Democrats had a solid election night on Tuesday, Nov. 5. They were able to capture the governor’s mansion of Kentucky and the trifecta in Virginia. Many pundits are using this as their crystal ball for 2020. Surely, by capturing the governor’s mansion in crimson-red Kentucky, the Democratic party must be in good shape for the presidential election in 2020. Since Governor Bevin pitched himself as the Trump of Kentucky, this must be a reflection of how the voters are feeling towards President Donald Trump. Then, in Virginia, we saw Democrats capture both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in over 20 years. Now, they will be able to pass much of the policy measures blocked by the Republicans. Why wouldn’t this be a good sign for Democrats in 2020? Well, for starters, the political circumstances of the Kentucky and Virginia elections represent two different trends.
Take Kentucky, for instance: Kentucky has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000. Despite this, Kentucky had a Democratic governor from 2007-2015. It’s not out of the ordinary for a Democrat to occupy the office. Plus, the Morning Consult ranked Gov. Bevin as the most unpopular governor in the country in the months prior to the election. It was not as though this was a popular incumbent going up against some generic Democrat. Moderate Governor-elect Andy Beshear is the son of Former-Governor Steve Beshear. It is not unthinkable to assume that Beshear was able to benefit from his surname. Republicans won all other statewide offices by comfortable margins.
Virginia is more representative of a change in attitude toward Trump. However, the Virginia GOP has not won a statewide office in a decade. The demographics in Virginia are no longer favorable to Republican candidates. The north of the state has become increasingly diverse, populated and college-educated. This has been particularly disastrous for Republicans, especially after the election of Trump. As reported by CNN, the Virginia GOP hasn’t been helping their cause by refusing to elect moderates that would fare well in the suburbs of Alexandria and Richmond. In 2017, the Democrats won statewide offices by a fair margin but lost the legislature due to maps that benefited the Republican party. This year’s Democratic victory was somewhat expected after the redistricting.
If I were a campaign strategist, the most significant takeaway from this election is the continued hemorrhaging of voters from traditionally Republican suburbs to the Democrats. This trend has been expedited under Trump and is bound to have wide-ranging implications on party politics. Suburbanites may change their party, but that does not mean they will change their politics. Other occurrences don’t bode well for Democrats or this narrative, such as a Sanctuary City vote that failed in Tucson, AZ., and Republicans taking back a large suburb in Nassau County, NY. Democrats are entitled to a victory lap over America’s suburbs, but they should remember that there are a lot of politics yet to unfold on the road to 2020.