Election 2018

A Surprisingly Normal Election

The biggest shock from yesterday's midterms was that everything went more or less as expected.



From Brett Kavanaugh to Stormy Daniels to the Mueller investigation to President Trump's hyperactive Twitter feed, this year's midterm campaigns often felt unusually fraught, less like another boring day watching C-SPAN and more like some sort of strange thriller, leaving our political class and its Too Online hangers-on feeling twitchy and nervous, as if anything could happen. Beto! Russia! Maybe even aliens.

Yet for all the panic, all went more or less as expected. If anything, coming in the wake of the colossal twist-ending of 2016 and all that has happened since, watching the election returns last night felt oddly normal.

Democrats took the House, while Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, roughly as the pre-election polling predicted. The surprise was that nothing too strange happened.

Although Trump played a role, the election was largely fought over conventional kitchen table issues: education and the economy in Wisconsin, where GOP Gov. Scott Walker lost a close race; pre-existing conditions regulations in Arizona, where Republican candidate Martha McSally won; Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in the Kansas governor's race, where Republican Kris Kobach lost to Democrat Laura Kelly, who ran on expanding the program; as well as state ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah—all of which were approved.

Yes, the Democratic gains in the House were significant, a rebuke to Trump and a sign of the particular ways in which he is unpopular, notably amongst the sort of outer-ring suburban voters who have often gone for Republicans in the past. But even those gains were tempered somewhat by Republican pickups in the Senate and by Democratic losses in a few high-profile contests, like the Texas Senate race, where Beto O'Rourke, despite raising $70 million, lost to incumbent Ted Cruz.

Immigration played a role, too, and the last-minute fearmongering by Trump and his supporters over the migrant caravan—which was nowhere near the U.S. border, and which was hardly the invading criminal army that Trump insinuated—was unusual in a way. But even there, you could find a whiff of normalcy; given the persistence of the immigration debate and its importance to both parties, you would have expected immigration to be at or near the center of any midterm election, regardless of who was in the White House. And even Trump's rhetoric was normal for Trump, who has been running on fears of immigrant crime since the day he launched his presidential campaign.

None of which is to say that American politics is simply business as usual right now, or that we have somehow settled into a stable and unremarkable equilibrium.Trump really is an unusual and alarming president, and, with the loss of Republicans who don't match his style, the Republican Party is likely to grow Trumpier, at least in style and emphasis (the party would need an actual agenda in order to grow more Trumpy on policy). Increasing geographic polarization, meanwhile, in which Democrats consolidate support amongst high-density urban areas while Republicans make gains in rural communities, is likely to lead to even more intense partisan warfare and could result in a Democratic Party that effectively ignores voters outside of major metro enclaves. The new Democratic House majority is nearly certain to focus on oversight intended to check Trump. The Russia probe looms. I suppose we could still meet some aliens.

Yet last night's election is nonetheless a reminder that politics is often chaotic, that it can be hard to judge how unusual a moment really is when it is happening, that what feels, on the surface, like a time of pandemonium might actually turn out to be point at which normalcy, against the odds, asserts itself, resulting in a return to the divided government, with the clearer checks between branches that Americans often seem to prefer. As Josh Kraushaar writes, Americans voted for a balanced government rather than a full-on resistance.

It is also a reminder that the laws of political gravity still apply, and that voters still care about ordinary policy issues like education, jobs, and especially health care, which 40 percent of voters rated as their top problem facing the country, according to early exit poll data from CNN.

It's a sign, in other words, that even in our Trump-obsessed era, which often plays out like a deranged reality show focused entirely on culture war stunts and clashes of personality, retail politics is still about more than liking or disliking the president. Trump matters, but our political contests still revolve around essential policy and governing decisions that matter to the people casting their votes. It's a notion that really shouldn't be a shock, but in 2018 it may be the biggest surprise of all.

NEXT: Pundits Gripe Over Meaningless Senate 'Popular Vote'

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  1. Affix your bonnet, Suderman.

    1. Under the “Normal Election” heading: In down ballot election results from Arizona,
      Clint Bolick won retention to the state Supreme Court with 71% of the vote.

      A related story on this website sounded an alarm. How about an All Clear?

  2. So Sudderman now admits that all of the derranged ranting he has done over the last two years was completely at odds with reality. After all that we get an Emily Nitella “Nevermind”.

