OPINION: Midterm elections Blue trickle, red sea

Noah Meyer, Opinions Editor

Once again, we were promised a blue wave. And once again, the Democrats got the results we’ve all come to expect: disappointment. Yes, the Democrats now control the House, barely, but in the run-up to the election it seemed they were certain the House majority would be larger, there would be a chance for Senate control, and more governor races would be won. Instead of a blue wave, we got a blue trickle—a further demonstration that the Democratic parties wavering commitments, failure to take risks, and failure to provide a coherent alternative to Trumpism is going to snuff out the hope of a 2020 victory.

Perhaps the biggest Democratic failure was in our very own state of Florida, where both Nelson and Gillum were polling above their opponents for much of the period before the election—then both proceeded to lose (though Nelson is demanding a recount). Surprising no one, both Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis were carried by white voters, and with DeSantis having ties to white nationalist figures and groups and 26 percent of voters citing immigration as the most important factor (interestingly only 2 percent taxes), it’s clear what white voters were energized by. Another interesting aspect of DeSantis’ victory, is that roughly two-thirds of the voters were men and women over 45+, both genders favoring DeSantis. Gillum won the majority of the vote of low-income voters at 53 percent, but DeSantis won both middle and high-income households. So if you are wondering why the results are what they are—big surprise, it’s the white, rich and elderly.

This doesn’t excuse Gillum and Nelson’s loss, however. While Nelson may still pull it out in a recount, I predict the results will stand. Interestingly, by all accounts, it appeared Nelson was being carried by the energy behind Gillum but ended up receiving more votes and a result close enough for a recount. Bill Nelson has served in the Senate since 2000, becoming a frequent target for those who demand term limits. Nelson’s career is relatively unremarkable, as are the majority of centrist Democrats—he never really stood for anything risky or interesting. I remember calling Nelson’s office for the last two years demanding he come out in support of Medicare For All, but he instead held the establishment line of fixing Obamacare. Bill Nelson was a portrait of the Democrat’s largest issue, which is out of touch establishment figures that refuse to take risky stances that might appeal to non-voters, particularly the working class. Nelson’s higher numbers are likely the result of his opponent, Rick Scott, who is known for being both Florida’s governor and presiding over massive Medicare fraud. Lastly, there is the incumbent factor, which provides Nelson with name recognition and familiarity—another possible reason Nelson outperformed Gillum.

Andrew Gillum’s loss was much more of a shock than Nelson’s, especially considering that Gillum seemed to energize voters at an unprecedented level… a claim which should now be reevaluated. Much of Gillum’s loss can be attributed to the statistics above—Florida is a state of rich, white retirees—not a demographic known to favor black candidates and especially a candidate labeled “socialist.” If anything, much of the energy surrounding Gillum came for his campaigning during the nomination process, where he expressed support for Medicare For All, and in general seemed like an insurgent far-left candidate. Post-nomination Gillum appeared to tack to the center. Suddenly Medicare For All became “access to healthcare,” and Gillum’s healthcare plan began to resemble the centrist Democrat dream of fixing Obamacare. The majority of Gillum voters explicitly cited healthcare as their primary motivation, and with Gillum’s wavering stance on Medicare For All, he may have alienated more potential healthcare-motivated voters. Gillum also suddenly took positions supporting Israel and anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) legislation, as well as strange, hawkish remarks about Venezuela. “Socialist” Gillum began to become more of the average Democrat, snuffing out a flame that may have energized a new base of left-leaning millennials and the non-voting working class. Another reason for Gillum’s defeat was the relentless disinformation campaign regarding state income tax. Florida’s constitution prohibits a state income tax, yet a repeated attack against Gillum was that he would miraculously instate one. Many of the people I encountered that were unsure of Gillum specifically cited this fear of a state income tax as a reason they wouldn’t support him—despite the claim being entirely fabricated and legally impossible. The damage this lie caused is unknowable, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it played a role, though few voters cited taxes as their motivation to vote.

One victory that all of Florida can celebrate is the passing of Amendment 4, which allows ex-felons (excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offenses) to regain their right to vote. To be honest, it seems shocking that Amendment 4 passed while Nelson and Gillum lost, but those working to pass the amendment did an incredible job of presenting a message with bipartisan appeal. The passing of the amendment will give 1.5 million their right to vote, which is both a win for Florida and the principles of democracy. In my predictions, the passing of Amendment 4 will likely be of help to Florida Democrats, as the cause was championed by progressive organizations—while conservative organizations such as Florida Family Action explicitly suggested conservatives vote “no.”

If the Democrats take any lesson from the midterm elections, it should be that merely opposing Trump is not enough to win the vast majority of voters. The House was won, but barely, and key races such as Florida were massive losses. The Democrats have to actually campaign on a competing vision of America that goes far beyond just on “Trump is bad” rhetoric. With such a small majority in the House, it is likely the more Democrats will cross the aisle on key votes anyways—as Joe Manchin did with the Kavanaugh confirmation. The rhetoric from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is already disappointing, as she vows, “bipartisanship and common ground,” which is the spineless message Americans have come to expect from Democrats. If the Democratic party wants to avoid another disappointing election year in 2020, they need to offer a competing vision, as well as act as a true opposition party. No more reaching across the aisle because, to their credit, Republicans rarely reach back. The Republicans know how to play the game. They know how to combat their opposition and they know how to win—it’s about time the Democrats get it through their head that you play to win or you don’t play at all.

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