There's A Lot For Progressives To Celebrate Today

[ Posted Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 – 18:00 PST ]

Was it a blue wave, or (as one television commentator last night waggishly put it) only a "blue ripple"? The one thing everyone can agree upon is that it wasn't actually a tsunami, but I'm still kind of surprised at the bickering this morning over the precise amplitude of the Democratic victories last night (as measured in metaphorical ocean waves), because no matter how you spin it Democrats had a really good night pretty much everywhere but the Senate races. Since the Senate was always going to be tough, this wasn't all that big a deal, really, but some today seem overly dismayed by the fact that Democrats didn't run the table everywhere.

Personally, I am celebrating the numerous victories on the Democratic side. Because when you get beyond all the garment-rending over the Senate (and a few other high-profile losses), there was indeed a lot for progressives to celebrate.

Let's start with the losses, just to get them out of the way. Three high-profile candidates lost their races -- Beto O'Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida, and (most likely, unless there's a runoff election next month) Stacey Abrams in Georgia. These three candidates were all accorded rock-star status within the Democratic Party before the election, but the fact remained that all three of them were running in very tough races. Texas, in particular, seems to be the perennial disappointment for Democrats who, not unlike Charlie Brown and the football, keep convincing themselves that "this time, Texas will turn blue!" But it's still Texas, please remember. Likewise, Georgia is still Georgia. Both are pretty solid-red states, meaning that Democratic candidates faced very long odds in any statewide race.

Democrats saw losses in the Senate as well, in states that have been trending red for a long time now. Indiana, North Dakota, and Missouri had Democratic senators as a kind of historical hangover, but they've been getting redder and redder all the while. So it's not all that surprising to see Democrats unseated in these states. Especially in an election cycle where the Senate odds were stacked more heavily against Democrats than at any time since the 1930s.

But why obsess over these losses when there were so many victories to celebrate? The biggest victories were actually the smallest, so let's start there. During Barack Obama's time in office, Democrats lost close to 1,000 state legislative seats across the country. Last night, they flipped roughly 300 of these back. That is an enormous achievement. Here's how the Washington Post summed it up:

[T]he raw numbers are less important than where [Democrats] picked up seats. Democrats gained "trifectas" -- controlling the governorship and both houses of the legislature -- in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. In addition, they took away Republican trifectas in four more states, three by winning the governorship (Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin) and one by taking both chambers of the legislature (New Hampshire). They also flipped the Maine Senate and Minnesota House, and won supermajorities in the Oregon House and Senate. The only chamber that flipped to Republican was the Alaska House.

Speaking of supermajorities, Democrats also won enough seats in North Carolina to break the GOP supermajorities in both houses there, meaning Republicans can no longer override Democratic governor Roy Cooper's vetoes. They also broke Republican supermajorities in the Pennsylvania Senate and Michigan Senate.

That is an astounding amount of progress, for one election cycle. Democrats also picked up at least seven governors' seats, in Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Maine. Three of those were big wins just because of how odious the Republicans were. Kris Kobach got defeated in Kansas, which is big news because Kobach has always been more over-the-top than even Donald Trump when it comes to immigration and "voter fraud" (which does not actually exist). Kobach even chaired Trump's short-lived "election fraud commission," but he proved to be too extreme for Kansas last night. Wisconsin voters finally got rid of two-term governor Scott Walker, who has long been a thorn in Democrats' sides. Maine's governor was term-limited out, but it certainly will be satisfying to Mainers (and a whole lot of other people) to see Paul LePage exit the building as a Democratic woman takes over for him. Democrats also defeated a whole slew of GOP House members that won't be missed. Dave Brat springs immediately to mind, although he's certainly not the only one.

The mechanics of voting was on the ballot in a number of states, and although Arkansas and North Carolina passed voter ID measures, elsewhere the news was good. Voters in Michigan, Colorado, and probably Utah (votes are still being counted) fully rejected the entire concept of gerrymandering, instituting nonpartisan redistricting boards instead. In addition, Missouri will hand the power of redistricting to a nonpartisan demographer. They will all join a handful of other states (California and Arizona, most notably) who have already taken such a step -- which will help enormously in 2021, when the next House of Representatives redistricting takes place. It's now pretty clear: give the voters a choice, and they will reject the whole concept of gerrymandering. Nevada also approved automatic voter registration, and Maryland approved same-day registration as well.

