Don’t Bank on a Blue Wave

Despite the surge in interest from young voters, a majority-Democrat Senate is still a long shot.
November 6, 2018
8 mins read

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve likely heard talk about a so-called “blue wave.” But for those who skipped to the next channel when that phrase was uttered, the blue wave is the idea that citizens will vote in Democrats across the country during the midterm elections. In fact, people hope that the wave will be so strong that Democrats can pull off a blue majority in the House and possibly even in the Senate.

I hate to be the one to dash people’s hopes, but let’s face the facts: there’s a good chance there is no blue wave coming.

The House currently holds 235 Republicans to the Democrats’ 193 (with seven vacancies), meaning that Democrats need to win at least 24 seats. That may not sound like a lot, but that means 24 districts that previously voted for Republicans now have to change their minds.

Unfortunately, it’s common knowledge that people resist change, especially if they feel that they are currently well off. Republican voters, especially, might fear a switch in congressional control because their control of the country’s agenda would be lost.

Both parties have won 24 seats in the midterms before, but it’s not exactly common. In 2010, Republicans won 24 seats after President Obama’s first term, and in 2006 Democrats won 31 seats after President Bush’s second term.

According to The New York Times, there are 73 seats in the House that are either a “tossup,” or only slightly leaning toward one party. Of those, 15 appear to be leaning toward a Democratic candidate while 29 are leaning Republican. The other 29 are the tossups, meaning the race is still too close to call. So, when you do the math, the Democrats would need to win at least nine of the unpredictable seats, something that could prove very difficult, especially when many are in rural/suburban areas that typically vote conservative.

Incumbent candidates tend keep their seats during the midterms, so the Democrats should feel lucky that 39 Republicans decided not to run for re-election in the House. But that doesn’t mean that the voters in those districts will not just vote another Republican in.

Plus, Democrats will likely have a difficult time prospering in this election if young people do not vote. And yes, young Americans currently show marked increases in political agency, but voters under 30 commonly avoid casting ballots during the midterms, citing that they feel disillusioned, as though their vote won’t matter — this is especially common in places such as California where the state is almost guaranteed to have Democratic senators — or that the political parties don’t “really do anything” for them.

Republicans, on the other hand, typically carry the votes of white Americans and older citizens, both groups that are known for higher turnout rates than other demographics. So, the GOP already carries an advantage going into Election Day.

And not only do the conservatives carry that advantage — they also normally win the votes of the silent majority. This term has been around since Nixon’s time and refers to the group of people who typically do not voice their political opinions (hence the name “silent” majority). That coalition is actually a big reason why Trump became president.

Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi have predicted victory for Democrats, but as NBC analyst Marie Whitaker pointed out after the 2016 election, “Those being polled are not always honest.” The public cannot simply trust poll results and hope that others will enact political change for them — everyone has to vote.

And even though some evidence exists that Democrats are currently polling well in suburban areas, making presumptions about election outcomes could actually encourage citizens to not cast their ballots. If people believe their vote is no longer “necessary,” they may entirely avoid the hassle of the process.

In terms of the Senate, the Democrats have an uphill battle. They would not need to win many seats to gain a majority, but most of the Senate seats up for re-election this year are held by Democratic incumbents, meaning that Democrats are more likely to lose seats than to gain any.

So, it’s time to stop claiming that the blue wave will definitely come. If Democrats really want to ensure their victory, it’s essential that they demonstrate the absolute importance of casting an educated vote.

The blue party also must show why it’s crucial they hold a House and/or Senate majority. Right now, Democrats are just running with the anti-Trump sentiment, but they’ll need to demonstrate how they’ll actually work against Trump and why they should in the first place in order to win over voters.

Should the blue wave prove to be real and the Democrats win a majority in the House, they’ll be able to counter legislation that could have enormous impacts on diverse individuals. Already the Trump administration has damaged transgender and immigrant rights in large parts because of the House’s Republican majority. Democrats could also push the Russia investigation forward and force Trump to release his taxes. However, as Rep. Henry Waxman pointed out, Democrats have to be careful about how far they take their anti-Trump sentiment during election season, especially in typically red states.

Given the challenges faced by Democrats trying to take over the Senate, it’s almost futile to even contemplate what Democrats would do with a majority, but I’ll imagine anyway. One of the fundamental reasons behind Democrats wanting to win control of the Senate is the Supreme Court. Senators confirm justices, and given that many of the current justices are moving closer to retirement, Democrats want to avoid any more Trump nominations making it to the highest court in America.

All that being said, according to most polls, Democrats actually have favorable odds in the House, as long as they don’t get too presumptuous. And despite the confident front that Democrats such as Pelosi are putting on, it’s more likely that they’re feeling the way this “SNL” skit described.

All in all, should young Americans vote, should Democrats effectively pass along their message, should the silent majority swing left and should many other factors go in the Democrats’ favor, the blue wave could become a reality. All that’s left to do is wait until Election Night.

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