  3. The Russia probe looms.

    Indeed. The importance of Mueller’s investigation must not be overlooked. Considering the President is a white nationalist who’s literally turning this country into The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s tempting to focus on domestic issues. But Drumpf would not be in office in the first place if Russia hadn’t hacked the election on his behalf. Remember, he has possibly been a Russian intelligence asset since 1987.

    A Democratic House will be in position to #Impeach when Mueller concludes his exhaustive investigation. All patriotic Americans should celebrate that victory.


  4. loveconstitution assured me that Republicans would hold the house. I’m worried that he is currently being flogged by gruff, snarling Russian women. Please let us know you’re ok, LC!

    1. I wonder if he’ll have to switch usernames after his “Red Wave” prediction failed so spectacularly.


      1. Unlike you sock puppets, I only have one handle here.

        I will own it that my prediction for the House was wrong. All my other predictions were right.

        The House race aint over yet either.

      2. Maybe he’s drowning in the 1″ of #BlueTsunamiWaterInTheBottomOfTheBathTub

        1. drowning on the #blueteaspoon

    2. being flogged by gruff, snarling Russian women.
      I’ll pay 500, but I want a happy ending too.

      1. Russians don’t do happy endings.
        It’s kinda their thing

    3. He didn’t just predict that they would hold the House, he was sure they would gain seats in the House.


      1. Yeah, that was pretty moronic, he’s almost as much of a teamsucker as you are.

        1. Never change Tulpa

          1. I’m sorry having the truth about you voiced obviously bothers you so much. If you ask me politely to stop pointing out that you’re a teamsucker, I suppose I can stop.

            But if you can’t refrain from unapologetically defending leftists, their behavior, and their policies, someone else will probably point it out even if it isn’t me.

            1. For you, to qualify as “unapologetically defending leftists, their behavior, and their policies” just means one criticizes Republicans and isn’t a partisan cheerleader for the GOP. I’m not going to ask anything of you because I don’t give a shit what you have to say and neither does anyone else here for that matter.

              1. “I don’t give a shit what you have to say ”

                As your unending whine filled protests demonstrate…

                Clearly it bothers you that I continue to point out that you’re teamsucker. You literally cannot stop whining about it.

                “just means one criticizes Republicans”

                Years of posts that show me kicking John around demonstrate the stupidity of that particular assertion.

                But, you’re a leftist, a teamsucker, and clearly very upset. Saying extremely stupid things in stark contrast to actual reality is probably all you can muster while enraged like you currently are.

          2. Psychopaths can’t change as far as we know.

      2. I will admit that I was wrong when the House race is actually over and the states certify their results.

        The media is calling close races too soon.

        I was right about all my other predictions. Additionally, Lefties are still crying and that is worth it.

    4. Race aint over Tony.

      Check out NYT and there are over 20 House races still too close to call. The NYT is putting the Democrats at 220 seats with 218 needed to win.

      Why are they not being called for Democrats because the absentee votes need to be counted and those tend to favor GOP.

      I will admit that I was wrong about the GOP holding the House, if it turns out that way.

      I will laugh and laugh AND LAUGH at how Democrats lost 3+ seats in the Senate, the GOP has 34 states to hold an Article V Constitutional Convention, and Beto/Abrams/Gillum all lost. No amount of star power could win it for them.

      That and this election shows that more and more black Americans are leaving the Democratic Party.

  5. “a rebuke to Trump and a sign of the particular ways in which he is unpopular”
    “last-minute fearmongering by Trump and his supporters”
    “invading criminal army that Trump insinuated”
    “Trump really is an unusual and alarming president”


    Oh poor Peteykins, it must be rough.

  6. The Democrats somewhat underperformed predictions on balance, and there were quite a few surprises both ways. Long term demographic threat to the Republicans basically confirmed, although the fact that Dems still underperformed even with the enormous surge in all their base demographics is one of the things that looks the very best for the medium-term prospects of the Republicans.

    The one thing that I cared the most by far about was the one thing that went far, far, far worse than I’d expected even in my most feverish histrionics: The Democrats not only took the New York State Senate; they took it by one of the biggest landslides in NY history, something not even they expected. The action happened in Long Island, once the archetypal diehard soccer-mom Republican homeland. (In fact, the most atypical thing about it is how anti- illegal immigration they are.) This enormous, powerful, and wealthy demographic has been lost to the Republicans far, far more rapidly and decisively than anyone thought possible.

