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2018 Election Takeaways and What Lies Ahead

Article published:
Photo collage of women candidates who won their election in 2018

Last Tuesday’s election changed the terrain and set the stage for the intense political warfare that lies ahead.

The resistance to the Trump/GOP racist hate crusade didn’t win everything we wanted to, but we did win what we absolutely had to. Denying the GOP control of both Houses of Congress for the next two years and moving seven governorships out of the Republican column puts some check on the Trumpists’ drive toward a new level of authoritarianism and a quasi-apartheid regime.

And in terms of sheer numbers, a substantial majority of voters voted “no” in an election that was at bottom a referendum on the Trump administration. Compared to 2016 there was a shift leftward in almost every social sector, with especially significant gains among young voters, low-income voters and Asians.

It was a good-sized “blue wave.” But gerrymandering, racist voter suppression and the electoral system’s structural bias in favor of less populous, conservative states prevented its translation into an equivalent amount of power. Total Democratic votes for the House exceeded GOP votes by 7% and for the Senate by nearly double that. But Democrats lost seats in the Senate, and picked up just 30-35 seats in the House compared to the 60 seats the GOP gained in 2010 when their popular vote was the same 7% ahead.

Most important, the array of social justice organizations around the country that threw themselves into the electoral fray expanded their base, strengthened their infrastructure, learned numerous lessons and made the difference between victory and defeat in numerous races.

Combined with the election of several socialists and the most diverse contingent of elected officials in history – record breaking numbers of women and women of color in particular – the progressive eco-system comes out of the balloting qualitatively stronger than we were after 2016.

Still: The blatant use of bigotry and racist fear-mongering that characterized the GOP campaigns in Georgia, Florida and numerous other states – spearheaded by Trump himself – is just a taste of what we’ll see between now and 2020. Trump’s post-election evaluation of Tuesday’s results (racism and voter suppression work!), his threats against opponents and the press and his installation of a loyalist toady as new Attorney General less than 24 hours after the vote only underscores the point.

And with the GOP’s delegation in the Senate and House now even more right-wing than before, and their base ginned up to fever pitch, U.S. politics will be even more polarized than the last two years.

We can expect a torrent of lies and ruthless displays of power from the White House and its allies. But, we, the U.S. majority, are in opposition, and there is a developing social justice bloc with qualitatively more experience, capacity and alignment than we had in 2016.

The immediate task is to pull out the biggest lessons from the battle just waged (and is continuing in Georgia, Florida and Arizona) and use them to improve our efforts as we gear up for the next round.

Over the coming weeks Organizing Upgrade will be carrying numerous articles and video interviews toward that end. A priority will be carrying the views of activists who have been immersed in key campaigns and sectors on what went right and what went wrong, what gains were made and what it will take to gain more.

Look to Organizing Upgrade for postings on the new balance of power and specific reports on:

  • Adding It All Up and the Tough Road Ahead
  • The Black Vote – Turnout and Impact
  • Stacey Abrams Groundbreaking Campaign in Georgia
  • On the Ground in Orange County California
  • Focus and Discipline in Flipping a Senate Seat in Nevada
  • The Working Families Party’s Assessment
  • A Groundswell by Women in 2018
  • Wisconsin Celebrates – Good-bye Scott Walker
  • Illinois Wins: Running on Justice and Equity
  • What DSA Accomplished
  • Shifting the Balance in Texas


Toward 2020 and Beyond,

Calvin, Harmony, Kim, Maria, Max and Rishi

Editors, Organizing Upgrade