Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) writes, “It is critical that we recognize that we won big because more of us voted. Dem candidates won 58,990,609 votes while their Republican pulled in 50,304,975. Let’s not focus so much on Rs changing their minds, but more on engaging people like us.”
Senator Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) has a different perspective.
Whether or not the strategy Tlaib advocates for Democrats is the right one for them to adopt, it certainly does not follow from the numbers she cites. If her argument were sound, every time Democrats won an election it would prove that there is no point in trying to persuade non-Democrats.
In the midterms, 8 percent more voters picked Democratic candidates for the House than picked Republicans. The exit polls suggest that a significant portion of this margin came from people who are, in important respects, not like progressive Democrats.
Three percent of voters were Trump supporters in 2016 who picked Democrats this year. Almost 5 percent of voters approve of Trump’s performance in office and backed House Democrats this year. Five percent of the electorate has a favorable view of the Republican party but supported a House Democrat. More than 10 percent oppose Trump’s impeachment and supported a House Democrat. Eight percent oppose increased gun control but supported a House Democrat. Nearly 7 percent of voters think that Trump’s immigration policies are either too soft or about right, and backed a House Democrat. Nearly 8 percent of voters supported House Democrats and were more concerned about the casting of illegitimate votes than the prevention of legitimate ones.
These numbers don’t prove that Democrats should play down their progressive stances. You could argue the opposite: Maybe Democratic candidates can favor gun control and still get a lot of votes from people who oppose it. But the numbers do suggest that Democratic success in elections still requires more than mobilizing the progressive faithful.