In some corners of the political internet, there are still some making the case that the 2018 election was not, in fact, a Democratic wave. They cite Republicans picking up two Senate seats and historical comparisons that suggest that Republican House losses weren’t all that bad.
Here’s the thing: Facts are facts. And all of the facts make plain that 2018 was not only a Democratic wave, but a massive and historic one.
Most people, understandably, focus on the number of House seats that changed hands to judge a wave. At the moment, Democrats have netted 38 seats, with one other pending (GOP Rep. David Valadao’s 21st district in California, which has grown increasingly close since Election Day and now looks potentially problematic.) A 38-seat loss is the third-largest change of seats in the post-Watergate era – eclipsed only by the 54 seats Republicans gained in 1994 and the 63 they won in 2010.
But go deeper into the numbers and the actual size of the wave becomes even more clear. Thanks to the herculean effort of the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, we can dive deep into the total number of votes cast for Democrats and Republicans in House races across the country.
And here they are:
Democrats: 59,525,244 (53.2% of total popular vote)
Republicans: 50,516,570 (45.1%)
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The raw vote margin, which is slightly over 9 million, is the largest gap between the two parties in the history of midterms, according to Wasserman. And the 8.1% spread between Democrats and Republicans is, according to Princeton professor Sam Wang, a larger percentage-point differential than in any recent wave midterm election including 1994 (R+7.1%), 2006 (D+8.0%), 2010 (R+7.2%) and 2014 (R+5.7%)
Given those raw vote numbers, you might be wondering why House Democrats didn’t pick up even more seats earlier this month. And the answer, in a word, is redistricting. Remember that Republicans controlled a huge number of state legislatures and governor’s mansions following their 2010 wave. That control meant the GOP got to draw the congressional lines in lots and lots of states, creating House districts that they believed would make it impossible for them to lose their House majority in the next decade. It took eight of those 10 years for Democrats to seize control, but there’s no question that the soon-to-be-majority party’s gains would have been far larger if not for the lines drawn by their GOP colleagues eight years ago.
The Point: The 2018 election was not only a Democratic wave. It was one of historical proportions. The end.