A blue wave is coming.
With both Donald Trump and the Republican Party's popularityina slump, Democrats feel well-positioned for the 2018 elections. They received another hopeful sign last week, when Democrat Conor Lamb squeaked out a victory in a special election held in a district Trump won by 20 points.
If Trump country is in play, everything is in play.
Such electoral bellwethers signal good things for Democrats in November. But these promising signs obscure a lingering problem: the party is badly divided both in its strategies and goals. And if Democrats can't figure out how to bridge those divides, they may find themselves squandering their majority - or missing out on it altogether.
The fractiousness of the Democratic Party has been repeatedly overshadowed by the chaos in the GOP. But the warning signs were there in 2016, when Bernie Sanders, a candidate well to the left of the party, showed unexpected strength in the primaries against Hillary Clinton.
And while Clinton still won a sizeable majority of primary voters, the divisions in the party persisted through the convention and into the election.
Trump's shocking victory broke open those divisions. While journalists charted the turbulent transition and chaotic early days of the administration, Democrats were left to devise a plan to rebuild their majority - only they remained as divided as ever.
Was it better to go after the largely white and rural voters who switched from Barack Obama to Trump in 2016, or to expand the base of the young, left-leaning, multiracial Obama coalition? Was it time for the party to rediscover its leftist soul or to return to the Third Way strategy embodied by New Democrats like Bill Clinton?
At its heart, the division breaks around a huge question: what does the Democratic Party stand for, and who does it represent?
That question has always been much more difficult for Democrats to answer than it has been for Republicans. Since the 1960s, the GOP has been a coalition of ideology, where the Democrats have been a coalition of interests. That is, Republicans have been united around conservatism (or now, some sort of reactionary tribalism), while Democrats have erected a much bigger tent. Case in point: whereas only 7 per cent of Republicans identify as liberal, 15 per cent (down from a recent high of 23 per cent) of Democrats identify as conservative.
Big tents are great, because they can hold more people, but they can also invite disagreement, division and drift. And the upcoming primaries will only serve to highlight that fractiousness. Long-time officeholders will suddenly find themselves facing upstart challengers. Dianne Feinstein, running for her fifth term in the Senate, failed to secure the California Democratic Party's endorsement last month. And in Illinois, incumbent Dan Lipinski may find himself shut out from an eighth term if his progressive challenger, Marie Newman, wins the primary.
The Democrats have an energised and active base. And while the party needs that base, it can present a problem, as tea party activists did for Republicans. Those anti-Obama voters helped the GOP sweep the mid-term elections in 2010. But their strongly anti-establishment bent cost the party important seats, as political neophytes unseated incumbents and then lost a number of safe seats in the Senate and House. They also dragged the party so far to the right that it effectively became unable to govern, a problem that persists to this day.
Democrats thus have a difficult needle to thread, harnessing the energy of the base without shrinking their tent or losing winnable races.
But here they have an advantage over Republicans, one that resides in their history as the less-ideological party.
A candidate like Conor Lamb, who positioned himself as a moderate, can succeed in a Trump district. Not by running as a conservative Lamb supports abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, and gun control, and seeks to support core entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security - but by focusing on economic issues over cultural ones.
And yet Lamb isn't the only kind of Democratic candidate who can win in Trump country. In a massive upset late last year, Doug Jones became the first Democrat in a quarter-century to win a Senate seat in Alabama. And he did it by energising the Obama coalition: bringing out black voters and young progressives on an economy-focused agenda that also included support for same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
All of which suggests that going into 2018, the Democrats' best path to victory relies on a flexible progressivism, one focused on a liberal economic and social agenda that is pitched to meet constituents where they are. If that means emphasising Second Amendment rights while pursuing popular policies of background checks and bans on bump stocks and automatic weapons, that's fine - the party is big enough for such disagreements.
If Democrats can embrace flexibility over litmus tests and coalition politics over ideology, they have a chance not only to build a governing majority, but a majority that - unlike the current Republican one - can actually govern.