    1. This enormous, powerful, and wealthy demographic has been lost
      The Democrats have been looking after the aristocracy and its interests since Bill Clinton launched the third-way, I’m surprised it took this long for them to realize that. There’s no better means of keeping wealth in the tribe than corporatism.

    2. Similar happened in IL. Collar counties, a red firewall against the city of Chicago most of which hadn’t voted for a Democratic Governor in over a century, was in the bag for Pritzger. In IL, there was a blue wave.

      The thing that blows my mind is the combination of the two issue. Domestic migration has been out of NYC, LA, and Chicago for almost a decade. The only reason Chicago is losing population while the others aren’t is because they can’t offset it with international migration. Chicago’s been losing population, notably among the more affluent, for a number of years and Pritzger won on a platform of progressive taxation. It’s a pretty clear sign or trend, IMO, that the libertarian moment was a high water mark for liberty. The future isn’t really libertarian in any way as much as a European-style contest between outright (inter)national socialists and democratic socialists.

      1. I was actually shocked Illinois had a Republican Governor. But yeah, Illinois seemed to go almost solid Blue.

        When you look at the NYT map of the election, its a sea of red with blue tires floating and NE and West coast blue.
        NYT interactive map of election

      2. Midterm elections always favor the out party. I think the suburbs will revert to the mean again.

        But, IL is screwed regardless of any state election

        1. 2020 Census is going to reset things quite a bit. Blue states are going to lose House seats to Red states.

      3. “The future isn’t really libertarian in any way as much as a European-style contest between outright (inter)national socialists and democratic socialists.”

        Can’t argue with that, except to add the Trump contingent of populists who’ll go right to the authoritarian whip hand as soon as something goes wrong. Like for example a recession brought on by the Fed getting frisky with interest rates. Or some damned foolish thing in the (Middle East, SE Asia, Latin America) will set it off.

  7. “The Democrats not only took the New York State Senate; they took it by one of the biggest landslides in NY history, something not even they expected. The action happened in Long Island, once the archetypal diehard soccer-mom Republican homeland. (In fact, the most atypical thing about it is how anti- illegal immigration they are.) This enormous, powerful, and wealthy demographic has been lost to the Republicans far, far more rapidly and decisively than anyone thought possible.”

    I did not pay attention to those races. In your opinion, were the Democrat victories you mentioned due to gerrymandering the districts, like for the PA HoR races, or were they due to changing demographics, or have social changes in the existing demographic strata in NY caused socialist policies to be even more popular than before?

    1. You wont get an answer.

      The narrative has been posted by Reason.

      Reason is not even going to address over 20 House races that are too close to call so states are not certifying the results. The MSM called many of those for Democrats early.

      If the Democrats dont actually have a majority in the House, I will laugh and laugh and laugh AND Laugh for the blunder of calling the election too early.

    2. New York is a very, very pro-incumbent state. State legislature was practically a lifetime gig. Though much of that was voter habit, some was structural, and the two factors reinforce each other in chicken and egg symbiosis. Both Senate and Assembly seats are drawn to be very incumbent-friendly. So both exaggerated the state’s electorate in opposite directions–the Assembly having a Democratic supermajority back to the time when if anything it was a maroon state; the Senate having a Republican majority until today. This pro-incumbency helped insulate the Senate from the fact that NY is a solid blue state now; this is an overdue change like the fact that the Dems still controlled many Southern legislatures until 2002 (the local level often took even longer to realign).

      Several changes. LI has become more diverse for a while. But also the soccer mom demographic is being lost to the Republicans and realigning with the Democrats. This is becoming more permanent than their “romance” with Bill Clinton in the ’90s, which kicked off their march in that direction. It will only worsen. This particular type of white suburbanite is moving hard against the Republicans. I consider Long Island to be of general interest here because it shows how shockingly true that is in a very pure form.

      1. …The economic far left of the Democratic party must be kept under control but I think they will manage. (The “hyperwoke” shit, on the other hand, they will not have to manage because their bougie core is all for it and they do not need any honkies who are against it because their coalition is growing big enough without those deplorables.)

