Holy cow, was that a good night. I know it may not seem like it, because the most well-known candidates lost, the Senate was a GOP rout (as predicted) and Georgia and Florida disappointed, but that’s really about it for the bad news. There was a TON of good news from last night, from referendums affecting millions to historic victories for women and minorities who are leading a new generation of leadership into Congress. Even though Beto didn’t win, plenty more liberals did. Here are the ten most encouraging results from last night’s elections.
1. Florida May Have Turned Blue
Despite heartbreaking losses for Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson that were likely aided by voter suppression, a massively positive development on that front will change the dynamic for 2020. Over a million people who had their vote disenfranchised by Republicans gained the right to vote thanks to passage of Amendment 4.
Every Florida election seems to be 50.5% to 49.5%. Imagine what 1.4 million votes largely pointed in one direction will do to that dynamic.
2. Democrats Flipped Statehouses in Big States
As of this writing, the Colorado Senate, Minnesota House, New Hampshire House and Senate, New York Senate and Maine Senate flipped to the Dems with no comparable gains by Republicans. Democrats also broke supermajorities in the North Carolina House and Senate as well as the Oregon House. State level races always get forgotten on election nights, but from a policy perspective, America's federalist system allows for states to implement more immediately impactful policies than the federal government.
3. Four New Trifecta States
Speaking of immediately impactful policies, the Democrats have four new “trifectas”—states where they control the governor's office, House and Senate. Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico and New York are now under complete and total liberal rule. Also, Delaware protected their Democratic trifecta. Get creative, folks. We need big solutions to our big problems.
4. Kansas! Freaking Kansas!
Every political science major has had to read Thomas Frank's famed book, What's the Matter with Kansas?, a study how the Republican Party got poor white folks in Kansas to vote against their economic interests. Kansas is quite literally a case study for modern Republicanism, which is what made two results so shocking. First, an openly gay Native American woman, Sharice Davids, took down a GOP incumbent.
Secondly, the architect of Trump's fraudulent “voter fraud commission,” Kris Kobach, got obliterated in Kansas' governor's race, losing shortly after polls closed. In Kansas!
5. Democracy Was Saved in North Carolina
The Electoral Integrity Project rates North Carolina as “not a democracy,” thanks to the last decade of pure authoritarian rule. More GOP authoritarianism was on the ballot last night, and the Democratic Party fought back and won.
Plus, two measures were defeated that were opposed by 5 former governors (including two Republicans) that could only be called an attempted coup by the N.C. GOP.
6. Trump's “Sanctuary City” Attack Lost
Oregon, which is far more conservative than its deep blue presidential election reputation suggests, had a chance to give in to Trump's fearmongering. “Sanctuary city” laws exist because without them, officers would be able to profile people based on their immigration status, and you can imagine how easily that leads to racial profiling. It's literally the kind of thinking that leads to “papers, please.” Oregon said no, and vowed to protect immigrants from this kind of discrimination.
7. Immigration Hardliners Lost
Neo-confederate Minnesotan Corey Stewart lost his race in Virginia as soon as polls closed. Ditto for Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania. Dave Brat, who took out former GOP House Leader Eric Cantor, lost his reelection bid in Virginia too. Kris Kobach lost by ten in Kansas. Kansas!
The only high-profile immigration hardliner to score a victory last night was Ron DeSantis in Florida, but as GOP flack Liz Mair wrote last night:
De Santis— who should have been a lay-up winner— looks like he's only just going to eke out a win. That's pretty bad news, actually, and indicates that he wasn't as strong a candidate as many people apparently thought.
It's hard not to hone in on De Santis' immigration positioning in a fairly heavily Hispanic state, in which he was running as someone heavily aligned with the President, who basically went on a warpath over immigration in the last 2 weeks of the campaign.
8. Michigan Created a Template for Restoring Voting Rights
This is, as we say in the business, a big freaking deal. Voting in America is unnecessarily difficult, as every instance of long lines is indicative of politicians doing what they can to restrict people's vote in order to protect their spot. Michigan passed a wealth of reforms that instantly changed the dynamic in the state, and it should be used as a model going forward.
9. Red States Voted for Expanded Health Care
If the Democratic elite doesn't get behind Medicare for All, then they're completely hopeless. How many more messages do you need that expanded health care coverage is a truly bipartisan, popular policy?
10. They Took Control of the House
I feel like this point is getting lost a bit in the dour mood about the possible stolen elections in Georgia and Florida and Beto's loss: the Democrats control part of the federal government now. They have power. Real, tangible, usable power. Sure, they're not going to be able to get any liberal legislation passed, but they have other forms of power, and they have already pledged to use it.
This is a bright new day. We didn’t get everything we wanted. But it was a good night that demonstrated an immense amount of public enthusiasm to oppose Trump’s agenda, and we gained victories that we can build upon for 2020.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.