It turned out the 2018 midterm elections weren’t as historic — or as much of a blue wave — as many prognosticators anticipated. In fact, many of the results were downright complicated.
But there were several clues on where we stand in American politics after two turbulent years with President Trump in the White House and defining national politics.
Here are some takeaways from Tuesday night:
The political realignment continues
During the midterm election, there were signs that America is becoming even more partisan. The red states got redder: Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri all kicked out their moderate Democratic Senators. And the blue states got bluer: Democrats flipped GOP-held House seats in Democratic strongholds such as New York and California. There’s a more pronounced shift in rural areas going more Republican, while urban areas are becoming more Democratic.
There were a lot of ‘firsts’
It was the first time that more than 100 women will be sent to Congress, including the record for the youngest women elected. In Colorado, Jared Polis is the first openly gay man to be elected governor. Maine and Iowa elected a woman to be governor for the first time. There were two Muslim women and two Native American women elected to Congress for the first time. And, locally, Massachusetts and Connecticut elected their first African-American women to Congress.
Voting rights had a big night — with one exception
Democrats loudly complained about what they saw were a number of voter suppression attempts in the Georgia governor’s races, from kicking names off the voter rolls to long lings at the polls, in largely minority communities.
But there was also some positive news for those interested in changing the voting system. As Florida elected Republicans to serve as US Senator and governor, voters also chose to let those with past convictions participate in upcoming elections. That is roughly 1.7 million people.
Voters in Michigan, Colorado and Missouri passed binding resolutions to change the way redistricting will happen in their states following the 2020 census. Michigan also made voter registration automatic.
Question 2 in Massachusetts, which passed overwhelmingly, will set up a commission to explain how to craft a constitutional amendment to address the Citizens United ruling on money in politics.
The Democratic Party remains undefined
Heading into the midterms, Democrats were defined more by what they were not — Trump’s party — than what they were. Beyond that, the party included a varied mix of pols who called themselves everything from Democratic socialists to pro-gun to anti-abortion.
Overall, the party is moving to the left. But many candidates who made that push in red or purple territory — such as Florida’s Andrew Gillum, Texas’s Beto O’Rouke and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams — were not rewarded. (To be sure, the moderate Democrats in Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota also didn’t fare well.)
What it means to be a Democrat these days remains as unclear as it did the day after Trump’s election. It may take the 2020 presidential primary to sort this all out.
Trump’s path in 2020 is more difficult
If Trump’s path to the presidency in 2016 involved winning states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, then he should be somewhat troubled by what happened there. Those states all elected Democratic governors, picked up seats in the legislatures and elected Democrats to the US Senate. This could signal that the “blue wall” these states might be back, and Trump will have to contend with it in two years.