“Are we people who step up for our neighbors, or are we not? … The Iowa I grew up in, the country I grew up in, we step up for each other every single time,” said Abby Finkenauer at a rally last week in Cedar Rapids.
A 29-year old woman who’s seen as the most likely to take what has been a solidly Republican seat in northeast Iowa, Finkenauer campaigned as a bridge to the future by recapturing the spirit of the past.
“Hope, my friends, is on the line, and on the ballot here in 2018,” she said. “What else is on that ballot? Common sense and decency in public service.”
Trump’s response to that and the rest of the Democratic campaigns has been to dig in on warning of an immigrant invasion, moving farther and farther from describing reality by the day.
“A Democrat victory on Election Day would be a bright, flashing invitation to traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers, and gang members all over the world. Republicans believe our country should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans—not criminal aliens,” Trump said last Wednesday in Florida, shortly after tweeting a video of a Spanish-speaking cop-killer immigrant laughing about his crimes.
Trump only got more intense. By Sunday night, he was urging “Bikers for Trump,” the military, and ICE to get into an armed showdown with Antifa.
Long gone are the Republican leaders insisting at the beginning of the year that they’d win by running on last year’s tax bill. Trump’s invented promise two weeks ago that there was an additional 10 percent tax cut coming before the election, meanwhile, was forgotten about at the White House almost as soon as the words left his mouth.
A year ago, on a much smaller scale, the Republican and the Democrat running for governor of Virginia spent the final days in much the same way. Most predictions were that the race would be tight, and though the Democrat might win, it would be by only a point or two.
In the end, he won by nine.
Democratic wins in 2018 would restock the party’s bench with candidates who’ve become causes and phenomena locally and nationally. They’ve already run the most diverse collection of candidates ever across the country, while the Republican Party has remained mostly white, and mostly male. The Democrats have run candidates who are far to the left and have attracted major attention because of it. But if the party has big wins—and certainly if it has enough wins to take the majority in the House—it will be because of candidates like Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and Colin Allred in Texas, not because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old political newcomer who defeated Representative Joseph Crowley in the Bronx. For all the agenda setting she may seem set to do, Ocasio-Cortez will be filling a seat that’s been safely in Democratic hands for decades.
And big wins now could lock in a new political reality for years. Democratic wins, or even major inroads in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, could spell a reshaping of the electoral map that would make it impossible for a Republican to be elected president, especially if the Democrats get back Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest. Democrats elected to the statehouses and governorships now will be in charge when the new round of redistricting comes around after the 2020 census. Ballot questions in Michigan, Utah, Colorado, and Missouri could ban gerrymandering as well. And one in Florida that would restore voting rights to up to 1.4 million convicted felons would likely move the state from a Republican-tilting swing state to one that’s reliably blue. Young voters and non-college-educated women turned on to politics and against Trump could be the engine for Democratic wins for a generation.