Morning Update: What Just Happened In American Politics?

Making sense of the midterms, the aftermath of the Thousand Oaks shooting, weekend longreads. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, Nov. 9.

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The legacy of the 2018 midterms: rethinking what's possible in American politics

Good morning. I’m Katherine Miller, the political features editor here at BuzzFeed News.

What just happened in America? The hot take from Tuesday’s midterm election is that there isn’t one.

The results produced a series of complicated, competing narratives. Democratic House candidates swept the party back into power via the suburbs all over the country, but...lost ground in a big way in the Senate. Democrats went big in states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but...lost Ohio and Iowa’s gubernatorial races. The three biggest Democratic candidates of the night — Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke — didn’t win in states where Democrats have big hopes for the future.

But even those three races are complicated: O’Rourke, Gillum, and Abrams almost won. (And one big caveat: The Florida governor’s race is going to a recount, and it’s also possible the Georgia race will go to a runoff, pending a recount.)

Earlier this year, I was convinced that Ted Cruz would win by six or more points in Texas, and Florida would be the exception to any blue wave, because of the state’s large and growing population of America’s most reliable Republican voters: older white people. And that sort of happened, but not really.

Abrams did better than any Democrat has done in her state in a long time — something that maybe helps validate the thesis of her candidacy, that running as progressives, rather than centrists, is how to bring out voters.

And on Tuesday night, O’Rourke ALMOST BEAT CRUZ. That’s crazy! His campaign almost definitely helped Democrats Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Colin Allred win in the Houston and Dallas suburbs, respectively. Many Democrats in Texas House races kept their opponents under 55% — i.e., a bunch of races were really, very close in Texas on Tuesday night.

This could be a critical and enduring legacy from the 2018 election. For a long time, Democrats have argued that what Texas needs is a paradigm shift in terms of what’s feasible in the state: that, first, people need to think Democrats could win. It’s possible that this is ephemeral, that Cruz was a weak candidate, and O’Rourke was a strong one; but if O’Rourke’s Senate campaign revitalized the Texas Democratic Party and helped shift that paradigm for voters in the state, then Texas will become a much more competitive state going forward.

Some of the witnesses — one victim — of the Thousand Oaks shooting also survived the Las Vegas massacre

On Wednesday night, a gunman walked into the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country bar filled with college students, and started shooting. He murdered 12 people, and an additional 10–15 people were sent to hospitals with injuries.

The victims of the shooting range from a sheriff's deputy who was set to retire next year, to 18- and 19-year-olds who loved the local bar’s events. These are the stories of the victims.

One victim, Telemachus Orfanos, survived the Las Vegas massacre last year only to die in this tragedy. We reached his mother, who told us, “I have two words: gun control. Now, now, now, now. No more NRA. No more money. Gun control now.”

Orfanos wasn’t the only one at the Borderline who had lived through the Vegas shooting. Molly Mauer wrote on Facebook, “I can’t believe I’m saying this again. I’m alive and home safe.” And there were many others in attendance who had survived the attack on last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival — one eyewitness estimated “50 or 60.”

The father of one of the victims said, “I can’t believe this happened to my family.

The shooter, who killed himself, was a 28-year-old Marine veteran. Here’s what we know about him. A former track and field coach said when the shooter was in high school, he sexually assaulted her. She said, “He was probably the only athlete I had that actually scared me.”


Nevada got rid of its tampon tax, and people are celebrating. The state became the 10th in the US to eliminate the “pink tax” on period products. Proponents of the change argued that because tampons and pads are a necessity for about half the population at some point in their lives, they should be treated as essential items, not luxuries.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been hospitalized after a fall. Ginsburg — who, at 85, is the oldest justice on the top US court — fell in her office on Wednesday evening and fractured three ribs.

A wildfire has destroyed thousands of structures, as tens of thousands flee in Northern California. Up to 30,000 people were forced to evacuate due to the blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire, and hundreds of buildings are believed to have been wiped out. After the fire swept into the town of Paradise, a Cal Fire spokesperson said, “It has destroyed the town.”

Actor Emma Thompson was made a dame and flirted with Prince William while wearing sneakers. Thompson is a treasure. Please enjoy all of this.

These longreads are well worth your time and energy

We’re Shocked. We Mourn. Then We Move On, Until The Next Hate-Fueled Attack. Even amid the national coverage of the pipe bomb mailings, a hate crime that left two black people dead in Louisville was getting some national attention. But, as Jessica Testa writes in a crucial piece, “three days later, 11 people were shot to death at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history… The breakneck speed of American hatred overwhelmed the two dead Kentuckians. They were lost to a hypersonic version of a familiar pattern: A shooting brings shock and sadness, then anger, then calls to action, followed inevitably by silence. Until the next one.”

Beto Voters In Texas Aren’t Heartbroken — They’re Ready For The Next Fight. Beto O’Rourke captured national attention for being a Democratic rising star. And then he lost to Ted Cruz. You might think of this as no surprise, since it’s Texas. Texans would beg to differ. Anne Helen Petersen wrote about why O’Rourke’s voters are energized like never before. As one person told Petersen, “Weeks ago, I wasn’t dreading Beto losing nearly as much as I was dreading the inevitable ‘Texas sucks’ takes from people who are supposed to be our progressive allies.”

Are You Ready For Sex Robots? Too Bad, They’re Already Here. This piece is exactly what it sounds like. Scaachi Koul visited a sex robot factory, and after you finish reading this piece, you should head over to Netflix to watch the Follow This episode on her visit. From the piece: “It feels almost like a tragedy that men are still stuck believing in one ideal of womanhood, chasing the physically unattainable, while women have gotten creative with a thousand different ways to achieve pleasure.”

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