The Democrats flipped the House; the Republicans built on their lead in the Senate. Our cold civil war continues. Not a wave, the 2018 midterm elections signaled the continued realignment of our politics with class, gender, geography, and race the operative guideposts.
One takeaway from the exit polls: It was Jewish voters who mounted the strongest opposition to the president and the GOP, with nearly 80 percent of their votes cast for a congressional Democrat. From the looks of the things, the Squirrel Hill Massacre and Republican efforts at Jew-baiting served more to anger than intimidate the American Jewish community.
In general, Tuesday’s congressional results tracked the 2016’s presidential elections—to a point. Districts that voted for Hillary Clinton elected Democrats to the House. More often than not, states that went for Donald Trump tapped Republicans to represent them in the Senate. Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp are all history.
But where the Democrats’ gained in the House the wins reflected cultural and economic issues. In New York, congressional Republicans had a horrible night with Dan Donovan, John Faso, and Claudia Tenney, all incumbents, going down to defeat. Even Long Island’s Pete King and Lee Zeldin struggled for reelection.
Significantly, just two years earlier in the presidential election, Trump had won all the districts in New York that turned blue last night. And yet it was the president’s own policies that cost the GOP in those areas. The losing Republicans were hampered by a Trump tax bill that took dead aim at the deductibility of state and local taxes. It’s hard in places like California, New Jersey, and New York for the GOP to claim the mantle of the anti-tax party when voters in those very same states watch their tax bite grow, and the value of their homes decline as the direct result of the president’s agenda.
Big picture, it seems likely that in the years to come, moderate Republicans will grow ever rarer in Congress even if they do have a knack for winning governors’ races in the bluest of states.
Still, the midterms were not just about dollars and cents. Race and “place” both played major roles. In Florida and Georgia, the president’s race-based dog whistles hit their intended marks.
As for the immigration debate, while the caravan’s north-bound progress will keep the issue on people’s minds, the Democrats will have to come to grips with borders, citizenship, and civic responsibility if they are serious about recapturing the White House anytime soon. Demanding the end of ICE is a surefire way of losing in 2020.
Lying beneath these shifts are the fluid tectonics of education and gender. The Women’s March was a harbinger of things to come. The Democrats’ traditional upstairs-downstairs coalition looks to be getting whiter, ever more credentialed, and feminized, according to the exit polls.
Not surprisingly, those same exit polls also reflect deep divisions within the United States. Urban America went Democratic by a 33-point margin, even as the parties fought to a draw in the suburbs, and the Republicans took a double-digit lead in rural parts of the country. Similarly, voters who placed a premium on diversity gave the Democrats an almost 4-to-1 advantage.
Gender and education, however, appear to have been among the biggest and most contentious flashpoints, with a bare majority of men going Republican, and women voting Democratic by nearly 3-to-2. Bluntly, college educated white women occupy an electoral universe markedly different from that inhabited by white working class men.
Let’s look at the numbers. White women with a B.A. or better gave almost 60 percent of their vote to the Democrats. On the other hand, white men without a four-year degree voted Republican by more than 2-to-1.
And this was not just a phenomenon of the coastal elite. The Texan moms of Southern Methodist University helped vote out Pete Sessions, the incumbent Republican from the Dallas suburbs.
Clearly, religion still very much reverberates. Even as mainline Protestantism wanes, the evangelical community digs in politically. Once again, the midterms made clear that the GOP is the home of white evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants.
Three-quarters of white evangelical and born-again Christians backed the Republican candidate in congressional races. On the other hand, voters outside of this category went Democratic by better than 2-to-1, with “religious nones” giving 70 percent of their votes to the Democratic candidate.
The Jewish vote, as previously mentioned, went solid blue. For now, it seems, ZOA president Mort Klein’s tirade against committing “political blasphemy” against the president has fallen on deaf ears, with Klein speaking for himself, his wife, Sheldon Adelson, and a minority of American Jews. Indeed, Coloradans elected Rep. Jared Polis, an openly gay Jew, as their governor. Suffice to say, America’s cold civil war won’t be cooling off anytime soon.
An attorney in New York, Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992.