The 2017 Election and The Political Pendulum

Alright folks, it is time to wake up and smell the democracy, because we had an election this week. If you have spent any time watching MSNBC this week you have probably seen how giddy they are about these election results, while some Republicans attempt to downplay them. So let’s talk about what really happened this week and what it means for the 2018 election.

Democrats were able to replace Democratic Governor of Virginia Terry Mcauliffe with his Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and took the New Jersey Governor’s mansion back from Republicans by selecting Democrat Phil Murphy over Chris Christie’s Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. Additionally, Democrats had some big wins down the ballot, including flipping the Washington State Senate over the Democratic control. Big day for Democrats you might think. Well yes and no.

At the heart of it, Virginia and New Jersey are blue states or at the very least deep purple states. Republican’s Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell were both superstars who generated Presidential buzz because they were able to come in and win victories in these states back in 2009. Just like how those 2009 elections were not great for then President Obama, the 2017 elections were always going to be a challenge for President Trump. Chris Christie has consistently polled as one of the least popular Governors in the entire country, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his Lt. Governor would be facing an uphill battle to replace him. Virginia presents a real challenge for Republicans because of the growing number of folks who work in DC but live in the northern parts of Virginia. Oregonians are familiar with the concept of “Portland Creep” and similarly Virginia has become victim to “DC Creep”.

American politics has always been a pendulum, and you can’t keep a pendulum from swinging back by sheer force of will. If November 2016 was the high water mark for national Republicans, then there is really nowhere else to go but down. With rare exceptions, like the 2002 election shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the sitting President’s party almost always takes a hit in the off-year cycle. Look at the voter turnout numbers in Virginia and it is pretty clear to see that Democrats are more motivated right now than Republicans are. During President Obama time in office, the Democratic party lost over 1000 seats down nationally. Holding the White house only masked how much the Democratic party had been gutted at the state and local level. National Republicans have to show that they are worthy of the majorities they now hold or risk a similar decline when the pendulum swings away.

Trumpism was successful in 2016 when it was in direct contrast with Clintonism. One of the main reasons Donald Trump was able to be successful in the election was because many in the Obama Coalition that made President Obama victorious in 2008 and 2012 did not turn out to support Hillary Clinton in 2016. Having Clinton at the top of the ticket dampened Democratic enthusiasm and the leftist media assured the voters that she was a sure winner, leading to a decreased turnout among potential Democratic voters. Now opposition to President Trump has energized the Democratic base in a way they were not activated in 2016. Republican’s response needs to be to find ways to jump-start our economy and fulfill the promises they made to voters on the campaign trail. Due to the political pendulum, it is likely that 2018 will come with a Democratic wave, but it is the actions of Republican leaders that will determine if there will be enough high ground for the Republican majority to survive the tsunami.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.