Not long ago, certain people were telling that Democrats were guaranteed to win the presidency because of a “blue wall”, meaning a set of states representing 270 electoral votes that were guaranteed to always vote for a Democrat. One of our locals even capitalized it. In retrospect, that doesn’t seem like such a bright theory. Folks ought to have paid attention to the fact that the Republicans had won Senate and/or Governor races in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania during the Obama administration. That might have lead them to consider whether those states were actually guaranteed to vote for Democratic candidates forever.
What may be actually happening is that the Democrats have constructed a red wall, a large number of states in which they aren’t competitive at any level. For example, take Kentucky. Kentucky has always leaned conservative. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, it also leaned Democratic. The Democrats, at that time, were not totally hostile to conservative ideas. Bill Clinton carried Kentucky twice, most of the congressional delegation was Democrats, and Democrats ruled the legislature. But this year, Trump beat Hillary by 30% in Kentucky, Republicans won the legislature, and 8 of 9 congresscritters from Kentucky are Republicans.
Or take Missouri. As recently as 2000 it was a swing state, which Al Gore contested heavily. This year, Trump won Missouri by almost 20%, Republican Senator Roy Blunt easily defeated a Democratic challenger, and Republicans dominate both houses of the legislature.
There is a certain amount of inertia in politics. For example , Democrats held the Kentucky State Senate until this year, mainly because Republicans weren’t trying very hard to take it away. In 2016, Mitch McConnell made it a priority to finally win it for the Republicans, recruiting many top candidates, bringing in outside money, and running high-tech, organized campaigns. Thus the Republicans finally won.
In Missouri the Democrats still hold one U.S. Senate seat. Claire McCaskill held onto that seat in 2012 after the Republican candidate, Todd Aiken, made a notorious comment about rape and pregnancy. But while Democrats still love joking about the matter to this day, what are the chances that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot a second time? McCaskill is running for re-election in 2018, and if the Republicans find a quality candidate, they look to have a good change of unseating her.
Similarly, Democratic incumbents are defending Senate seats in places like North Dakota and West Virginia, where Trump won by almost 40%. The odds would seem to favor Republicans solidifying their control in those states, and taking those Sentate seats. Indeed, the list of places where the Democrats are no longer competitive looks quite large: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and West Virginia. That’s 23 states. We might tentatively list Iowa as well, where Trump won by 10% and a Republican Senate candidate won in 2014 by 9%. That would be 24 states.
Assuming that the Republicans do eventually remove the last few Democratic Senators from that list, that would give them 48 Senate seats that they would hold easily. They would only need 3 more to hold the Senate, and they’ve shown they can be at least competitive, and sometimes dominating, in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, and several other states. Thus until something major changes, the Republicans will hold the Senate. Most likely the House and the majority of state governments as well.
Contrary to what some people here seem to think, I am not a Republican and do not want the current Republican dominance of politics at all levels to continue. I would very much want to the Democrats to be competitive in more places, so that the Republicans would actually have to compete and pay attention to the political center. But as things are going now, it seems unlikely to happen, because the Democratic leadership are unable to identify their problems, much less fix them.