Speaking of changing the mechanics of voting, there will be one footnote to the 2018 election that is interesting and wonky. The House seat in Maine's second district will be the first ever to be decided by instant runoff (or "ranked choice") voting. Voters put down their first, second, and third choices on their ballots, and since neither of the top two vote-getters won a 50 percent (plus one vote) majority, some time in the next week all the votes for the Independent in the race will be apportioned to either the Democrat or the Republican, based on those voters' second choices. This is technically interesting because it represents a new way of giving voters more choices while at the same time not forcing them to vote for one of the two major-party candidates "because otherwise you'll be wasting your vote." So it'll be interesting to see the outcome, in what is now a very close race. Democrats would be overjoyed to flip this particular district, it's worth noting.

But the biggest voting nuts-and-bolts news last night came out of Florida, where Amendment 4 passed comfortably. This will restore voting rights to a whopping 1.5 million disenfranchised Floridians. Now, not all of them will take the opportunity to register and vote regularly, but if even a fraction of them do it could change Florida from a purple state to a reliably blue state (assuming they'll remember which party fought hard for their right to vote, and which party fought against it). That could have enormous national implications in the next presidential election. Florida has a lot of Electoral College votes, after all.

Other progressive ballot measures also cruised to success and should be celebrated. Two very red states -- Arkansas and Missouri -- voted to increase their minimum wage, even though Republicans fought hard against the measure. Medicaid expansion won at the ballot box in three more ruby-red states: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. Also, because Democrats won the governors' races, Medicaid will most likely be expanded in Maine and Kansas. Michigan legalized adult recreational use of marijuana, becoming the tenth state to do so. Medical marijuana was approved in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah as well. Also, Washington state passed a strong gun safety measure. Overall, it was a great night for progressive ballot initiatives, even in the reddest of states. And while it's not exactly a partisan issue per se, Californians passed a measure in support of keeping Daylight Savings Time year-round (no more changing clocks in the winter, in other words, as summer's time would be in place all year).

As you can see when you step back and take a look at the big picture, there were a lot of election results last night that are definitely worth celebrating. Democrats didn't win every race, it's true, but progressive ideas pretty much swept the board in the ballot initiatives. And, of course, Democrats will be in charge of the House of Representatives come January. That's the most obvious thing worth cheering today. So while I will leave it to others to ascertain just how "wavey" last night's election truly was, I am ignoring the semantic debate because -- again, other than the bad news in the Senate -- there were plenty of progressive and Democratic victories worth celebrating today.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


28 Comments on “There's A Lot For Progressives To Celebrate Today”

  1. [1] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    There's nothing to celebrate today; celebrate in January, if everything is still here.

    Meanwhile, this is serious.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Trump also had a good night.

    I hope no one will be surprised when he's reelected n 2020.

    Because, I'm pretty sure voters won't choose Biden to be the Democratic nominee. Call me surprised and relieved not to mention bouncing off the walls if he is.

  3. [3] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    And then...back in the Beltway, Trump railed against fake news, flabbergasted onlookers by insisting a black reporter's utterances were racist, fired his garden Gnome, Sessions and lied to the American people that the GOP had a great first Tuesday in November.

    So glad we're back to the old familiar outrages...

    Well done my furry came through in the clinch. I'm proud to be in your company, balsy, motivated and ready to get stuck into the issues.

    Well done.


  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Hmmm. It looks to me like the Legalization initiative helped Democrats across the ballot in Michigan. I certainly hope that gets noticed.

  5. [5] 
    Paula wrote:

    Inside Ohio sucked (other than Sherrod Brown, which was expected), but outside Ohio there were many sweet victories!

    This has a great rundown:

    In the early part of the evening things were looking somewhat grim, but then things shifted and we started getting good news from several places. Scott Walker going down after he thought he'd won was especially sweet. Kris Kobach's loss was wonderful. Dana Rohrbacher and David Brat, etc.

    All in all I woke up today feeling like we have weapons now we didn't have before last night - and we need them, as Tiny melted down in his presser today and then fired Jeff Sessions. The inevitable showdown is looming - it would have happened whether we took the House or not but since we have the House we are much better positioned to respond.

    Also, a bunch of GOP Senators face re-election in 2020, so their opponents will begin running against them in the next several months and how these Senators deal with Tiny and Mueller will become fodder for those Dem opponents. Mueller is viewed positively by a majority of Americans and I suspect that will mute support for Tiny's worst excesses. And Tiny will lash out at them in response if they don't slavishly back him. I think what GOP Senators were willing to back changed after last night. A lot of DT-syncophantic candidates LOST.

    Tiny's actions today are those of a frightened man. As one person put it on twitter: "we now enter the cornered rat phase." Again, this has been in the cards all along. Let's get it over with.

