Elections held throughout the U.S. on November 5 gave both parties reasons to celebrate. This year’s elections included gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as state legislature elections in Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey.
In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear defeated one-term Republican Matt Bevin, but the close race pushed Bevin to request a recanvass, which forced all 120 counties in the state to recheck their vote counts. After the process was completed on November 14, the incumbent Bevin conceded defeat, a result considering surprising by many as President Trump had campaigned for him on the ground in Kentucky prior the election.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, one-term Democrat John Bel Edwards sought re-election to his seat as governor on November 16, facing Republicans Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone. Winning by a comfortable 40,000 votes after President Trump also joined his Republican opponent Eddie Rispone at a series of campaign stops throughout the state, Edwards’ victory was credited in large part to his emphasis that the implementation of key aspects of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as Obamacare) would take precedence in his second term.
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia all held elections for both houses of their legislatures, while the New Jersey Legislature held elections for the lower house. Republicans maintained control in Mississippi and Democrats held similar control in New Jersey. But for the first time in 20 years, Democrats gained majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, noting an interesting shift in the internal politics of the state bordering Washington, D.C.
These results seem to allude to an American preference for pragmatic and progressive policies, even in bastions of Republican conservatism. The Democratic candidates who won did so by running on a moderate platform, satisfying the voters’ needs for both change and stability. While the Democrats’ sweep was significant, particularly in Virginia, the prognosis for Donald Trump is not as bad as it looks – despite losing a series of gubernatorial elections, the Republican Party won every other major office in Kentucky, and Mississippi’s governor mansion remained staunchly conservative.
While it is too early to predict the results of the upcoming Presidential election from a smattering of gubernatorial and state legislative elections, the success of middle of the road Democrats provides significant evidence that more moderate candidates to press their case, as well as for leading presidential candidates to rethink hard pushes to ideological extremes. This shift in historically Republican states toward increasing Democratic power could, as some believe, signal a swing of the pendulum; however, it could also indicate that American voters are becoming less devoted to party loyalty, and more likely to vote in favor of whichever candidates can speak clearly and provide results.