By Charlotte Powers
Democrats across the country radiated zealous energy as they ventured into 20187, and that energy exploded as results in on the night of Nov. 6. Democrats picked up over 35 seats in the House of Representatives, securing the majority. 135 women were elected, a majority of them running on the Democratic ticket, and a historic number of Democratic candidates who are Native American, people of color and Muslim will take office this coming January. Many believe that this midterm election was a “blue wave” that reflected liberal values surrounding diversity, equality and unity. Democrats gained many victories this past election, and I would argue that the term “blue wave” is both a benefit and a detriment to the liberal party.
The positive spirits emitted from the “blue wave” concept effectively unified Democrats. This result is significant considering the 2016 Democratic primary divided Clinton centrists and Bernie socialists, ultimately weakening the party’s image and platform. Yet, with unity comes like-mindedness and with like-mindedness comes the possibility to utilize willful ignorance to opposing facts that carry legitimate truth. For instance, I believe that Democratic youth voters were so energized by the “blue wave” mantra that when Republicans claimed control of the Senate, they were incredibly disappointed. If these young voters were to mute the liberal echo chamber known as Twitter and turn their attention to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight statistics, they would have known that the chances of Democrats winning the Senate were slim. The inspirational energy behind mantras are beneficial until they incentivize followers to embed their beliefs in hopeful fantasies rather than reality.
This midterm election showcased the potential for future Democratic victories in predominantly conservative areas. Democratic candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke lost by 2.6 percentage points to Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. For the Republican party, Texas is the equivalent of California for Democrats; Republicans are confident that Texas will supply them the Republican votes needed for the electoral college during election seasons. O’Rourke’s narrow defeat was one of the closest U.S. Senate races in Texas history and, along with O’Rourke’s progressive policies and charming charisma, the “blue wave” slogan fueled Democrats to secure their faith and their vote in Democratic candidates despite running in Republican areas.
However, the “blue wave” tactic employed by Democrats focused liberals’ attention on their victories and narrow defeats while overshadowing key Democratic losses. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri lost to her Republican challenger by 6.7 percentage points. McCaskill’s defeat serves as one reason to worry about the future of a Democratic presence in the Midwest. In order for there to be future “blue waves,” Democrats will not have momentum if their party solely exists in coastal areas. If Democrats are not competitive in Midwestern states, we will lose these areas and the “blue waves” that the party wishes to create will crash.
Finally, the idea of a “blue wave” encourages liberals to assume they will win before Election Day and, as a result, they will have no incentive to head to the polls. If liberals in Oregon assume that Trump will not win in 2020 and decide not to vote, they are also choosing to not vote for their senator, their House representative, their state legislators and their mayor. Due to overconfident assumptions stemming from the “blue wave mantra,” they would essentially put all their Democratic candidates at risk to be defeated by Republican opponents. If we market a “blue wave” too early, it gives Democrats too much comfort to stay at home and watch the election all while their Republican neighbors are heading to the polls in herds.
The “blue wave” supplied the hope and recovery that liberals needed as a result of the 2016 election, but as we make our way towards 2020, Democrats need to address the issues promoted by their mantra and continue to remind Democratic voters that these waves are created through votes, not through wishful thinking.