If the Democratic Party has any hope of stalling or stopping the Republican agenda and holding Trump accountable for his criminal actions, they’ll have to win big during the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats are relying on anti-Trump backlash and a promise of better—or at least competent—government to give them that victory. The question is, will anti-Trump sentiment run high enough to turn out the vote?
All signs point to yes. In yet another special election victory, this time in Kentucky, Democrats pulled a major upset. Despite Hillary Clinton losing the district in 2016 by almost 50 points, Democratic candidate Linda Belcher pulled a massive 68-32 victory over her opponent.
OFFICIAL RESULTS in KY 49th House District Special Election:
— Alison L. Grimes (@KySecofState) February 21, 2018
Her 68-32 victory represents a ridiculous 45-point improvement on Hillary Clinton’s performance. In fuller context, it’s a little less ridiculous than that. Belcher had previously represented this district in the state legislature, lost a very narrow 50.4-49.6 race in 2016; then the man who defeated her, Dan Johnson, killed himself while under a cloud of sexual assault allegations. The GOP nominated Johnson’s widow and Belcher reclaimed her old seat.
Still, Belcher improved by 18 points on her own margin from just 15 months ago — a very clear sign of Democrats’ down-ballot recovery in the Trump era.
According to an extremely useful comprehensive spreadsheet compiled by Daily Kos, across 70 special elections in 2017, Democrats ran 10 points ahead of Clinton and 7 points ahead of Obama’s 2012 results. Those numbers have accelerated into 2018. Across 14 races, Democrats are running 28 points ahead of Clinton and 14 points ahead of Barack Obama.
Here are some of the responses to her win:
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) February 21, 2018
— Linda Adedapo (@AdedapoLinda) February 21, 2018
This victory doesn’t look good for Republicans. Democrats have been at a disadvantage for a decade, as Republican control over most state legislatures (as well as Congress) has result in gerrymandered voting maps, unequal representation, and voter suppression efforts around the country. However, anti-Trump backlash could hand the Democrats seats all over the nation in 2018 and 2020. If that happens, many of the gains Republicans have made by subverting democracy during the last decade could be undone, setting back their agenda.
On the other hand, if Democrats fail to turn out, the Republican dream of suppressing the vote, bankrupting the nation, and destroying our social safety nets may come to pass.
Featured image via Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images