Suburban Shift — 2018 Election Aftermath and Postmortem

     After all the sturm und drang, not to mention the plethora of polling calls, political mailers and commercials, and emotional outbursts, the 2018 election is over and in the bag.

     My predictions for 2018 were broadly accurate, but I was too conservative in many regards as to the magnitude, especially in Nevada. As predicted, Democrats flipped both the U.S. Senate seat and Governorship, though by much larger margins than predicted, abet still a plurality with rather than an outright majority. However, the Democrats ended up doing far better, not only picking up the Lt. Gov. seat, but also the state Controller seat by a decent margin (both with Democrats winning a majority of the vote). The Republicans lost the Treasurer’s and Attorney General’s race (both of those being open seats), by less than 1%. The only silver lining for Republicans is the reelection of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske who won a slim plurality victory of less than 1%; she is now the front-runner for the Gubernatorial or Senate nomination in 2022, assuming she doesn’t opt to run for the 3rd Congressional district in 2020 or 2022. Ominously, the Democrats did even better in Washoe County that in 2016, with their early vote results far in excess of the Democrats early voter edge, making it clear that it was all over for Republicans before Election Day even began.

     Speaking of the down-ticket races in Nevada, as predicted, Democrats kept both the 4th and 3rd Congressional seats. In the legislature, it was an absolute disaster for Republicans. Not only did they fail to pick up a winnable seat in Washoe County, they lost two in Clark County, giving the Democrats a supermajority. Worse yet, was their performance in the state Senate. By the early votes, it seemed like the Republicans were in a good position to keep SD08 and SD20, while only being at risk in SD09, since though they were behind, in previous elections independents and election day voters helped counter that early vote lead. In 2018, the exact opposite happened. The Democrats’ early voter lead underestimated their eventually victory in not only SD09, but also SD08. This means that the Democrats are only one seat away from gaining a supermajority in the state Senate too, which would give them a degree of power not seen in many people’s lifetime, and the hard Left a degree of power that they’ve never had in Nevada. How close was this supermajority in the state Senate? The Republicans won by twenty-eight votes. For the state Senate, this means that the Democrats will have complete control for redistricting in 2020, since Republicans would have to pick up three seats to regain a majority, while there are only to potential pick-up opportunities (SD05 and SD06).

     In the 3rd Congressional district, which Republican nominee Danny Tarkanian lost narrowly in 2016, and a district that Trump won that same year, Tarkanian lost by an even greater margin than Republican Crecent Hardy did in the 4th Congressional district (~26K vs. ~19K). More on Danny Tarkanian, a professional loser, below.

     What happened in Nevada was not unique. It was about the suburbs and how they are shifting towards the Democrats after long default control by Republicans. In Nevada, independents as well as many Republicans repudiated “MAGA”. This was widely seen nationally, as the Democrats won Congressional and legislative races in the suburbs, picking up a majority in the House of Representatives and flipping many legislative houses nationwide. This shift also contributed to Democrats winning over a dozen governorships and losing none (the Republicans picked up the Alaska governorship from a formal independent who had dropped out of the race earlier this year). It is also fair warning that the unique orgy of Black Swans that ushered in 2016 is over.

     After the 2016 election, I considered why I had been off on the Presidential election. My conclusion was that I, as had others, underestimated the sheer degree to which Hillary Clinton was toxic. I had previously noted that Hillary was the only Democrat who could lose to Donald Trump, and she indeed managed to somehow due so by less than 100,000 votes across a few states. In those states, the Republicans were devastated, doing horribly in Pennsylvania and losing governorships in Wisconsin and Michigan, while being devastated in neighboring Minnesota. Only in Ohio did the Republicans manage to keep the governorship while the Democratic incumbent kept the U.S. Senate seat. This is fair warning for Republicans that they can not rely on these states as default entries into the Republican/MAGA column.

     Indeed, much of the 2018 election looks like 2016 would have been in the absence of Hillary Clinton. The success of the Democrats in the suburbs during those special elections, primaries, and general elections over the past two years since the Nov. 2016 election were fair warning that the GOP was going to do poorly in the suburbs. But of course accepting that fact would run counter to the MAGA narrative that it was the “establishment” who were the problem and that the suburbs punished them for not being “MAGA” enough. This ignores that only the at least somewhat squishy GOPers can get elected to many of these swing suburban districts, and that suburban “soccer moms” et al. with college degrees and a middle class lifestyle don’t take kindly to being belittled and attacked for what they are.