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:


    I'm not sure this is what you intended, however it reads as though you would not vote for a Democrat in 2020 unless Biden wins the nomination (a moot point, I understand, but a pretty demoralizing one at this point in the proceedings before we've even seen who else is on the ballot).

  7. [7] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Californians passed a measure in support of keeping Daylight Savings Time year-round (no more changing clocks in the winter, in other words, as summer's time would be in place all year).

    Wait, what... y'all got summer all the time!? I want this!

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Democrats' percentage of victory was higher this year than in 2010 when the Tea Party wave rolled in. It's not easy to flip House seats where voter suppression is alive and well and Districts are gerrymandered in deep Red states to be unflappable, but nevertheless they flipped.

    The scenario faced in the Senate was near impossible at the outset and is largely the complete opposite in 2020 when Democrats will be defending 11 seats and Republicans will be defending a whopping 22.

    Competitive Senate Races 2020

    Kansas ---> Not a typo; the new Governor is a Democrat.
    New Hampshire
    North Carolina
    Texas ----> Beto 2.0?

    Only two of the competitive seats are held by Democrats, and believe it or not, one of them is actually Alabama!

    The election is November 3, 2020... less than 2 years away. Get your popcorn ready. ;)

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:

    Edit [8]

    Democrats are defending 12, Republicans 21 + Arizona to replace McCain.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I meant that I don't see anyone else other than Biden whose name is already in the mix beating Trump in 2020 or, more importantly, beginning the important work again of forming a more perfect union.

    If I was an eligible US voter in 2018/2020 I would vote Democrat straight down the line. But, that doesn't change my thinking that only an extremely capable and well-equipped Democratic presidential nominee will beat Trump, if he's still around.

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Democrats pick up another House seat in NM-02.

    Multiple media outlets had already called the race for the Republican earlier Tuesday, but there were over 8,000 provisional ballots. After those were counted, the Democrat won the seat.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    that one's not over yet. the republican hasn't conceded and there will probably be a recount.

  13. [13] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I sincerely hope you and the Dem supporters enjoy your victories in the 2018 elections. When your team wins you have a right to celebrate.

    But when you are done celebrating, please come back to reality from now until the 2020 election.

    The Dems took BACK control of the House and 300 of the 1000 state legislative seats they lost.

    Meanwhile 400 of the 470 or so congressional and senate seats remained the same.

    And even if the Dems retain the House, win the Senate and the presidency in 2020, they will begin losing them back again in 2022.

    So 2018 is not in any way progress. It is more of the same.

    Big Money still controls both CMPs and will still control both parties and the political debate in 2020.

    Even if you can't find the integrity to address One Demand and inform citizens aboot the opportunity for real progress, I hope you will at least hold the Democrats feet to the fire on living up to their campaign promises to fight Trump and the Republicans.

    That is what the Dems ran on- Trump is so bad that citizens have to vote for Dems to stop him.

    They were not running on working with the president to get things done, so don't let the Dems get away with their usual shtick that they are better than the Republicans because when the Dems are in control they are willing to compromise and work with Republicans.

    And when the Dems again live up to their nature instead of their promises, give citizens other options so that citizens can also hold the Dems feet to the fire instead of only having a choice between Dems that get away with breaking their promises election after election by exploiting the fear of Republicans in citizens that fear Republicans just as Republicans exploit the fear of Dems.

    Fear is no way to run a democracy.

    "Courage is our creed."
    -Just Visiting

    Come to think of it. Don't wait for the Dems to break their promises AGAIN before providing citizens with other options. Give them the other options NOW, so that if (WHEN) the Dems break their promises the other options will be in place and ready to be used.

    Just having the other options available for 2020 starting now would provide incentive for the Dems to live up to their promises.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    pardon my general pessimism, i'm also curious what sorts of shenanigans will be rolled out by governor de santis to prevent the re-enfranchisement of floridians of color.

  15. [15] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Again...The NRA strikes at America's kids.

    What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
    Hey, Bungalow Bill
    What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
    He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
    In case of accidents he always took his mom
    He's the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son
    All the children sing
    Hey, Bungalow Bill
    What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
    Hey, Bungalow Bill
    What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
    Deep in the jungle, where the mighty tiger lies
    Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
    So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes
    All the children sing



  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    [2] Elizabeth Miller

    "Trump also had a good night.

    I hope no one will be surprised when he's reelected n 2020."

    Elizabeth, I think a lot of that depends on if Americans, particularly white Americans, can be prevailed upon and convinced to cast a vote based on their hopes instead of on their fears.

