The Blue Wave in Suburbia Continues, But Will It Be Enough To Win The White House in 2020?

Republicans suffered humiliating defeats in several states on November 5, losing both houses in Virginia’s state legislature and Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. However, the GOP managed to maintain control of the governor’s mansion in Mississippi, winning by just 5.5 percentage points as compared to 2015, when the current Governor Phil Bryant won by 34.1 points, and made a few legislative gains in New Jersey. Democrats, on the other hand, scored a “significant success” on election night, David Gergen, Public Service Professor of Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, told The North Star, which he believes will likely translate to a boost to the party’s confidence, money coffers and excitement levels.

Gergen, the former White House advisor of Republican and Democratic presidents and current CNN pundit, noted that the election results show that Republicans cannot rely on President Donald Trump to push them ahead in the ballot box. In Kentucky, Trump campaigned for Governor Matt Bevin but failed to turn the election around, Gergen noted.

Bevin, a very unpopular Republican, refused to concede the election to Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) despite trailing by 5,100 votes, The New York Times reported. On November 6, Bevin’s campaign officially asked the commonwealth to recanvass the votes, which means receipts from voting machines will be reprinted and checked. In Virginia, Democrats won both chambers in the legislature, marking the first time since 1993 that the party has control of the legislature and the governor’s office. The victory will allow Democrats to redraw the legislative boundaries following the 2020 census, according to The New York Times.

Why It Matters

The results in Virginia and Kentucky, in particular, signal that suburban areas are continuing to lean toward the Democratic Party, Gergen said. The trend was first seen during the 2018 midterm elections, when 69 suburban districts held by the GOP dwindled to just 32, according to analysis conducted by The Washington Post.

One reason for this shift may be voters’ deep distaste for Trump, particularly in blue and purple states, Gergen said. He added that it was likely that Republican candidates were feeling increasing pressure over voters’ feelings towards the president. Republican pollster Christine Matthews told Vox last year that newly Democratic voters view Trump’s presidency as an affront to democracy and American values.

“They view this literally as a crisis. The Trump presidency is a crisis to democracy, our values, our morality,” Matthews said. “It is making women physically sick. That is the word they use all the time—the word is ‘nauseous.’”

Gergen told The North Star that Tuesday’s elections should encourage African American and other communities of color to register and make their voices heard, pointing out that voters of color should take to heart that there are some parts of the country that are changing and addressing the issues most important to them.

African-Americans, Gergen said, have an “increasingly important role in American politics.”

No better example of this than how Black voters in Alabama were able to defeat Republican candidate for senator Roy Moore back in 2017, sending democrat Doug Jones to Washington. In that race, Black people, according to Washington Post exit polls, represented 29 percent of voters and overwhelmingly supported Jones (96 percent), whereas whites’ support of Jones was just 30 percent.

What They’re Saying

Kyle Kondik, an analyst and spokesman for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, warned against reading too much into Democrats’ wins in Virginia and Kentucky in a statement to Stateline.

“We are seeing the same trends across different kinds of races and states — suburbs and some exurbs are trending Democratic, while white rural areas generally are moving toward the Republicans,” Kondik said. “In some of the key states next year, there are lots of votes in rural areas, so one cannot just assume that this tradeoff is always going to be good for Democrats.” Gergen echoed those sentiments. The Center for Public Leadership director said that despite the Democrats’ victories, next year’s elections are sure to be a close call. He emphasized that the wins should signal to Democrats that they “cannot sit on their hands” and that the party needs “all hands on deck.”

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.