Before We Can Look Ahead to 2020, We Must Process These Midterms

2018 midterms, Stacey Abrams, recap, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Democratic Party, Republican Party, highlights, disappointments
Stacey Abrams was the first black female gubernatorial candidate in American history. She should have won in Georgia, but her opponent’s blatant use of voter suppression tactics allowed him to steal the election. In this screenshot, Abrams can be seen giving a TED talk. There, she talked about how people can respond to setbacks. (Video)

It’s almost 2019 where I am, and we’re already gearing up for the 2020 presidential elections. But before we even talk about those elections in depth, we must first look back to the 2018 midterms and process what just happened.

This post is late, although I gave myself a month to finish the last one. (It was tedious work, with the coding and amount of research for races that aren’t entirely settled.) Anyway, I wanted to get this done before New Year’s Day, so this will be my last post of 2018.

That said, what do I think about what transpired? Let’s first do a recap of the 2018 midterm primaries.

Note: This post will, of course, have a left-leaning focus for much of it.


2018 Midterm Primary Recap

In the 2018 midterm primaries, there were a few surprises and disappointments, especially in five states (listed in the order in which their first primaries were held): Ohio, West Virginia, Georgia, New York, and Florida.

Dennis Kucinich

In Ohio, Dennis Kucinich lost big in the Democratic primary for Governor. It wasn’t even close, as Richard Cordray, who was once the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, took over 62% of the vote. This was a blow to progressives, who like Kucinich because of his stances, which include being against U.S. interventions.

Kucinich has long been lampooned because of his anti-war stances and other progressive viewpoints. If you will remember, Kucinich was mocked in 2008 for saying that he was open to nominating a trans Supreme Court justice. This year, Kucinich was being smeared as a friend to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Paul Jean Swearingin

In West Virginia, Paul Jean Swearingin suffered a crushing defeat to incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin in the Democratic primary. She was outraised 20-1 and received little press coverage. She won more votes than any Republican did in the primaries, though. Another takeaway was how Paul Morrisey won on the Republican side despite the work of Democrats to try and promote Blankenship to give Manchin a weaker general election opponent.

Stacey Abrams

In Georgia, there was a rare occurrence where progressives and those more closely aligned with the Democratic Party came to an agreement and placed their hopes in Stacey Abrams, the leading Democratic candidate in her state’s gubernatorial race. While Abrama didn’t promote Medicare for All, she ticked most of the right boxes and she made a name for herself as a voting-rights activist. Abrams also had a prime opportunity to became the first black female governor of any state in the Union, so there was increased hope and excitement in her run.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

In the biggest surprise of the year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset 10-term Congressman Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District during the state’s June primaries. This is one race I missed in the leadup to the midterms, but I was pleased with the result. After winning her primary, AOC then when on a media tour that not only raised her profile but helped to advance the conversation for progressive causes.

In September, progressives suffered crushing defeats in the biggest statewide races: governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. However, progressives were able to rejoice as 6 out of 8 Independent Democratic Conference were ousted in their primaries.

Andrew Gillum

In a promising development, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary for Florida governor by running farther to the left than any other candidate. (Much of the time, we are told this is a losing strategy.) Shortly before the primaries in Florida were held, Gillum was endorsed by none other than Bernie Sanders and Gillum slightly promoted Medicare for All.

How Progressives Did Overall

On the surface, the progressive movement made a few strides during the 2018 midterm primaries.

  • Maria Estrada and Kenneth Meija made it through the jungle primaries in California.
  • Justice Democrats made a splash as 26 of its 79 candidates won their primaries or otherwise made it to the general election.
  • Around 32% of candidates endorsed by Our Revolution won their primaries. This group made a splash in 2016, the year it was founded, because it endorsed successful 58 successful candidates (out of 106) and 23 successful ballot initiatives (out of 34).

General Election Recap

The previous post in this series gives an in-depth look at what happened during the 2018 primaries, but I made this series for a few reasons:

  1. To see how the Democrats did overall.
  2. To see how progressives would do in the age of Trump.
  3. To see how progressives can move forward, particularly in 2019 and 2020.

In order to form a strategy, one must look back at where they’ve been and how they fared. I would say that the results are mixed, but this has been a learning experience for those who want to learn from all this.

How Democrats Did Overall

Well, was there a blue wave? Kinda, but only in one facet of government. Let me quote what I listed in the post entitled, Will Be See a Blue Wave in 2018?

When you apply Oldham and Smith’s findings, the Democrats would have to do one or more of the following:

  1. Win a net of 48 House seats.
  2. Net 7 Senate seats.
  3. Net 7 governorships.
  4. Net 494 seats in state legislatures.

Did the Democrats measure up?