    That's what happened here in Florida, where DeSantis, despite speaking at conferences hosted by white nationalists, still manged to win anyway by painting Gillum with the "scary socialist" brush and appealing to, not the hard core racist, but the casually racist and oblivious among us.

    Like C.W. I hope that the restoration of voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians will help change this dynamic in two more years.

    Also, as much as Don Harris might dislike this line of reasoning, I think Democrats are going to have to work on getting the support of at least some of the white investor class back, that Trump now has in his pocket along with his hardcore supporters. People may not vote entirely based on how the stock market is doing, but they do vote based on their own personal economics and how their 401K plans are doing, sometimes regardless of anything else. A lot of people still choose personal economic well being over larger issues of social justice. They hold their nose and ignore the rest.

  17. [17] 
    John M wrote:

    "I think a lot of that depends on if Americans, particularly white Americans, can be prevailed upon and convinced to cast a vote based on their hopes instead of on their fears."

    In that regard in 2020, we might do better with a Beto O'Rourke rather than a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren.

  18. [18] 
    John M wrote:

    [3] James T Canuck

    "And then...back in the Beltway, Trump railed against fake news, flabbergasted onlookers by insisting a black reporter's utterances were racist, fired his garden Gnome, Sessions and lied to the American people that the GOP had a great first Tuesday in November."

    How about the Trump administration revoking CNN's Jim Acosta's press credentials?

    C.W. do you think the press corp or FOX will push back?

  19. [19] 
    John M wrote:

    14] nypoet22

    "pardon my general pessimism, i'm also curious what sorts of shenanigans will be rolled out by governor de santis to prevent the re-enfranchisement of floridians of color."

    I guess will see. After Florida passed the constitutional amendments against gerrymandering, the Republican legislature still went ahead and did it anyway for the next two election cycles after that. It took the courts to step in to at least try to thwart and mitigate those shenanigans.

  20. [20] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    It's not aboot whether it was a blue ripple or a blue wave. What everyone seems to be getting wrong is the color of the wave.

    The vast majority of the wave was as it has been for a long time- GREEN. Not Jill Stein Green Party green, but Big Money green.

    This was obscured by a thick layer of brown- for the bullshit rhetoric from both CMPs and more of the same old shit. This brown layer provides a dual purpose of the appearance of separation between the green mass of the wave while at the same time providing the glue that binds the thin surface layer of blue and/or red to the green mass.

    Is the media color blind or just seeing what they want to or are told to see?

  21. [21] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    And even if the Dems retain the House, win the Senate and the presidency in 2020, they will begin losing them back again in 2022.

    So 2018 is not in any way progress. It is more of the same.

    So if I start dating Mila Kunis, become a celebrity myself thereby, and become moderately wealthy, that would probably begin to unravel as soon as we broke up.

    So if I meet her today, it's not a big deal. Just another doe-eyed super-hot admirer to add to the list.

    Or so goes the logic.

    I even know how you arrived at that circular logic:

    - Political parties that accept large donations are interchangeable - neither of the major parties curb donations, so a win for either is a win only for large donors.

    - In recent years, one or the other major party has always held power in DC, so a shift in power to either is meaningless.

    - Ergo, a win for either party is meaningless.

    But here's the counter-argument:

    - Corporate and big-ticket donors are not all cut from the same cloth. Generally, old industry favors Republicans, new industries favor Democrats. Big money donors come from all over the political spectrum - there are big-money independents, radicals, socialists, libertarians, and moderates, so assigning a single political philosophy to all of them is both inaccurate and misleading.

    - Anyone with eyes and ears knows that the two major parties currently endorse very different political, economic and social, and even cultural policies. Historically, you might have picked the worst time since the Civil War to make an argument to the contrary.

    - Knowing this, you can't apply the term 'meaningless' to the results of the election, regardless of your attitude toward the result. There are issues of life and death on the ballot, and yesterday's election changed millions of lives.

    - Even removing all of the money from politics wouldn't guarantee that you'd end up with candidates of better character. Remember when Trump was pretending to 'self-finance' his campaign and take NO donations? He was lying, of course, but also illustrating the down-side of answering to no one.

    The flaw in your logic is that it's based on an unsophisticated or myopic view of political reality: if money is the only part of the machine that concerns you, you're standing much too close to have an adequate and accurate view of the whole thing.

  22. [22] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    "How about the Trump administration revoking CNN's Jim Acosta's press credentials?"

    John M, I'm not impressed or surprised. Acosta his flown close to the Sun a few times...

