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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    OPINION: Democrats haven’t won 2018 just yet

    Ask any reporter what they think about the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, the words “blue wave” will come out at least fifteen times. If you tried to count each time “blue wave” is mentioned in a Politico or CNN article, you would run out of fingers and instead just hope that they would find a better editor. But does saying it over and over make it true? Are Democrats about to ride a wave of discontentment and rage against the divisive administration and President Trump’s complicit supporters in the House and Senate? Polls seem to suggest an upswing this November, but Democratic Party operatives aren’t counting their chickens too soon. 

    Back in September, a blanket poll from ABC News showed that Democrats led Republican voters by almost 14 percentage points in a hypothetical congressional vote, and FiveThirtyEight put the likelihood of Democrats retaking the house at 78.5 percent, averaging the total seats at about 230, putting them over the threshold of 217 seats required to be the majority party. This projected jump of almost 35 seats w,uld be a major victory over their embarrassing gain of only 6 seats in 2016 in an election cycle that was around-the-map predicted to be a heavy Democratic year. So if all signs are pointing towards a major Republican rout, why are Democrats across the country worried? Well, there are three major problems: lackluster special election results calling into question the actual anger Democrats are trying to bank on, the validity of the polling numbers and the question of the Senate.

    Vox focused in on the first one.  While the special elections in Alabama and Pennsylvania brought Democrats where Republicans were heavily favored, Vox highlighted that, “For every Pennsylvania 18th, the site of Conor Lamb’s stunning win in a district Donald Trump had won by 18 points, there is an Arizona Eighth,” citing the election held in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, where Debbie Lesko (R) beat Hiral Tipirneni (D) in the special election held back in May of this year. 

    Not every election is collapsing in the wake of the blue wave, so House and Senate Democrats may be looking at the ability of Republicans to stand off against increased campaigning and grass roots activity as a potential threat in the upcoming midterms. But what Vox does not seem to cover is that while Lesko beat Tipirneni 53-47 percent, she had been predicted to trounce Hiral by a whopping 20 percent, and even needed to raise over $1 million to secure the victory. So while the elections may not be bringing in Democrats everywhere just yet, they are definitely a sign of an energized Democratic base.  

    Democratic operatives are also well aware that polling is a double-edged sword; it’s the tool that convinced them that they would walk past the finish line in 2016, instead of the bloody ambush that was. Democrats still wince when they look back at early fall polls showing Hillary Clinton easily surpassing 300 electoral votes to become the first woman to take office as President of the United States. But even if the pollsters from 2016 managed to fix their methodology and are now producing accurate predictions, they now have to worry about Trump’s approval rating hovering at about the same level it has for half a year: 42 percent. Now those numbers are bad for Trump, especially when you compare to President Obama’s 45% approval rating right before the the disastrous 2010 Midterms, where Republicans gained 63 seats and almost took control of the Senate. But Politico reported that even as the average voter disapproves of Donald Trump, they also don’t see the Democrats as having a strong plan of what to do once in government. This rides on the back of the threat of a divided government, or where one or both houses of Congress are held by a single party, but the presidency is occupied by another. The last time this occurred was in 2010, and produced one of the most memorable periods of partisan bickering: a government shutdown over Obamacare, and the solidification of the image of the “Do Nothing Congress.” It’s no wonder that in 2016 Gallup reported that the support of a divided government was at a low 20 percent.

    And on top of it all, even the biggest supporters of the “Blue Wave” only rarely mention the possibility of taking the Senate. FiveThirtyEight gave it about a 20 percent chance that Democrats take the Senate, to 80 percent that Republicans retain it. Even if they did manage to take it, the end result would only be them getting about 51 seats, hardly a workable majority in the face of Republican opposition. Because Democrats are forced to defend about 24 of their own seats, and Republicans only have to defend 9, Democrats are left in the undesirable position of having to win every single election they are defending, and defeat Republicans in at least 5 of their 9 seats up for grabs. And what will that bring them? Maybe a gain of five seats, an unworkable majority, and a divided government. It’s not looking too hot in the Senate.

    If Democrats are willing to put together a concrete plan of how they will actively govern and work with the Republicans of the Senate and the White House to avoid government shutdowns or spending gaps as well as getting the American voters’ concerns to the floor of Congress, then this November may really be the “Blue Wave” that they’ve been promised by pollsters. If not, I can easily see their predicted decisive edge in the House being whittled down to an uneasy majority, and the Senate another unwinnable fight. It’s up to the Democratic Party to prove that they have a message for the American voters rather than just “dump Trump”. They need to build something up as well.

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