happened in all regions of the country, showing the viability of the party almost everywhere, a drastic improvement from the 2016 presidential election when the entire Southern area of the country went red, along with almost all of the Midwest and Plains states.
Many of these 2018 races showed just how close elections can be. In the House, there were races decided by less than 10,000 votes in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Small movements in political preference can have a big effect on House races. Another Blue wave could easily increase the Democratic majority by quite a bit. There were also extremely close Senate races in Arizona, Florida, and Montana, and extremely close Governor races in Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Voter apathy can cause huge problems for a political party, while voter excitement can reap enormous benefits. Every vote counts.
Upcoming races in 2019 and 2020 should provide plenty reason for Democrats to remain excited. Besides all of the aforementioned close calls in the House that were almost flipped to Democratic control, the Senate elections of 2020 provide a much easier setup for Democrats. In 2018, there were only 9 Republican seats in the Senate up for re-election, while there were 26 Democrats up for re-election. In 2020, the situation is reversed: Democrats will only be defending 12 seats, while Republicans will be defending 21. Only a few of the Republicans seats will likely need to be flipped in order for Democrats to win the Senate in 2020, and this increased number of Republican seats that are up for re-election in 2020 provides plenty of opportunity for Democratic pickups. Here are the likely top 10 opportunities:
- In Maine, a state that saw the Democrat win this year’s Governor’s race by a comfortable 8 points, Republican Susan Collins will be defending her seat.
- In Colorado, a state that saw the Democrat win this year’s Governor’s race by a comfortable 7 points, Republican Cory Gardner will be defending his seat.
- In Kansas, a state that saw the Democrat win this year’s Governor’s race by 4 points, Republican Pat Roberts will be defending his seat.
- In West Virginia, a state that saw the Democrat win this year’s Senate race by 3 points, Republican Shelly Moore Capito will be defending her seat.
- In Montana, a state that saw the Democrat win this year’s Senate race by 2 points, Republican Steve Daines will be defending his seat.
- In North Carolina, a state that saw more people vote for Democrats than Republicans in this year’s House elections, Republican Thom Tillis will be defending his seat.
- In Arizona, which saw the Democrat come within 1 pt of winning this year’s Senate race, Republican Jon Kyl will be defending his seat.
- In Georgia, which saw the Democrat come within 1.5 pts of winning Governor in 2018, Republican David Perdue will be defending his seat.
- In Texas, which saw the Democrat come within 2 pts of winning this year’s Senate race, Republican John Cornyn will be defending his seat.
- In Iowa, which saw the Democrat come within 3 pts of winning Governor in 2018, Republican Joni Ernst will be defending her seat.
For comparison, going into the 2018 senate election, there was only one Republican, Nevada’s Dean Heller, who was defending a seat with as much opportunity for a Democratic flip as these 10 possibilities available in 2020. And this doesn’t include some other possible 2020 pickups that could present themselves due to the growing unpopularity of their incumbents: South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. The shot to not only oust Mitch McConnell from being Senate Majority Leader as well as his seat in the Senate should be more than enough to energize Democrats in 2020.
There are opportunities for Democratic pickups on the State level, as well. Starting in 2019, the race for Kentucky Governor should provide Democrats with as good of an opportunity as was presented by Virginia’s 2017 off-year Governor’s race. While the 2017 Virginia race ended up being a pickup for Democrats largely thanks to the increasing amount of Democratic voters in Virginia, the 2019 Kentucky Governor’s race provides an equally possible pickup due to the massive unpopularity of the current Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, who is not even a native of Kentucky, and has spent much of his first term embroiled in battles with teachers and corruption scandals, and is currently clocking in with an approval rating of just 30%.
In 2020, Governor’s races in Missouri and West Virginia could present possible pickups for Democrats. The Republican incumbent in Missouri, Doug Parsons, was not even elected, instead having been appointed after a scandal brought about the resignation of the elected Republican Eric Greitens. The Republican incumbent in West Virginia, Jim Justice, is a coal billionaire who, like Kentucky’s Governor, has also had a well-publicized bout with teachers, and has dealt with charges that his companies have flouted safety regulations and failed to pay taxes. Both of these incumbents are currently clocking in with approval ratings of just 43%.
And, then, of course there is the Presidential election. Not much needs to be said about this. If Donald Trump makes it to 2020 without being impeached, the Democrats will be running a campaign to unseat the most disliked President in modern history. Energizing Democrats for that fight should not be an issue.
Another Blue Wave in 2020 could result in a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic Presidency, and possibly a majority of Democratic Governors.
Think about all that could be accomplished if that could come to fruition: Medicare for All, expanded social security, investments in education, investments in infrastructure, investments in clean energy, increased minimum wage, common sense gun regulations, a new voting rights act, protections for unions, a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and legislation to fight climate change.
These are all policies supported by Democratic politicians, a majority of Americans, and even in most cases, a majority of Republican voters. All that stands in the way of implementing these popular policies are Republican incumbents who, for whatever reason, continue to oppose policies that are supported by most of the country. A Blue Wave in 2020 could finally do away with this obstacle, and truly make America great.
2018 showed that the voters are starting to realize that fact. In the House races, 51 million Americans voted for Democrats as opposed to 47 million who voted for Republicans. In the Senate races, 46 million Americans voted for Democrats as opposed to 33 million who voted for Republicans. The country is yearning for the policies to be enacted that are supported by Democratic politicians.
All we need to do is keep fighting and stay engaged. Applaud the good changes that will occur from this first wave, and speak out against what still needs to be changed by this next wave. Together, we can bring about the change we all want. Together we can create Blue Wave 2.0: The Sequel. And while we’re at it, we can show everyone that sometimes the sequel can be better than the original.