By The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.
Now that the recounts are mostly done, it’s clear that the 2018 midterms brought a blue wave even bigger than the most optimistic Democrats had hoped for. There are lessons in it for both parties.
For all the talk of the Democratic Party veering hard left, it was mostly moderate Democrats who prevailed outside deep-blue regions — something the party should keep in mind going into 2020. Americans have little appetite for political extremism.
As for Republicans: Voter repudiation of President Donald Trump at every level of government should be the clearest indication yet of the disastrous course he has set for the GOP. After two years of debasing American politics and undermining democratic norms, Trump told the voters to consider the midterms a referendum on him. It’s clear now that they did exactly that.
Democrats needed to flip 24 seats to take over the House; they appear to have gained at least 38 seats — the party’s biggest advance since the Watergate era. Americans by a roughly 7 percent margin chose Democratic House candidates over Republican ones.
Democrats flipped seven Republican governors’ seats, including that of former presidential hopeful Scott Walker of Wisconsin. In deep-red Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Republican Kris Kobach, arguably the most Trumpian gubernatorial candidate in the country. Gov. Bruce Rauner, the only statewide Republican office holder in Illinois, lost to Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
Orange County, Calif., one of the country’s most reliably Republican bastions, will be completely blue when its new congressional delegation is seated in January. Crucially, the three formerly blue states that handed Trump his Electoral College victory two years ago — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — all reverted to form, with Democratic wins in gubernatorial and Senate races there.
Yes, Democrats lost ground in the Senate, but that was widely expected given this year’s Senate election map, which had Democrats playing a lot of defense in Republican-leaning states.
Even in losses, though, the Democratic wave was visible. In Missouri, for example, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley by 6 percentage points — a clear defeat, but nothing like the 19-point drubbing that Trump handed to Hillary Clinton here two years ago.
The results set up Democrats for a potential take-back of the Senate and the White House in 2020 — a crucial cause, given the GOP’s demonstrated refusal to rein Trump in. Democratic progressives and moderates need to keep their eye on that ball and avoid letting intra-party ideological rifts dominate the next two years.
As for Republicans: Those who still don’t understand what a catastrophe Trump has been for both their party and their country aren’t going to be convinced by this election or anything else short of his removal from power. Nov. 6 marked an important first step on that Democratic quest.