Concrete outcomes, not big narratives, are the real story.

I’ve spent the better part of the past 12 years thinking about how we interpret election results, and from that perspective, Tuesday was a big night. As I mentioned at the time, interpreting elections seems to have become an American obsession. Our fixed-term elections mean that off-year contests serve as a referendum on national issues, and narratives allow the losers in a winner-take-all system to tell their side.

But there’s a danger for Trump opponents in overinterpreting Tuesday’s result. Elections also have concrete implications that deserve attention. And any analysis of off-year contests should involve careful thinking about the relationship between national and state/local politics.

Thinking back to the presidential election, we’ve obviously spent a lot of time parsing that unexpected outcome. There is, of course, no single reason why Trump won the presidency. But I think it’s useful to treat the reasons the election was competitive as structural, while the proximate causes of actual outcome were rooted in far more situational factors. These include the timing of the letter from then-FBI Director James Comey, and whatever forces in the universe tipped about 20,000 voters in a few key states. Structural factors include the pain of voters in the Rust Belt, where we’re told that economic anxiety and poor health outcomes and general resentment drove a new political movement. They also include the fundamentals that make it difficult for a party to win three White House terms in a row.

It would be a big mistake for hopeful Democrats to assume that Ralph Northam’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial contest is the opposite. Attributing even a more robust margin like Northam’s to a deep and enduring shift in the values of the electorate Read More Here