Measured purely by votes cast, Democrats won a decisive election victory this week. In House races, Democrats beat Republicans by 7 percent of the popular vote ― about the same margin of victory as the apocalyptic 2010 Republican wave.
Democrats’ popular-vote margin netted them many victories. Democrats picked up around 30 seats in the House of Representatives, giving them about a 225-197 edge (about a dozen races remain undecided). With that comes the ability to stymie Republican legislation and investigate presidential corruption and wrongdoing. Democrats also gained at least seven governor’s offices, including a shocking upset in Kansas.
Elections aren’t just vote counts, though. They’re also narratives. Democrats won the vote count, but the narrative of 2018 is mixed. And that narrative sends an ominous message about America’s long-term ability to repudiate authoritarianism, racism and President Donald Trump.
In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college by narrow victories in key Midwestern states. The fluky nature of the win didn’t really matter. Trump was hailed as a new, unbeatable force in politics (“lol nothing matters”) and even progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders started to talk about how they needed to appeal more to Trump’s white working class base.
Unfortunately, this shifted attention away from the rest of the working class, which is in fact quite racially diverse. Meanwhile, Republican politicians doubled down on the politics of divisive paranoid partisan grievance and resentment, with former supposed moderates like Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins indulging in hypercharged conspiratorial anti-left rhetoric that Trump has made his own.