Americans have never been more engaged politically—the 2018 midterm elections were the first midterm election ever that received more than 100 million votes. Translating 113 million Americans into a percentage, that’s about 49% of the electorate who voted.
Such a staggering number for participation, driven by an overall amped-up sense of urgency, begs the question of what patterns the 2018 midterm elections may uncover moving forward.
In terms of popular votes, Democrats running for the House of Representatives received 51 million votes, which compares to 47 million votes that Republicans received. Democrats, thus, ultimately took control of the House from the Republicans.
Meanwhile, for the Senate, Democrats received 46 million votes, which compares to only 33 million votes for Republicans. And yet, because, unlike the House, the Senate offers 2 seats for each state regardless of the state’s population, the Republicans were ultimately able to boost their majority in the Senate.
It is important to note, the discrepancy between the popular votes and the actual seats for the Senate is also due to the fact that a huge number of the votes for Democrats came from having two Democrat candidates receiving votes in California, as well as the fact that there were 26 elections that Democrats were defending, compared to just nine for Republicans.
Ultimately, the results were mixed: the House switched to Democrats, yet Republican control over the Senate grew only stronger.
The theme continues when looking at governorships: Republican governors were elected in key states Ohio and Florida—and yet Democrats picked up seven new governorships.
Remarkably, Democrat Laura Kelly edged out Republican and Trump-supported Kris Kobach in the red state of Kansas. Also equally remarkably, in Wisconsin, Scott Walker was fired out of the governor’s mansion, with Democrat Tony Evers winning the governorship.
The other five notable wins went to Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak, New Mexico Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, and Maine Democrat Janet Mills.
Overall, the 2018 midterm elections titled on sending a message to President Trump and Republicans.
Yet, historically, that is exactly what is expected to come out of midterms: midterm elections are about embracing the powerless party fighting for power, not because of this party’s positive impression on the American people, but rather to push away the party in power.
Looking at historical trends: the party of the president lost House seats in 92% of the midterm elections, since the year 1865—which is 35 out of 38 midterm elections. Meanwhile, the trend is less strong yet prevalent in the Senate, with the party of the president losing seats in the Senate 73% of the time, since 1913—which is 19 out of 26 midterm elections.
Moving forward, it does seem Americans are reliably expressing their willingness to switch national control to the Democratic Party. And yet the takeaway is once again mixed, as this is exactly as expected. And so, perhaps the real implication here is that much of the future direction of the nation politically depends on whether Democrats can tap into their own identity and reveal to the American people a message worth voting for.