How Did Immigrants and Immigration Fare in the 2018 Elections?
Washington, DC – Trump’s despicable closing argument was intended to mobilize Republican voters in hopes of hanging onto power. It was cynical and dangerous. But was it effective?
Sure, Trump’s toxic stew of mendacity and racial panic increased Republican turnout and helped Republicans flip a small number of Senate seats in Trump states. But there’s a larger frame to this drama: Trump’s divisive demagoguery produced a broad backlash effect that swept many Democrats to victory, defeated numerous anti-immigrant Republicans, and consolidated public support for pro-immigrant policies.
Here are some of the key factors and findings that support this view:
Trump’s effort to make 2018 a referendum on immigration mostly didn’t work.
• Trump demonized immigrants and Democrats in an effort to mobilize his voters, peel off independents and depress Democratic turnout. If it had worked, Republicans would have swept most of the Senate races in Trump states, held the House and limited damage in state and local races. Mostly, it didn’t work.
• Democrats won back the House of Representatives with their largest majority in forty years. Democrats are on track to flip between 35 and 40 House seats. Democrats won the popular vote in the House races by 9 million votes, a whopping 8% margin. Nate Silver of 538 conducted an analysis of the House popular vote, projected it onto the 2020 presidential map, and found it equates to 314 electoral votes for Democrats and 224 for the GOP.
• Democrats flipped at least seven governors’ mansions, and won three governorships in “blue wall” states that Trump won in 2016 (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania).
• Democrats won back majorities in at least seven state legislative chambers; and Democrats flipped more than 330 state legislative seats.
• In the Senate, Democrats hung on in five Trump states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia Wisconsin, and Montana; flipped Nevada; have a shot at flipping Arizona and Florida, depending on final tallies; and lost in Indiana, North Dakota, and Missouri.
Xenophobia backfired on numerous anti-immigrant Republican candidates.
• Kris Kobach, a leading architect of the nativist movement in America, ran for governor of ruby red Kansas and lost by nearly 5%.
• Lou Barletta, a former Mayor of Hazleton who rose to prominence as a fierce anti-immigrant hawk, ran for Senator in Pennsylvania with the support of Trump and was crushed by 14%.
• Corey Stewart ran for the Senate in Virginia as an anti-immigrant firebrand and lost by 15%.
• In House races, a long list of anti-immigrant Republicans, all of whom aired racist and xenophobic ads, went down to defeat: Barbara Comstock (VA-10); Dave Brat (VA-07); Kevin Yoder (KS-03); Pete Sessions (TX-32); John Faso (NY-19); Claudia Tenney (NY-22); Rod Blum (IA-01); John Chrin (PA-08); Lea Marquez Peterson (AZ-02); Christopher Peters (IA-03); Jason Lewis (MN-02); Manny Santos (CT-05); Eddie Edwards (NH-01); Wendy Rogers (AZ-01); Rudy Peters (CA-15); Lena Epstein (MI-11); Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48); Danny Tarkanian (NV-03); John McCann (NJ-05); Jay Webber (NJ-11); Katie Arrington (SC-01); and John Culberson (TX-07). Hardliner Steve King in Iowa-04 survived in a very conservative district by a hair.
• In Gubernatorial races, the following leaned on xenophobia in their campaigns and lost: Adam Laxalt (NV); Walker Stapleton (CO); Bill Schuette (MI); Jeff Johnson (MN); Scott Walker (WI); Scott Wagner (PA).
• Nativism was directly on the ballot in Oregon. Measure 105, the anti-sanctuary ballot initiative backed by the nativist group FAIR, went down to defeat by a margin of 63-37%.
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