Democratic wins in 2018 would restock the party’s bench with candidates who’ve become causes and phenomena locally and nationally. They’ve already run the most diverse collection of candidates ever across the country, while the Republican Party has remained mostly white, and mostly male. The Democrats have run candidates who are far to the left and have attracted major attention because of it. But if the party has big wins—and certainly if it has enough wins to take the majority in the House—it will be because of candidates like Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and Collin Allred in Texas, not because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old political newcomer who defeated Representative Joseph Crowley in the Bronx. For all the agenda setting she may seem set to do, Ocasio-Cortez will be filling a seat that’s been safely in Democratic hands for decades.
And big wins now could lock in a new political reality for years. Democratic wins, or even major inroads in Georgia, Texas and Arizona could spell a reshaping of the electoral map that would make it impossible for a Republican to be elected president, especially if the Democrats get back Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest. Democrats elected to the statehouses and governor now will be in charge when the new round of redistricting comes around after the 2020 census. Ballot questions in Michigan, Utah, Colorado and Missouri could ban gerrymandering as well. And one in Florida that would restore voting rights to up to 1.4 million convicted felons would likely move the state from a Republican-tilting swing state to one that’s reliably blue. Young voters and non-college educated women turned on to politics and against Trump could be the engine for Democratic wins for a generation.