The Unlikely Blue Wave

Credit: DonkeyHotey/Creative Commons via Flickr

“Solipsism is the belief that the whole world is me.  But what is found more often outside of mental asylums is its philosophical cousin, the belief that the whole world is like me.” Charles Krauthammer 1983


History says Democrats will gain seats this fall, but is there really a blue wave about to sweep Republicans from power in the House? That’s the overriding question for the 2018 midterms, because if that happens, the second half of Trump’s first term will be significantly different from the first half.

The Washington Post reports that “Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to take control of the House. Given everything known at this point, the question is: Why shouldn’t they be able to do that?  The party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in midterm elections, especially during a president’s first term, and especially when a president’s approval rating is below 50 percent. Through a series of special and regular elections since Trump’s victory, Democrats have shown themselves to be more energized.”

The New York Times doubts this, and splits the difference: “It’s hard to believe, but true.  If every state’s and district’s election results on November 6 are a uniform eight-point swing in the Democrats direction from the 2016 presidential result, Democrats would gain 44 House seats – almost twice the 23 they need to take control.  But with that same eight-point swing, the party would lose 4 Senate seats, leaving them 6 seats short of the majority.

Sounds reasonable.  But then it’s easy to guffaw when we remember that the Hillary-Trump winner forecasts by the major media in November 2016 was aligned with these polling organizations: Reuters (Hillary +14 pts), Economist (Hillary +21 points), Gallop (Hillary +27 points), and Rasmussen (Hillary +2).  Only Rasmussen was close.  It is also the only organization that does a daily presidential approval poll.  Projecting from 2016 to now using Rasmussen data seems especially relevant.

Despite thousands of hours of negative media attacks on Trump (judged 90% critical by one media research firm), there has been no change in the Trump approval score during the last nine months.  On December 15, 2017, Rasmussen’s polling indicated Trump’s approval at 45%; on September 5, 2018 that data was 44% (statistically unchanged).  For comparison, the Rasmussen Trump approval score in the last poll before the 2016 election was 43% (also statistically unchanged). 

The implication is that despite all the media attacks on Trump, the negative press is not having a measurable impact on broad public attitudes.  The question is why not.

Maybe no one really cares what the major media thinks, or more likely, the anti-Trump major media has been just repeating itself, over and over again, to the same audience of true believers.   As George Will said, “Cable TV is designed to reinforce the confirmation-bias of small groups. There are about 327 million people in the United States.  It pleases me that at any moment 322 million are not watching cable TV.” 

So where can we get better data?  The largest measure of political preference is of course the millions of votes actually cast and legally determinant during an election.  And since the Democrat claim of a Blue Wave is not about Trump, but about party preference, we should look at national data for all fifty-one elected governments in the United States.

Here’s the data on which party American voters have selected to be our policy makers.  Two quick observations: The real-world preference for Republicans has been huge, and the damage to the Democrats “bench strength” in the various states will be long term and damaging.

  • President of the United States – Republican Held

A Republican won a landslide electoral college victory 304 to 227.  That margin of 77 electoral votes represents a 34% margin of victory.

  • United States Senate – modest Republican majority

As demonstrated by the Democrat anger expressed at the current SCOTUS hearing, Republicans hold the majority by a margin of 51 to 49.  That 2 is a 4% margin of victory. 

  • United States House of Representative – Large Republican Majority

Republicans hold the majority by a margin of 237 to 193 (there are 5 current vacancies).  The Republican margin of +44 House seats is a 23% advantage.

  • State Governors – Overwhelming Majority of Elected Republicans

There are 33 Republican governors, 16 Democrat governors, and 1 Independent governor.  The Republican 33 governors are two-thirds (66%) of all governors.  Their margin of +17 is more than twice the total number of Democrat governors.

Note: 36 of the 50 governorships (27 Republican and 9 Democrat) are up for election in 2018.  The Cook Political Report rates each of these races in one of three categories: Safe Party Hold – Leaning Party Hold – Toss Up.  Republican governorships score as follows: 6 not up for election; 12 Safe; 12 Likely; 4 Toss Up.  Democrat governorships score as follows: 7 not up for election; 3 Safe; 5 Likely; 1 Toss Up.  The current projection by the pros is for no change in number of governors by party.

  • State Legislatures – Overwhelming Number of Republican Majorities

Republicans have been elected into the majority for both the House and Senate legislative chambers in 31 states.  Democrats control both chambers in only 18 states.  The Republican margin of 13 legislatures, is a 72% advantage.

Nebraska is an outlier – it has a single chamber; however, it has a Republican governor, two Republican US Senators, and all three US House members are Republican (basically single party control).  Adding Nebraska to the 31 states where Republicans hold both chambers = +32, or 64% of state legislatures are controlled completely by Republican majorities.

In total, Republicans hold 4,136 state legislative seats and Democrats hold 3,140.  The Republican margin of +996 is 31% larger than the Democrat party’s total.


The bottom line is that Democrat leaders are embarrassed by their past failures to win elections.  The Trump win in 2016 – despite all media forecasts to the contrary – turned that embarrassment into outrage.  And perhaps most important of all, actual recent voting — not opinion polling – demonstrates that in the real world the Democrat’s and media’s assurance that the American people want Democrats in charge is contrary to the evidence.  In fact, the name chosen for themselves, the defensive sounding “Resistance,” is an unseemly title for those claiming they are about to win a “Revolution.”

I’ll end as I began with few short closing thoughts from Charles Krauthammer:

“The French Revolution failed because it tried to create the impossible, both greater state power and liberty.

“The American Revolution succeeded because it chose just liberty.

“When the new Republican House majority elected in 2010 began its January 2011 session, they did something never done before.  They read aloud the complete United States Constitution which guarantees our liberties.”

Most Americans clapped then and are still clapping.

The Blue Wave for Democrats to take control may be possible (what is not possible in the world).  But a look at objective data indicates it is not likely.

Jim Van Houten