No matter how you slice it, Tuesday’s election results were good news for Democrats. A statehouse pickup in Kentucky, an entire legislature flipping in Virginia and a sweep in the Philadelphia suburbs.
First up, Kentucky. Please spare me all nonsense about how Matt Bevin was a flawed and divisive governor who was very unpopular in his own state. Four years ago, he was popular enough to win by nine points. Did Bevin suddenly become an asshole overnight? Or was his loss due to something else?
Next up, Virginia. For the first time in over twenty years, both houses of the legislature AND the governor’s mansion are under Democratic control. The significance of this cannot be overstated enough. Ever since the 2010 midterms, which allowed the GOP to redraw district lines and cement their gains in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats have dreamt of this moment. Now they will be able to return the favor. Ain’t karma grand?
And, finally, Philadelphia. With three wins in Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Democrats now control all five seats on the County Council for the first time since the Civil War. Let me repeat that: for the first time since the 1860s, Democrats control all of Delaware County. How big is this? To put it in perspective, even during the Obama years, Delaware County was Red. And Obama was the first Democrat since FDR to win consecutive terms in the White House with over 50 percent of the vote.
What do all three of these accomplishments have in common? First, it’s the suburbs, stupid! Long a Republican stronghold, they are now beginning to trend towards the Democrats. What began as a blue wave in the 2018 midterms, has continued unabated in 2019. This is clearly a repudiation of Trump. His base may love his antics, but in Suburbia, voters are growing wary of them. Not even a last minute trip to a ruby-red state could stave off a loss. While Bevin sucked up to the complainer in chief, Andy Beshear concentrated on meat and potato issues that directly impacted Kentuckian voters. And the results were self evident.
Second, candidates count. I’ve been saying this for quite some time now, but when Democrats run the right candidate in the right race, they win. Case in point, virtually all the gains made Tuesday were by moderates. The AOC / Bernie wing of the party was nowhere to be seen. Progressives need to understand that the one size fits all approach doesn’t work once you leave progressive strongholds like New York or the West coast. In the end, it’ll be the Conor Lambs and the Doug Joneses who will determine Democratic fortunes in 2020.
And last, but not least, Trump himself has become toxic. For the last three years he has done the exact opposite of what every successful business has done. He has drilled down, not out, and in so doing, he has not expanded his base of support. Why is this critical? Because in each of the last three elections, the percentage of the white vote has decreased by 2 percent. In 2008, it was 74 percent; in 2016, it was 70 percent. And in 2020, it is projected to be only 68 percent. Meaning, even if Trump duplicates the success he had with white voters in 2016, he would likely lose his bid for a second term next year.
Unless, that is, Democrats nominate someone who is so far to the left that Trump increases his margin with white voters and independents, which is what they might very well end up doing. As of now, Elizabeth Warren is the front runner in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and she’s solidly in second place in the national polls. With Joe Biden unable to raise the cash needed for what will undoubtedly be a marathon primary season and Michael Bloomberg on the verge of entering the race, the party could be looking at a repeat of 1988.
Yes, Tuesday was indeed a good night for Democrats, and they deserve to crow a bit. But we are still a year out from determining whether this blue Tsunami they have spawned will sweep them back into power or over the edge of the cliff into the abyss.