    Acosta would never had been given the microphone yesterday unless Trump wanted an argument. I think it was a setup that Acosta fell into. One might say he was 'accosted'...

    I wonder if Acosta will still be doing the Trump rallies?


  23. [23] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Not really sure what dating Mila Kunis has to do with the temporary nature of Democratic control of the House.

    But here's the flaws in your argument.

    Both parties ARE controlled by Big Money so a win by a Big Money candidate from either party IS a win for the Big Money interests. I never said the CMPs were interchangeable.

    That is the same false claim as saying I say the two parties are the same or there is no difference between the parties. Just because there may be some differences in the parties does not mean that they are different in areas where they are the same- such as taking Big Money and being beholden to the Big Money interests.

    I also never said that a shift in power is meaningless. I said it was temporary, made little difference and is more of the same, as you admitted when you said that one of two parties has always been in control (or in charge as you said it).

    No matter what it is that the Big Money interests want they are using their money to get it and undermining democracy by doing so as the candidate/legislators are influenced by the Big Money more than the votes of the ordinary citizens that do not have Big Money to contribute.

    Everyone may know that the two CMPs espouse different philosophies, but their actions often do not match the rhetoric. And everyone knows (except perhaps you) that the reason for that is that they are controlled by the Big Money interests.

    You are right that removing all the money from politics (which I am NOT proposing) would not guarantee better candidates. There are no guarantees in politics, but replacing the Big Money with small contributions from individuals greatly increases the odds of better candidates from zero percent as it is now to odds in favor of better candidates.

    What I am proposing is an alternate source of funding from ordinary citizens in the form of small contributions.

    So Trump's lie aboot being beholden to no one has nothing to do with what I am proposing. The candidates would be beholden to the small contributors and those that vote for the candidate, not beholden to no one.

    Big Money has an effect on and is an impediment to the realization of solutions on every other issue. If Big Money doesn't concern you, you are standing much too deep in your partisan bubble to have an adequate and accurate view of the whole thing.

    So your description of my argument is not accurate and your counter-argument is based on false statements aboot the One Demand approach.

    But thanks for playing. Better luck next time.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:


    that one's not over yet. the republican hasn't conceded and there will probably be a recount.

    Say what?! "Senator" Roy Moore hasn't conceded yet either. ;)

    Well, okay, but it'll cost the candidate unless the recount reverses the results. The press sure called that one early... should have waited until all the 8,000+ absentee ballots were counted from Dona Ana.

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    There are still hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots to count, but Kyrsten Sinema has now taken the lead in the Arizona race for the Senate seat.

    Hope she can hold on and win that seat. :)

  26. [26] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i agree, donald has a very real chance at re-election, and it will take a candidate with real character and fortitude to defeat him in '20


  27. [27] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Don Harris [23] I also never said that a shift in power is meaningless. I said it was temporary, made little difference and is more of the same...

    Balthasar[21] Historically, [Harris] might have picked the worst time since the Civil War to make [the preceding] argument to the contrary.

    While I don't believe it to be true, Mr. Harris's whole premise is that it's disgust over Big Money that explains very generally why so many people don't vote. But I do believe that this is the worst time since the (last) civil war to even debate that premise.

    Two realities obviate that debate, and falsify the assertion that this particular shift in power makes "little difference."

    The first is the direct attack on the Special Counsel, which is now taking place in the DC Circuit, and in Trump's appointment to Acting Attorney General of a man on the record of seeking the disempowerment of the SC's investigation. This is only a problem if the office of the SC can survive until January. It is not at all certain that it can.

    The second obviation is that Trump is no ordinary president, and the party of Trump is no ordinary gang of feckless, opportunistic, bought-and-paid-for politicians. Progressives believe that truth will prevail, and are befuddled by Trump and by his success. Giddiness over what, in fact, is a middling size midterm contra-presidential election, is distracting away from the real threat, and missing the real story.

    The real story is that Trump is a cult leader, and fully 45% of voters voted with Trump. See Chris Hedges' essay for a description of the sense in which I assert that the president is a cult leader, here:

    Unless there are enough Senators to counter this Attorney General offensive, and the other offensives certain to be launched in the next 60 days, there is a very good chance that Tomorrow Belongs to Trump.

  28. [28] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    my premise is that it's disgust over Big Cake that explains why people don't vote, and they would flock to the polls if candidates favored pie.

    as to donald's showdown with the special counsel investigation, i'm curious how far he'll have to go to get pelosi and co. to summon the guts to impeach. a hundred quatloos says donald will keep pushing the envelope until we find out.


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