     Perhaps another ominous sign is one that was evident even in 2016: Trump and MAGA do not play well in the Southwest U.S. Republicans were completely shut-out in not only Nevada, but also New Mexico and Colorado. While Utah remains very Republicans, it is not fertile Trump/MAGA ground, with Democrats picking up UT04 from Republican Mia Love. In Arizona, while the incumbent Republican governor easily won re-election, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate was barely ahead against a hardcore Leftist agitator. The West, and especially Southwest was once a Republican bastion on many levels, or at least highly competitive. Yet the Republicans on a national level seem happy to cede a fast growing part of the U.S. to Democrats… without cementing control where they’d need to (i.e. the Mid-West).

     In many ways, this is copying what the Democrats did with working class “blue collar” Whites, especially in rural and exurb areas. The Democrats politically abused this demographic and 2016 is when they finally gave the Democrats the middle-finger. The Republicans seem hell-bent on doing the same with middle class “white collar” Whites in the suburbs. This can be seen by mocking people with college degrees, don’t personally know people who don’t drive trucks, or don’t work in some “Salt of the Earth” job involving physical labor.

     Just as the Democrats lost in 2016 because they took the White working class “blue collar” vote for granted and felt they could abuse them, many in the GOP today feel they can belittle the “white collar” vote and abuse them with impunity. Politics is about building coalitions and having to work with those who aren’t necessarily part of your “in group” or social “tribe”. It may be emotionally cathartic to the “other” that isn’t part of your core tribe because they didn’t empathize with you and share the same “feelz”, but it is ultimately politically self-destructive. Many Republicans were stuck between a rock and a hard place: Trump and “MAGA” are not the Republican establishment, so going against that would lead to defeat even if said new establishment openly hates them, but by not distancing themselves from that, they continued to alienate the voters they needed to win.

     The only hope for Republicans is that the Democrats go out of their way to alienate those independents, moderates, and suburban Whites they need to maintain control. Aiding them this election was the fact that the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress in addition to the Presidency. Many voters noticed the acrid animosity of the political climate, as well as the vicious inanity, and simply punished the party in control. As the Democrats could point out: “Not my monkeys; not my circus”. But with control of the House of Representative now in their control (in addition to many legislatures and governorships), they can not claim it. If “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell can keep Trump’s worst inclinations under control with swift confirmation wins in the Senate, the Democrats are in a prime position to fully beclown themselves.

     ‘Tis sad, though, that political victory is dependent on which side become more repulsive than the other side.

     The one silver lining for Republicans was that they gained in the U.S. Senate. Of course, this is hardly proof of an unstoppable winning message. This election comes after three consecutive disastrous elections for this Senatorial Class for Republicans. In 2000 Republicans lost five seats net (with the two they picked up in 2000 now lost, Virginia in 2006 and Nevada in 2018), in 2006 Republicans lost six seats and their majority, and in 2012 Republicans lost two seats. With a net gain of four seats in 2018, Republicans still have less than half of the seats that were up for grabs. While they padded their slim majority, they will need every single one as a potential buffer in 2020 and 2022, when the two other Senatorial classes that are Republican heavy are up and Republicans have to defend a plethora of seats. So no, Republicans picking up seats in red states that they should have never lost to begin with is not proof that the election was not a clear victory for Democrats.   The other “proof” that this wasn’t a Democratic victory, that it is a win because Republicans didn’t lose that badly in comparison with some past elections, is pure political spin. That hard-Left Democrats narrowly lost in what ought to be easy races in red-leaning states should be treated as a warning, not as an excuse to throw caution to the wind; yet more than a few will do so anyway.

     Speaking of Danny Tarkanian, a professional loser, his concession speech, and that of his wife, are the perfect examples of the obliviousness that lead to Republicans losing, and why there is a viable concern that they won’t learn from 2018.

     The only thing Danny Tarkanian is useful for is to serve an example of what not to do, and who not to be. If Republicans want to win, they need to embrace the “anti-Tarkanian” within themselves.


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