Make no mistake: Democrats are rising

While Republicans may claim victory this morning for extending the size of their majority in the Senate and for preventing a Democratic tsunami from washing over the House, there shouldn't be any doubt about the overall results: The growing partisan majority is Democratic. 

As of Wednesday morning, Democrats had earned nearly 4 million more votes than Republicans in the national House vote. This result stands in stark contrast to the last two midterm elections (2014 and 2010), where Republicans prevailed in the national House vote by about 4.6 and 5.5 million votes, respectively. It is a flip of the 2016 election, in which Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSantorum: Dems have a chance in 2020 if they pick someone ‘unexpected’ Trump should heed a 1974 warning penned by Bush NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks MORE won the national popular vote for president but Republicans garnered about 1.3 million more votes for the House than did the Democrats.  


According the 2018 House exit poll, a majority of voters who identify as independents backed Democrats (54 percent to 42 percent). Moderate voters overwhelmingly went Democratic (62 percent to 36 percent), as did women (59 percent to 40 percent) and those under 45 years of age (61 percent to 36 percent). These numbers are a far cry from those found in the 2016 House exit poll, when independents voted with Republicans (51 percent to 45 percent), moderates favored Democrats more narrowly (52 percent to 46 percent), and the margins favoring Democrats among women and voters under age 45 were 10 percentage points (54 percent to 44 percent) — not 19 and 25 percentage points, respectively. 

Even among the groups that the Republicans won last night, namely men and voters over age 45, the GOP won by much smaller margins than in 2016 (4 percent and 1 percent in 2018, versus 11 percent and 10 percent in 2016, respectively).

Aside from these aggregate numbers, it is crucially important to note what happened across the South and the West. These are the parts of the country that are growing — and Democrats clearly are gaining this ground. Democrats flipped the Senate seat in Nevada and the governor's mansion in New Mexico. Results for the Senate seats in Florida and Arizona have yet to be called and, even though the Democratic candidates are trailing, these are states that went for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCorsi sues Mueller for alleged leaks and illegal surveillance Comey: Trump 'certainly close' to being unindicted co-conspirator Trump pushes back on reports that Ayers was first pick for chief of staff MORE in 2016.  

Further, Democrat Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Bush memorial service in Houston | House passes two-week spending measure | Markets drop after Chinese executive's arrest Chris Matthews: Beto O’Rourke should run for president Andrew Gillum met with Obama during DC visit: report MORE, who ran for Senate in Texas, came much closer to ousting Republican incumbent Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Strategist behind Warren's political rise to meet with O'Rourke: report Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE than the pre-election polls forecast. (O'Rourke is down about 2.6 percent in the votes cast, whereas the average of the polls anticipated Cruz's margin would be 6.8 percent). Beyond this, two inspiring and potentially historic Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida, fought to within 2 percentage points. And while many of the votes in the competitive California House seats are still being counted, at this point, it appears that Democrats are likely to flip at least three Republican districts. 

Simply put, the Republicans' hold on the South is slipping, and the Democrats are gaining in the West.   

More broadly, the basic geography of the seats that were up for election in the Senate and the partisan sorting alongside the gerrymandering that defines House districts obscured the political truth: The Republican Party is shrinking and the Democratic Party is growing. 

The 2020 presidential election is unlikely to obscure anything and, today, Trump's reelection looks more in doubt than ever. The Electoral College only results in what political scientists call "inversions," when the national popular vote for two parties are nearly of equal size. The parties are no longer equal. The "fever" appears to finally be breaking, and it's going toward the Democrats.  

Make no mistake: Trump is destroying, not building, the GOP.

Lara M. Brown, Ph.D., is an associate professor and director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University, and formerly was an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University. She frequently appears on TV and radio programs as an expert on American political history, party development and national elections. Follow her on Twitter @LaraMBrownPhD.