For weeks now, the political conversation has been all about a blue wave: Democratic Party wins in state contests, as well as a long-anticipated Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives. Party loyalists have been gleefully hanging ten on the surf waters of anti-Trump fervor imagining an azure dream of Congressional leadership. I’ve been watching hope rise with every local victory that swept the country. The faithful have been especially buoyed by surprise primary successes like Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of veteran Congressman Michael Capuano.
But, my pessimistic self will not allow me to believe that those victories — spectacular as they are — are any guarantee. And I’m suspicious of the many polls showing a steady uptick of voters saying they planned to vote Democratic for the midterm elections. Besides, recent history demonstrated that algorithms are not the be-all and end-all in predicting human behavior.
I’ll admit it’s hard not to get caught up in the determined enthusiasm of the folks chanting, “blue wave!” Having said that, I wasn’t surprised when the recent polls revealed evidence of races in a statistical dead heat — particularly after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Republicans have been only too happy to point out how those hearings galvanized and focused the squabbling factions of their party, a powerful counterbalancing red tide, if you will. With days before the election, some of the races that looked like a lock for Dems are now in play again, and it’s more than likely the Senate will remain in Republican hands.
If historic tradition holds, the Democrats — as the party out of office — should still do well. But, if we’ve all learned anything since the 2016 election, it’s that you can no longer look to historic traditions and contextual norms to be, well, normal.
But, if there is to be a wave, turnout will make the critical difference.
At a time when campaigns are being determined by a handful of ballots, it’s clear to me that Democratic party leadership doesn’t understand the blue wave is much dependent on black and brown currents. Those voters of color have been the Democratic party’s strongest supporters, even though not always acknowledged or appreciated by the legislators and governors who benefited from their loyalty. Meanwhile, in many of the too-close-to-call contests, Republicans have spoken openly about their actions to suppress that vote.
I’m infuriated by the soft-pedaled condemnation of Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who is also Georgia’s secretary of state in charge of elections. Kemp is holding 53,000 voter registration forms in a drawer because of some clerical errors. No chance of these mostly African-American would-be voters casting a ballot for his opponent Stacey Abrams, since they couldn’t even register.
Is it any wonder that an election analyst recently told Reuters that anger, not fear or civic responsibility, is the primary motivator for voters in the midterms? An anger that has incited terrorism at a single party. It may be that the blue wave does not materialize. But I hope that with so much at stake, most voters don’t choose to watch from the shoreline.