Don’t Read Into 2018 Too Much

By: Doktor Prax Evad | Contributing AOJ journalist

While the pundits analyze what this election means for 2020, and the politicians spin the election in the most favorable light, everyone sees something in this midterm election, usually something that categorizes and neatly explains everything- a narrative. So, what is the narrative? I don’t know. Go ask your pundit of choice.

My point here is merely to remind everyone that midterms are not all that predictive of successive elections. For proof, let’s look at the last few midterm elections. 2006 presaged a strong Democratic wave in 2008. 2010 did not presage a strong Republican wave in 2012. Meanwhile, 2014 was an overwhelmingly Republican leaning year, but 2016 was mildly Republican to mixed in results. There is seemingly little relation between what happens in midterms and what happens in the following election. Granted, this is a small sample size, but even going back further to previous elections shows the same. Midterms are, however, strongly related to the election preceding them. The president’s party usually suffers defeats in the midterms as has just occurred in this most recent midterm.

All of this is to warn that reading too much into a midterm is ill-advised. Surely there are things we can learn from midterms still though? Yes, there are, but it matters less what the margins in a midterm are than which districts and states appear to be moving left and right. Those are the useful trends for 2020. For instance, one might argue that Republican victories during this strong Democratic midterm in two major Florida contests, for senator and governor, indicate Florida is moving right. That could be important for 2020. Perhaps presidential candidates will de-emphasize the importance of campaigning in Florida and instead move to say, Michigan, where the margins between the two senatorial candidates nearly matched the national margin of Democrats over Republicans of about 7 points. Of course, this is not an apples to apples comparison, as the Senate candidates have personalities that are likely different from whoever each party nominates to run for president in 2020, but in today’s highly nationalized environment, those differences are often overridden by partisan loyalty.

The way in which the map shifted is perhaps important to analyze as a means of understanding where parties are gaining and losing strength, but the debate over whether this election was a wave or to what degree it was a wave is not particularly important. This is merely one election though, so keep in mind that any shifts in this election may be completely undone in future elections. Trends are important, but one election does not indicate much of a trend. And there is no reason to expect that Democrats will replicate their 7-point margin over Republicans in 2020. Republicans could just as easily come back and win. History says as much.

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