  • In the House of Representatives, Democrats netted 40 seats. This was eight shy of the number that would make this a wave in the chamber.
  • In the Senate, Democrats had a net loss of two seats.
  • In Governor’s Races, Democrats gained 7 total governorships. That is a wave.
  • In State Houses, Democrats netted 308 legislative seats. That is short of a wave election by 86 seats.

The governorships are cause for celebration, but it’s very limited, especially in states like Wisconsin and Michigan. In those states, Republicans still control the legislatures and they have passed bills to severely weaken the powers of incoming Democratic governors and the legislative branch entirely. This also highlights the problem of gerrymandering (which is a huge problem in Wisconsin) because, in states like those, more people vote for Democrats, yet they are stuck with Republican lawmakers who don’t respect the will of the people. Democrats need to force the issue of electoral reform lest they lose all power.

Highlights

There were some huge victories for Democrats and progressives in this election, including the victory of one young lady I mentioned above.

In California, Democrats maintained control of the state and regained their supermajority in the state legislature. Gavin Newsom was elected as governor, meaning that his party maintained its trifecta (control of the governorship and both legislative chambers) in the government. Additionally, Democrats flipped a few House seats and wiped out Orange County Republicans in the House.

Kris Kobach was defeated in Kansas’ gubernatorial election. This was a surprise, given that Kobach was secretary of state and thus responsible for overseeing Kansas elections and certifying the results. Kobach is also responsible for Interstate Crosscheck, which has been used to purge Democratic voters and mostly people of color from voter rolls.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker was finally ousted as governor. It took Democrats four tries, but they finally did it. Walker’s ouster was part of the Democratic wave in governorships.

In New York, AOC won, and she became the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress. She won over 78% of the vote in New York’s 14th Congressional District. Her Republican opponent only carried 13% of the vote and Joe Crowley only managed 6% of the vote.

AOC’s victory was a touchstone in this election, she was one of 7 Justice Democrats who won their elections and one among dozens of progressives who won in the general election. Our Revolution had at least 24 Election-Day victories, which is impressive given the newness of the organization and its limited fundraising stream.

Other highlights included some of the measures that voters approved:

  • Medicaid expansion was approved by voters in three out of four states where it was on the ballot.
  • In Florida, voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4, which will restore the voting rights of 1.4 million former convicts.
  • Missouri voters rejected right-to-work.
  • Several states approved legalizing marijuana, at least for medical purposes.

Disappointments

Democrats lost four seats in the Senate (while picking up two), so Republicans netted two seats in the chamber. As it turns out, one of the Democrats who lost was someone I called out in October 2017.

 

Claire McCaskill (Missouri) was one of the four Democrats who voted to reconfirm Ajit Pai that year. Without those four votes, Pai’s nomination would have died right there and Trump would have to find another unscrupulous shill to take his place.

Some more Democrats who lost Janvoted for the Bank Bailout Bill in March 2018. Along with McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Bill Nelson (Florida), and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) were among the 17 Democrats (well, 16 plus Angus King, the independent senator from Maine) who were rightfully maligned for their vote. Incidentally, King won re-election.

Besides those losses in the U.S. Senate, I was personally disappointed that Democrats didn’t win more seats in the House than they did. I wanted Democrats to net at least 50 seats, but I believe that the party was hurt by gerrymandering, voter purges, and its own malfeasance. The early fights among Democrats in the primaries might have had an effect, along with its abandonment of other viable candidates.

In three of the top-watched gubernatorial races, Democrats lost in large part because of Republican shenanigans. This was especially clear in Georgia, where Brian Kemp led Stacey Abrams by a minuscule amount.

Kemp had illegally purged over 500,000 voters from the state voter rolls since 2014 and did everything under the sun to give himself an advantage. Without all that work, Abrams would have won outright. This election was stolen.

In Florida, there was a mix of shenanigans and incompetence. After taking power, sitting Gov. Rick Scott blocked enough ex-convicts from having their rights restored to give himself an advantage in the U.S. Senate race. Another factor was Brenda Snipes in Broward County. Because of her mishandling of the count and ballots, thousands of ballots in that county went uncounted.

All the above undoubtedly helped Scott against Bill Nelson. And it most likely affected the gubernatorial race. Look at the returns. Ron DeSantis, the racist, low-IQ Trump arse-licker, only won by 0.4%.

In Texas, Beto O’Rourke lost, and there were reports that votes for him were being converted into votes for the incumbent, Ted Cruz.

 

 


My Immediate Reactions

When working on this series, I wanted to make a post about my reactions to the primaries, but I will just leave these thoughts here.

About the Primaries

I was personally disappointed by the primary results in West Virginia, namely Paula Jean Swearingin’s defeat in the Democratic Primary. That said, I don’t know what more could have been done to help her win besides more money and attention from the press.

