Trump helped erase voter complacency

Young voters turned out in massive numbers

The Nov. 6 midterms set a record number for voters: An estimated 113 million came out to the polls, or 49 percent of those eligible to participate, according to a CBS news broadcast.

In contrast, the 2014 midterm election only posted 36.4 percent of those voting. The last time 49 percent voted was back in 1966. Why was this election so different? The answer lies in one person: Donald Trump.

Only a few times in history has one person had such an impact on voter turnout. The Trump supporters who voted for him in 2016 came out in large numbers, as did many Democratic voters whose attitude was “Stop Trump.”

President Trump has a gift for being able to rally his base. He has not stopped campaigning for the 2018 midterm election since he was elected in 2016. He also has the ability to rally his opposition, which in this midterm allowed the Democrats to overcome gerrymandered state districts to retake the House of Representatives by a majority of at least seven more than the Republicans as of this writing.

Young voters turned out in massive numbers—for them—as well. According to a Nov. 7, “U.S. News” article by Claire Hansen, 31 percent of young adults aged 18-29 went to the polls. That’s at least 10 percent higher than in the 2016 election. Their main concerns were Trump and social issues. Two-thirds of those youthful voters cast ballots for Democrats. Republicans got 32 percent. Democrats won most of the voters under 45, while most of the those over 45 went to the Republicans.

In Texas, Ted Cruz, the incumbent, won against his young Democratic opponent by only 3 percent. The under-30 vote was 71 percent for Beto O’Rourke. Those 30-45 gave 51 percent of their votes for the Democrat, while Cruz won most of those over 45. This could mark a major turning point for Texas which has been traditionally conservative.

Women voters played a big part in winning the House for the Democrats with 18 women getting elected. Much of that support came from the suburbs, ironically from areas that have benefited from the booming economy. Voters in these areas upturned previous trends of voting for the party in power during times of economic prosperity — in this case the Republicans, — by voting for the party out of power, the Democrats.

White voters also made a turnaround in many Republican districts. This was a major change from the 2016 election. According to a USA Today poll, 21 of the House seats that flipped to Democrats were in districts that were 60 percent white.

The well-educated and urban voters chose Democrats. Rural areas stuck with Trump’s candidates, especially in the Senate where vulnerable races were in small population red states, which stood by their man.

Was there a blue wave? According an analysis in “Ballotopedia”: “Based on projections, the Democratic Party will have gained control of the U.S. House but remained below historical wave levels.” Democrats lost 53 House seats in 1994 during President Clinton’s first administration. They lost 63 House seats in 2010 during President Obama’s first midterm. Republicans lost an estimated “worst case” 42 seats in 2018. There was a “blue wave,” but it was certainly not a tsunami.

In the Senate, two is the greatest number of seats that have been lost to the majority party over the past 100 years during midterms. In this election, Republicans are estimated to have 52 seats with the potential to gain to more. “If they add more than two, that puts them in the top 20 percent best performances over the last century.”

The Democrats did pick up an additional six governorships. That’s a remarkable increase for the-out-of-party power where the average loss is 2.66 governorships. That means they doubled the normal success. Even then, three presidents did far worse: In 1982, Reagan lost seven governorships, while Clinton lost ten in 1994. Both cruised to second term wins. (“Ballotopedia”)

We can thank President Trump for banishing complacency for both his opponents and his supporters. He knows how to rouse voters out of their apathy. Perhaps the 2016 voters who supported him had an intuitive sense of this, although they did not express it in words. The adage still applies: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

Richard Elfers is an adjunct professor at Green River College and a columnist for Reporter newspapers. Reach him at editor@courierherald.com.

More in Opinion

Matt Shea is poised for a victory lap

Democrats could, on their own, censure the six-term lawmaker. But they probably won’t. Even a hearing on the content of the report looks very unlikely.

Dams are the Northwest flood busters

We need to remember that that network is saving our bacon

Inslee still hopeful for clean fuels standard

Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in Washington. He… Continue reading

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

Continuing to build connections in 2020

What’s ahead for King County Library System

Boeing needs strong tailwinds

Facing headwinds in 2020

Rifts, not gifts: Habib, Republican senators at odds this holiday season

OLYMPIA — Stuck on what gifts to give Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib… Continue reading

Bridges shouldn’t have to sink to be replaced

Bridges shouldn’t have to sink to be replaced. However, at times that’s… Continue reading

Will we feel different when Trump is impeached? Probably not

As a historic vote looms in the House, attitudes of the public are pretty hardened on this subject.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn. FILE PHOTO
When asked their opinion on contract talks, they were silent

A 2017 law lets lawmakers offer negotiation topics. But a bipartisan panel didn’t do so this week.

Taking time to say thank you to our supporters

As the holidays approach, I would like to take this opportunity to… Continue reading

Initiative impresario, political provocateur — and governor?

Tim Eyman’s candidacy will settle whether voters like him as much as they like his tax-cutting ideas.