The secret to the Republican raw-vote success is that 2018 proved itself a uniquely high-turnout midterm election, again apparently the highest since before the First World War.
And behind that success is this not-to-be-forgotten fact: Donald Trump’s strategy of division and provocation is working for him, and will likely continue working for him at least so long as the U.S. economy remains strong. Very possibly, it may continue working even if the economy weakens. Trump remains only a minority president, yes. But it’s not only a uniquely robust minority—it’s also a minority favored by the increasingly unequal American electoral map.
Even as Democratic vote totals climb, the party’s progressive heartthrobs—O’Rourke, Gillum, Abrams—still appear to number among the defeated (although two of those races are not formally resolved), not because they did not boost progressive vote totals to previously unimagined heights in tough states, but because the very strength of the progressive challenge mobilized opponents to an even greater degree. “Anti-left” still beats “anti-Trump” in Texas, Georgia, and Florida, and in many other places besides. To their credit, the Democratic Party’s unillusioned congressional leadership recognizes this truth. The outcome of the 2020 election will depend on how successfully those leaders can impress that lesson on their commentariat and presidential primary electorate.