I was disappointed in Dennis Kucinich’s loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primaries. Kucinich lost in large part because of the smears against him. It’s indicative of the type of sickness Americans have in terms of war and egalitarianism, which is another issue entirely.

Senate Disappointments

In the general election, I was disappointed that Texans didn’t opt to get rid of Ted Cruz, given how dishonest, disingenuous, and how sycophantic he was. The election was very close, and I wonder how much the vote flipping affected the final tally. That said, we are still learning more about Beto O’Rourke and it isn’t good.

When the results for West Virginia came in, I was rather neutral. While I didn’t want the Class-1 U.S. Senate seat to go to Morrisey, I can’t stand Joe Manchin because he is essentially a Republican. That’s six more wasted years right there.

I’m also troubled by the fact that Manchin won his seat by a lot less than he did six years ago. At first, I chalked up his win to an anomaly, but if he continues to lose support in his state, he might just lose to a Republican next time, provided he runs for re-election in 2024.

Let me be clear. Overall, I don’t like that the Republicans were able to take four seats from the Democrats, but I we’re not seeing much progress with corporate Dems in those seats. When a Republican wins a seat, that’s 2-6 more years that progressives must wait to take it. Whenever a corporate Democrat is occupying a seat, that wait is at least doubled because lefties running as Democrats will more than likely be blocked from taking that nomination.

Speaking of corporate Dems …

California BS

I was disappointed by some of the victories in the California legislature. In particular, I wanted voted to get rid of Assemblymen Anthony Rendon (CA63) and Miguel Santiago (CA53), two guys who tried to kill two important bills (Rendon succeeded). Unfortunately, the two bozos got to keep their jobs.

In the state’s 50th Congressional District, Duncan Hunter won despite being indicted. I really wish that seat had been flipped, but Ammar Campa-Najjar had no institutional support from the Democrats.

Florida BS

The results in Florida were not only disappointing but infuriating. I’m angry at Rick Scott for cheating and doing nothing about Brenda Snipes before these elections (because she’s the same person who ordered the ballots from the 2016 Democratic primaries to be illegally destroyed while Tim Canova was suing the county to view them). I’m angry that so many voters in Florida voted for DeSantis despite all his flaws and his inability to articulate a complete thought.

Georgia, Georgia, Georgia …

I might be more pissed off at what happened in Georgia than what happened in Florida because what Kemp did was more extensive and blatant. People were illegally taken off voter rolls without their knowledge (even if they voted at the same polling place for decades), Kemp blocked the registrations of over 53,000 Georgians, polling places were closed down, voting machines were held back on Election Day, and seniors were blocked from voting early.

One of the most gut-wrenching moments was seeing a video of a 92-year-old telling the world that she was blocked from voting in Georgia:

 

 

 

I was also peeved when I saw how a black lawmaker in GA was singled out, arrested, and humiliated after people protested the election in the gallery of the state legislature:

 

 

 

 

One of My Biggest Pet Peeves

There is a common thread running through both the above states (and Southern states in general): racism.

  • Many of the shenanigans in this election negatively impacted black folks and other people of color.
  • Racism was a theme in the Florida gubernatorial race.
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith was elected despite because of her comments about lynching, voter suppression, and her racist past.
  • We are repeatedly looking at American racism every day since Trump has emboldened the racists and fascists in this country.

If Democrats are serious about wanting to take power away from the Republicans, they have to take a cold, hard look at American’s problems with racism and prescribe some real solutions to deal with these problems. One thing they can do is work to protect people’s right to vote. This is a no-brainer because it would also help more Democrats win.

Stacey Abrams is doing her part because she intends to take this to court. The fact that Democrats, in general, won’t help her and focus on voter suppression is astounding.

Now, to end this thing on a positive note …


What I’ve Learned from Doing This Series

While making this series, I learned quite a bit.

For one thing, I learned more about state governments and the U.S. Senate. I also learned more about campaigning. And I would like to work on a campaign in the future — for the experience and to help someone with common goals.

While working on this series, I learned a lot about post formatting. I also figured out long each post should be, and I learned about how much I can take to do a series like this. Ultimately, I got a better idea of when I should get started on making the election day post (months ahead of time).

If I do this again for the presidential election, this process should start in January 2019, so I can allow myself to make monthly installments for all the related news items. I wanted to do a timeline for the 2016 election, but that’s long passed. I may still go back and look at some articles from the race, as well as the debates and select moments from both major party conventions.

Whatever I do, a look back at the 2016 elections is needed. I’m still kicking around this idea, but I have only a few days to think about it. I’m also working on other projects, too.

In the meantime, it’s already 2019 in many parts of the world, so I will wish you a Happy New Year. May 2019 be much better to you than this past year was. It was a real train wreck.


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