Trends from the 2018 Midterm Elections

By Francis Northwood (PO ’21)

The 2018 midterms were a blue wave, resulting in the largest shift toward the Democratic Party since 1948. While a number of exciting Democrat candidates were not elected, the 2018 midterms were an underrated victory for the party. The 2018 midterms displayed three trends worth noting: an increased emphasis in the authenticity in candidates’ representation over their the candidates’ positions on the political spectrum; an unprecedented number of grassroots fundraising campaigns; and a new Democrat approach of focussing on Attorney General and District Attorney races.

Since partisanship is at a peak, hyper-partisan candidates are often unable to get elected. For this reason, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joseph Crowley in New York’s District 14 was remarkable.  factors exist beyond her socialist ideologies that explain Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. Ocasio-Cortez’s success was in large part due to the fact that as a Puerto Rican woman, she looked a lot more like her district—a majority Latinx district. Her opponent did not campaign enough or even send his kids to school in the district. Her opponent also failed to show up to two of the debates.. Races like this are a reminder that candidates represent a select group of constituents, not solely a political position.

Regarding fundraising, the 2018 elections built upon and refined grassroots financing as a national trend. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Senatorial Candidate in Texas, began his grassroots campaign through a non-traditional method of fundraising. He spent an incredible amount of money on facebook ads – hitting a demographic that would be most engaged. This method made Beto’s 2018 fundraising campaign so extraordinary. There were a number of other races including Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial race in Georgia, Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial race in Florida, and Zephyr Teachout’s Attorney General race in New York that relied on the same methodology.

Zephyr Teachout’s race in New York additionally exemplified  a new Democrat emphasis on District Attorney and Attorney General Races. Democrats—unlike their counterparts—have tended not to focus on down-ballot races.  This trend was inspired by the public realization that District Attorneys are remarkably powerful, as exemplified by movements such as Meet Your DA, which was headed by singer John Legend. Infamous Democrat mega-donor George Soros ended up investing 3 million dollars into DA races across the country, countering the established conservative Koch brothers’ large scale fundraising campaign.

2018 brought about an incredible amount of success on the Democrats’ side, and it manifested in a number of ways. With these new trends, future races and campaigns will likely look quite different. Political campaigns like Beto’s will invade social media with donation requests, and your local District Attorney Race might be a lot more covered than before.


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