        1. Thanks,

      2. Thanks. If I may, one possible explanation for the ‘soccer mom’ contingent falling out of love with the GOP is that this group prizes stability, safety, and resources for their family. Affordable health care is a consistent bugaboo with all groups, but especially this one and the elderly. The latter have Medicare; this group, absent sufficient options in the marketplace, is going to look to government to provide it instead.

        Especially since women in prime childbearing years for the middle and upper classes (24-to say 40), may not have the same revulsion towards Communism or anything that smells like it, that people who grew up during the Cold War do.

        Anyway, that’s how I’d explain why they’re switching.

  8. Ah.. Arizona is far from decided

    Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told ABC News there are still hundreds of thousands of votes that need to be tabulated, and that there’s a high likelihood that it could take at least a week to get the results.

    1. The hacks in the media has called the election and there are over 20 Congressional seats still too close to call or the state to informally certify them.

      115th Congress had 235 GOP and 193 Democrats.
      The Democrats need 218 to hold a majority.

      The narrative is that Democrats won the House through a Blue Wave.

      The reality is that the House race is not quite over and even if Democrats win the House it will likely be 5 or less seats.

  9. Tester has won. Up by over 2000 votes with 99% in.

    1. So it’s no longer true that no competitive Dem who crossed Kavanaugh got away with it. One did.

      1. Nobody has called it to my knowledge but there are still outstanding votes in deep blue counties and none in red.

        1. I don’t know how you’re getting 99% in, the Montana SoS office lists 73.39% precincts reporting, but Tester is up nearly 4,000 at this point.

          Ridiculous it’s taking this long.

  10. The biggest shock from yesterday’s midterms was that everything went more or less as expected.

    Expected by whom? And expected by what point in the goal-post moving exercise? The last 70 yards,. the last 10 yards, the last 3 inches?

    ‘Cause all I have to say is if this is all the energy the Democrats could muster after almost two solid years of caterwauling, they better take stock for 2020.

  11. It did NOT turn out how most of you Reason staff wanted.


    GOP gained 3 Senate seats.

    Looks like the GOP has 34 State legislatures to convene and Article V Constitutional Convention.

    1. Ahhh, there you go. Walk it back a little. It’ll be ok.

      1. Winning this good is always fun.

      2. When RBG dies, Trump is going to replace her. Hahaha

        When Thomas retires, Trump is going to replace him.

        When Breyer dies, Trump is going to replace him.

        The states are preparing to hold an Article V Constitutional Convention.

        HAHAHAHA. The only thing that could have gone better is the GOP holding the House by a large margin or gaining seats.

        Democrats are likely going to have a 5 seat majority in the House…. 5 seats. There are 5 Democrats in the House right now that could be convicted of federal crimes. Probably all members of the House could be.

  12. Prolife victory in West Virginia

    “With 97% of precincts reporting in, Amendment 1 passed by a margin of 17,184 votes, West Virginia Metro News reports. It amends the West Virginia Constitution to include a line stating, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

    “The measure is meant to counteract a 1993 ruling by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that has long forced Medicaid to fund abortions as a state-level constitutional “right.” While its success does not affect or override Roe v. Wade, it does ensure that the state Constitution can’t be used as a basis to strike down duly-enacted pro-life laws in the Mountain State.”

  13. Prolife victory in Alabama

    “The amendment will “declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and…provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.””

    1. The GOP won big. If the GOP actually loses the House when all the races are certified, that obviously could have gone better for them.

      Libertarians got some major votes in quite a few races. Thats a good sign.

  14. The former Navy SEAL mocked by Pete Davidson on SNL last weekend addressed the joke controversy Tuesday night ? and under the best possible circumstances.

    Dan Crenshaw was elected to Texas’ 2nd Congressional District and brought up the SNL outrage in his victory speech and during a separate interview with the press. The veteran lost his eye in Afghanistan in 2012, prompting Davidson, during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment, to say he looked like “a hitman in a porno movie” and then dismissively add, “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever. Whatever.”

    “SEALs don’t get offended,” the Republican congressman told Houston’s Fox 26. “That’s just not what we do. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t offensive, but let’s stop demanding apologies and firings of people. Let’s just? demand that comedy actually be funny, but let’s be good people.”
    -Entertainment Weekly

    1. Because you’ve never behaved like a bitch tit about anything.

    2. Just so long as it *isn’t* the same Peter Davidson who played the Fifth Doctor – *that* would have been a disappointment.

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