PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:57
Tapper: This is not a blue wave
senator bill nelson 11132018
senator bill nelson 11132018
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:03
Nelson: Scott should recuse himself
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., speaks to supporters after she was declared the winner over former Gov. Phil Bredesen in their race for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., speaks to supporters after she was declared the winner over former Gov. Phil Bredesen in their race for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
PHOTO: Mark Humphrey/AP
Now playing
01:26
Meet the Republicans who held onto the Senate (2018)
Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar is greeted by her husband
Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar is greeted by her husband's mother after appearing at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Miller
PHOTO: Eric Miller/Reuters
Now playing
01:33
Minorities, LGBT make history in 2018 midterms
PHOTO: WJLA
Now playing
02:01
Hear from the Democrats who took back the House
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:50
Abrams vows to remain in gubernatorial race
PHOTO: Spectrum News NY1
Now playing
02:05
Ocasio-Cortez: This is a movement for justice
PHOTO: KXAN
Now playing
02:07
O'Rourke congratulates Cruz on his victory
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:57
Tapper: This is not a blue wave
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:11
Van Jones: It's a rainbow wave
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 20:  U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-NV) speaks during a rally at the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 featuring former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on October 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Early voting for the midterm elections in Nevada begins today. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 20: U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-NV) speaks during a rally at the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 featuring former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on October 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Early voting for the midterm elections in Nevada begins today. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Now playing
01:45
CNN projects Jacky Rosen elected to US Senate
Additional Embargo:   Additional Source(s):    Date Shot: 11/6/2018   Shipping/Billing Info:     Description: Projects: None  Cost Center: Atlanta National Desk / 20100101   Created By: DHackett  On: 1541544461  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional Embargo: Additional Source(s): Date Shot: 11/6/2018 Shipping/Billing Info: Description: Projects: None Cost Center: Atlanta National Desk / 20100101 Created By: DHackett On: 1541544461 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PHOTO: WSB;
Now playing
00:59
Brian Kemp: Confident victory is near
2018 Elections Primary Clean path
2018 Elections Primary Clean path
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:49
Pelosi: Tomorrow will be a new day in America
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:36
The Democrats who might lead the House
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:54
DeSantis thanks Trump in victory speech
PHOTO: KXAN
Now playing
01:44
Cruz: This election was a battle of ideas

Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a journalist and political analyst. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University, and is a co-host of ESPN’s SportsNation and ESPN LA 710’s Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @lzgranderson. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump speaks in fragmented sentences and fractured truths.

He is an adulterer, a hypocrite, politically clumsy and prone to retweeting racist posts. He has pushed well beyond the boundaries of any rational concept of presidential behavior, to say the least.

This is why may politicos thought the 2018 midterm election was going to be a referendum. And it was, in a sense – but not so much on Trump or the Republican Party as it was for a Democratic Party that continues to struggle to compose a message about what it is for as opposed to what it is against.

Yes, the party took the House but the blue wave was not the tsunami party leadership had hoped it would be. This is in large part because the Democratic Party is still searching for its post 2008 identity. It wants to represent the young and diverse, but key leadership roles continue to be held by the old and the white, much like the Republican Party it chastises.

In 2010 and in 2014, Democratic incumbents seeking reelection distanced themselves from President Barack Obama’s policies, not because they disagreed with them but because they weren’t popular. As repulsive as some of Trump’s rhetoric and policies may have been to Republicans over the past two years, you did not see the same level of retreat from them in this election as Obama experienced in his 2010 midterm shellacking. Which is why the Democrats victory was not so resounding.

Say what you will about the “Make America Great Again” slogan, the reality is that it’s effective because it is a clear, proactive message. What exactly was the Democratic Party’s message in 2016? 2018? What will it be in 2020?

Ten years ago, then-Sen. Obama was elected president behind a clear message of hope. Since then it’s been a lot of finger-pointing and name-calling.

Get our free weekly newsletter

Don’t get me wrong, taking the House is an important step for the Democratic Party’s revival. And there were some fairly historic victories worth mentioning as well, such as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar becoming the first Muslim women elected to Congress, or Jared Polis becoming the first openly gay man to be elected governor.

But if the party is to build momentum from the 2018 midterm, and not just tread water, leadership must spend more time defining what it is about and less time vilifying what it isn’t. After all, people don’t eat steak because it’s not tofu. They eat steak because it’s steak.