Will the Blue Wave Fizzle as Democrats look to the 2018 Midterm Elections?

By: Alec Vandenberg

November 7, the day before the one-year anniversary of a historical electoral defeat for Democrats, provided liberals a new sense of hope and comfort as they went to bed. They retained the Virginia governorship, and expanded their control in the Washington and Virginia state houses. But after the initial euphoria, Democrats awoke to a harsh reality: Republicans control both chambers and the governor’s office in roughly two dozen states, and control more than two-thirds of all state legislative chambers.


Nationally, Democrats are still reeling from November 8, 2016, when Republicans consolidated power in both the Senate and House of Representatives, installed their own president, and presided over the conservative shift of power on the Supreme Court.  In fact, in the past few weeks, Republicans have been nominating young and deeply conservative judges faster than the Senate can confirm them.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 11.30.49 AMFreshly elected Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam celebrates with supporters, but can liberals maintain this energy and success at the ballot box?  Source: Washington Examiner


While media attention has shifted from President Trump’s famed border wall as of late, the real Red Wall facing the Democrats remains the extensive Republican influence at every level of governance, especially in light of persistent and pervasive gerrymandering.


With 2016 in the rear-view mirror (although Donna Brazile has yet to receive the memo) and  2017 elections in the books (with the exception of the Alabama Senate seat special election), 2018 and its midterm elections stare Democrats in the face.


President Trump’s approval rating languishes at a mere 38%, and generic Democrat candidates beat generic Republican ones at a clip of 46.8% to 38.2% on sample ballots. But Democrats face steep challenges ahead.


Before Democrats face off against Republicans, they must battle amongst themselves for control over the party, its platform, and its future.  Questions about whether to embrace bold and progressive programs such as Single-Payer health care and how to define who and what the party stands for will plague candidates up and down the ballot, as well as the Democratic National Committee, still reeling from 2016 losses and old wounds.


Pundits estimate roughly 70 districts hold promise for Democrats (meaning they have a 10% or greater chance of swinging them blue), but Democrats must reach the golden number of 24 seats to retake the House of Representatives.  In the Senate meanwhile, Democratic Senators face a tough challenge in flipping three seats, what they need to retake the Senate, because they control 25 of the 35 seats up for reelection.  This pessimistic outlook remains even in light of Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake resigning and Alabama Republican nominee Roy Moore’s campaign unraveling in the wake of a myriad of sexual abuse cases.


While in 2010 Republicans took the House in storm in light of the passing of the deeply unpopular Affordable Healthcare Act, Democrats hope for their own version of 2010 in 2018, when the failure of the widely despised Republican American Healthcare Act might drive Democratic voters to the polls. But to achieve the Blue Wave they so wish to see, they must battle in district after district and for voter after voter.


Pundits often paint California as the ultimate test for Democrats. There are currently fourteen Republican representatives looking to stay afloat amongst a deeply blue state that voted for Hillary Clinton by a margin of almost two-to-one.


Living in Los Angeles, a bedrock of the Democratic Party, often insulates people, especially students, from key battles and campaigns.  However, District 25, the only Congressional District with a Republican incumbent in Los Angeles County, represents a prime opportunity for students to engage in the most thrilling, and arguably, important, part of the political process: elections.


In the District 25 race, Trojan Advocates for Political Progress recently endorsed Katie Hill, a local progressive, armed with almost a decade of experience in helping run the largest homeless nonprofit in Los Angeles.  She stands ready to defeat conservative incumbent, Representative Steve Knight, who votes with President Trump 98% of the time.

California District 25. Source: Wikipedia


District 25,  the northernmost part of Los Angeles County, features an almost evenly split electorate between Republicans and Democrats, but voters chose Clinton over Trump by seven percentage points.


This district represents a prototypical purple district, one teetering between Republican and Democrat control, and one Democrats desperately need to swing in order to retake the House.  The question, then, is this: how do Democratic candidates position themselves on issues from healthcare to immigration in a historically conservative district that rejected the current president on the ballot?


In politics, it’s always election season, but for Democrats, the stakes in recent times have never been higher.  Until 2018, liberals and pundits will ask themselves, “Will the Blue Wave be strong and high enough?”  Stay tuned.

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