Democrats need more young senators with name recognition. Not just Gillibrand and Booker.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Trump Will Be Great for the Democrats

Conor Sen is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a portfolio manager for New River Investments in Atlanta and has been a contributor to the Atlantic and Business Insider.
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The cyclical nature of electoral politics provides some solace for Democrats. If history is any guide, a Trump presidency will cure the three problems that have been ailing the party since 2010.

The first is the midterm election dropoff. Democrats lost a whopping 62 House seats in the 2010 elections during President Obama's first term, and after winning some seats back in the presidential election year 2012, lost another 13 seats in 2014 during his second term.

Midterm dropoff happens to almost every president's party. The Republican Party lost 28 House seats in the 1982 midterms during President Ronald Reagan's first term. The Democratic Party lost 52 House seats in 1994 during President Bill Clinton's first term. And while there was no such Republican loss in the post-9/11 midterms in 2002, Republicans did lose 27 House seats in 2006 during George W. Bush's second term.

Should President Trump prove to be as polarizing and unpopular as current polling suggests, there's every reason to think that the Republican Party will lose a large number of seats in the 2018 midterms, perhaps enough to put the Democrats back into the majority in the House.

The second problem Democrats have had under President Obama is an aging, thinning bench. At the moment, just 18 of the 50 governors are Democrats. Only one of them, Rhode Island's Gina Raimondo, is under the age of 50. Democrats have just five senators under the age of 50, with perhaps two of them -- New York's Kirsten Gillibrand and New Jersey's Cory Booker -- household names. What's so special about the age of 50? Over the last 100 years, the oldest president Democrats have elected to a first term is Jimmy Carter, who was 52. Young senators and governors provide the bench for successful future presidential campaigns.

While the Democrats have a bad Senate map in 2018, looking to defend 25 of the 33 seats that will be contested, the real opportunity is the gubernatorial races. Thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial contests, of which 27 are currently held by Republicans. Half of those 36 contests will be open seats because of retiring or term-limited governors, many of whom first got elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave. Democrats are likely to run strong campaigns all over the country -- look to Nevada, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Michigan -- and emerge from Election Day 2018 with a solid bench for the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

The third problem Democrats have grappled with is an unforgiving House district map, ever since Republicans redrew many key state maps in the 2010 Census redistricting. Once drawn, the maps are locked in for a decade. Because Democrats will be out of power in the years ahead, they have a great opportunity to take back statehouses in time to draw the maps after the 2020 Census -- the maps that will define House districts in the 2020s.

Like the business cycle that pulls the U.S. economy up and down, political cycles are unavoidable in the modern American two-party system. Just as it's been a long road to power for the Republican Party, starting from nowhere after the 2008 election and through a devastating 2016 primary, the same path is now ahead for the Democrats.

We may live in Trump's America now, but that means the political cycle will swing in the Democrats' direction.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Conor Sen at csen9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net