On Tuesday, millions of voters selected among thousands of candidates to run our country. Now thousands of people are telling us what these elections mean about America. So it’s easy to find claims that every side won.
It’s important to say over and over again that a person looking for truthful analysis and clear explanation can find them in profusion in American media. The New York Times is a national treasure, but newspapers that I have lived with in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Providence, and Washington make a powerful effort at non-partisanship and objective research. The tiny newspaper I wrote for didn’t cover much and was shrinking before my eyes, but it was reliable and truthful.
TV news, on the other hand, has been taken over by showmanship and bipartisanship, which is displayed by letting people from both camps say whatever they want and calling it news. Television employs countless spin doctors, who only care about reducing the pain for their own partisans. They tailor their claims to the needs of their party at the moment. Tomorrow they’ll say something entirely different. Mingled in are useful commentators, whose biases are subordinated to their professionalism, but they often end up sounding like just like the hacks they appear next to.
FOX News can only be trusted to seek market share by telling its viewers what they most what to hear. What FOX promotes most is the most biased. Its star, Sean Hannity, explained what he does: “I'm not a journalist jackass. I'm a talk host.” FOX put its partisan purposes into practice by blaming liberals and Democrats for sending pipe bombs to themselves.
MSNBC annoys me with their repetitive gleeful reporting of whatever makes conservatives look worst. But they don’t make anything up. Their content is researched, insightful and reliable. They were as good at interpreting the election in real time on Tuesday night as anyone else. I’ve been putting all kinds of sources together to outline the election results and explain what I think about it all.
Who voted last week? The Washington Post delivered a fine graphic overview. Voters in all age groups picked Democrats in House votes at the highest rates in over 10 years, including two-thirds of 18 to 39 year olds. Suburban voters preferred Democrats by a wide margin, except in the South, where the parties were even. 60% of women preferred Democrats, while men narrowly preferred Republicans, better for Democrats among both genders than at any time in the last 10 years. Democrats got more votes from college-educated men and women than at any time since 2006: two-thirds of women who had gone to college voted for Democrats. Many voters who did not go to college had jumped away from Democrats in 2010, but have been coming back since then.
Across America, Democrats received 5 million more votes in House races than Republicans, winning 52% to 47%.
Women did win. There will be over 100 women in the House next year, many more than ever before. The first female Senators from Tennessee and Arizona will take their seats.
Minorities won. In Congress, we’ll see the first two Native American women, the first two Muslim women, the first Hispanic women from Texas. The first openly gay man was elected as Governor, among other LGBT winners.
Trump did not win. He was not on the ballot, although he told his supporters to act as if he were. Of the 75 House and Senate candidates he endorsed, who were in heavily Republican-leaning districts, only 21 won. He made public appearances for 36 House and Senate candidates in heavily Republican-leaning districts, and 21 won. He endorsed 39 other candidates, also in Republican districts, and they didn’t win.
Some combination of Trump’s unpopularity among people who had voted for Republicans in the past, the positive appeal of new candidates, among them many women and people of color, and the desire of most voters to entrust Democrats with taking care of their health and education created a wave of Democratic victories in districts held by Republicans.
Was it a big wave or a little wave or a ripple? Who even knows what those words mean applied to national elections? Numbers are better. The Democrats gained at least 36 seats in the House, flipped 7 governorships, and 8 state legislative chambers.
Here is what did not change and what will continue to animate political controversy. It is hard for many Americans to vote. Republicans profit from suppressing the vote. The numerous court judgments that they have done this unlawfully have not stopped them yet.
Republican gerrymandering has been dented, but not yet defeated. Voting in North Carolina proceeded in districts that were declared unconstitutional twice: although Republicans barely won there in terms of total votes 50.3% to 48.4%, they won 10 of 13 seats in the House. But voters approved ballot measures that would eliminate partisan gerrymandering in 4 states, with 3 of those decisions overwhelming. When they had a chance to register an opinion, voters were in favor of making voting easier.
White men are still in charge in America. Their hold on power has been weakening for decades, and 2018 was an important milestone on the path toward more equality. But everywhere you look, from the White House to Congress to elected officials at every level to company board rooms, white men are mostly in charge.
The Republican Party is the party of white evangelical men. 60% of white men voted Republican and 75% of white evangelical Christians. White men made up 46% of Republican voters, white women 39%, and minorities only 16%. Minorities were 40% of Democratic voters, white men 26% and white women 34%.
Less than half of Democratic Congressional candidates were white men, but 77% of Republican candidates. White men were 76% of the much more numerous Republican candidates for state legislatures, a proportion that has remained unchanged since 2012.
Americans who think that sexual harassment is not a serious problem, that it is not important to elect more women and racial minorities to office, that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and that stricter gun control laws are a bad idea are all reliable Republican voters.
Lots of electoral commentators are comparing this “blue wave” with past waves, often to prove that their side did extraordinarily well. It’s more important to think about the future. Will the overwhelming liberalism of young Americans gradually replace the self-interested conservatism of my generation? Will women keep moving in a liberal direction? Will they take the men around them along?
Women didn’t just win races. They shoved American politics to the left by running and donating and voting and winning.
American government has many new faces. We’ll see if they can produce better results.
November 13, 2018