The Trial Lawyer Winter 2018 - Page 61

Why didn’t the Democrats win more widely—taking back a full congressional majority and not just the U.S. House? The answer is because each state has two U.S. senators, regardless of its population. That blame lies with the country’s founders and the structure of federal representative government. The Democrats also won more widely, and with long-lasting impacts in a series of key states—just as the GOP solidified their hold in some regions, namely the lower Midwest—but Democratic disappointments surrounding the most emotionally compelling contests eclipsed their victories elsewhere. The biggest disappointments center around the vision of a “new South,” where there was great hope that Florida’s Andrew Gillum would be elected governor; that Texas’ Beto O’Rourke would be elected to a Senate seat; and that Georgia’s Stacey Abrams would be elected governor. These three marquee contests were all emotional races for Democrats, portending the repudiation of President Trump’s divisive leadership in one of the fastest-growing and most racially diverse regions of the country. In fact, both Gillum and O’Rourke achieved what was unthinkable for Democrats in their states. O’Rourke won 48.3 percent of the vote in Texas; several points more than President Obama’s peak. And Gillum was the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida to be ahead in the polls in decades. Their respective votes show how close those purple states are to tipping points; but the converse also remains true—that vast swaths of these states, from rural areas to suburbia, are deeply conservative. Still, Florida’s biggest electoral bonanza is one that was not widely featured in election night returns but will almost certainly push the state from purple to blue in coming years. The voters passed a constitutional amendment to re- enfranchise an estimated 1.6 million felons who lost their voting rights when convicted. Florida’s ex-felon voting ban was a holdover from the racist Jim Crow and affected more voters than any other state. There will now be efforts to enroll them as voters, where, had they participated in the 2018 midterms, the state’s next governor and many legislative seats would have been in blue hands. There were other significant Democratic victories that, like re-enfranchising Florida’s ex-felons, will resonate in the 2020s. These victories concern aspects of the redistricting process, where, unlike 2011’s GOP extreme gerrymandering, Democrats or citizens commissions (which are fairer-minded) will be in place to counterbalance aggressive Republican moves to draw districts that favor an increasingly minority political party. The Trial Lawyer x 59