In this long and fiercely contested election, President Donald Trump told voters to pretend he was on the ballot. Apparently, they responded.
They came out in droves across the nation and here in NYC, part of a midterm election that was unusually intense and energetic — whether measured by sharply spiked voter turnout, massive campaign cash raised and spent, hordes of newly registered voters, or an unprecedented diversity of candidates.
In some places, voters wanted Trump guiding the nation’s economic and immigration policies and projecting American strength to the world. But voters in other places rejected his motivating appeals to fear and division and his increasingly apocalyptic and fact-challenged rhetoric. They wanted congressional oversight of him and his administration, and protection of guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
The nation’s lightning rod
That’s the way it’s been with Trump, our national lightning rod since announcing his candidacy in 2015. He again was inescapable on this year’s campaign trail. Loathed or loved, he had New Yorkers, like everyone else, spending long parts of Tuesday night checking returns from Florida, Texas, Virginia and beyond to see whether Democrats would take control of the House of Representatives, which they did behind a wave of strong women candidates and increasingly Democratic suburbs.
The blue wave might not have been the tsunami some predicted for the House, nor did it reach the shores of the U.S. Senate, where Republicans padded their advantage. But it did crest big in New York.
The state got bluer while also making history. Letitia James, New York City’s Democratic public advocate, will become the state’s first black attorney general — and the first woman elected to the position. She will join a trio of familiar Dems — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie from the Bronx — who all cruised to easy wins, as expected. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand held strong and the state’s congressional delegation turned bluer with several big wins.
An even bluer New York
And the Democratic state sweep was complete with the party finally taking control of the State Senate, the last vestige of Republican power on the state level. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) will be the first woman to be Senate majority leader, and will force an overdue rewriting of the “three men in a room” adage about who handles the levers of power in Albany. Democratic control also means likely progress on issues like voting and ethics reforms, gun control and a plastic bag ban.
And now a reckoning awaits the state Republican Party. It has not broadened its base, nor has it offered a positive vision for New York, and has not elected anyone statewide since George Pataki for governor in 2002. And the NYC Board of Elections again performed miserably, with improperly trained poll workers and broken scanners in some precincts leading to abominably long lines.
The best news from Tuesday was all the people going to the polls. Whether you were new voters, young voters or previously disillusioned, thanks. Democracy is stronger when all of us participate.