As Americans process the results of the 2018 midterm elections, two competing narratives have broken out. Republicans state that the midterms show President Trump’s continued draw and pull; Democrats state that the midterms show America’s new appetite for progressivism.
Among Republicans, the conventional wisdom seems to be that President Trump has a certain electoral magic. Trump himself mirrors that perspective: the day after the election, he took to the podium to slam Republicans who hadn’t associated themselves with him closely enough. He chortled, “They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.” Trump, according to both Trump and many of his allies, was the only man standing between Republicans and absolute doom.
Among Democrats, the conventional wisdom seems to be that ardent progressivism won the day—and that the only recipe is more cowbell. Van Jones of CNN summarized, “In this new election, we witnessed the end of two years of one-party rule and the beginning of a new Democratic Party: younger, browner, cooler; with more women, more veterans and the ability to contest and win races from a deep South to the Midwest.”
In reality, both of these takes are wrong.