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Two Views: Voters respond to results, inclusiveness

By Ryan Brannan in the Austin-American Statesman

Now that the dust is settling on the midterm elections, we can see two distinct takeaways. First, the “blue wave” was more of a ripple. Texas is not on the verge of turning blue. Second, and make no mistake about it, the voters in this year’s midterm elections sent a clear message to their elected officials.

Voters want results — not divisiveness. Republicans have already started responding to this edict, and that bodes well for the future of the party in Texas.

Let’s begin by dispatching this “blue wave” myth. Democrats point to the U.S. House results as a sign of a “blue wave,” but the actual results do not support that claim at all. The party that holds the White House almost universally loses Congressional seats in the ensuing midterms. Though votes are still being counted in some races, Republicans under President Donald Trump will lose less than 40 House seats, which ranks as one of the smallest losses in the modern era, even with Democrats nationally outspending Republicans by almost 50 percent. Recall that in 1994, President Bill Clinton lost 52 seats in the midterm election, and President Barack Obama lost 63 in 2010.

Additionally, the importance of Republicans picking up a couple of seats in the U.S. Senate cannot be understated. That hasn’t happened in a midterm election since President George W. Bush did it in 2002, and happened only four other times going back to World War I.

Republicans in Texas won every statewide race, as they have in every election since 1994. This happened even with a $70 million campaign by the charismatic Rep. Beto O’Rourke challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, an embattled incumbent with a “likeability” problem.

Democrats want to ignore this and focus on the down-ballot races they did pick up. Fine, but there is nothing statistically significant about those gains. In 2010 for example, Republicans gained 26 Texas House seats, increasing their majority from two to a supermajority. The 2018 results simply followed historical precedent.

What is significant is how both Republican and Democratic voters responded to unifying messages. Republicans such as Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush who campaigned on results in areas like jobs and safety outperformed those who campaigned on divisive issues — in some races by as many as 470,000 votes.

Democratic voters sent the same message. Democrats who won primarily ran on platforms of inclusiveness. Far left candidates in red and purple states, including Texas, were almost uniformly defeated.

The story of this election is not Texas turning blue — it isn’t. The story is the electorate sending a message that they expect their elected officials to work toward finding real solutions. Republicans seem to have gotten that message. Less than a week after the election, the Texas House chose a new speaker — with 109 bipartisan members’ support — in what many considered would be a months-long divisive process. Contrast that with Congressional Democrats, who have talked of pushing a partisan agenda, focusing on wedge issues and investigating the president’s administration.

Exactly what voters rejected.

Since 1980, all but one president has won re-election, bringing wins up and down the ballot for his party. With Republicans already showing they are listening to the voters, expect that trend to continue.

Brannan, an Austin attorney, is principal of the Brannan Firm.

Elizabeth Custy