DETROIT, MI – Bubbling under the surface of a contentious race at the Michigan Democratic Party endorsement convention on Sunday was a conversation about something Democrats are optimistic about: a “blue wave’ election year that would put Democrats in office up and down the ticket.
After a “blue wave”-themed hype video, House Democratic Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, bounded on stage, hopeful.
“I’m here to tell you that a blue wave is coming, but it is only coming if each and every one of us makes a commitment. We can have a different Michigan,” Singh said.
He pointed to national examples of Democrats flipping seats and said Michigan Democrats had to flip nine to gain control of the House. And he wasn’t the only one who referenced a wave building up momentum for Democrats in 2018, when the governorship, state legislature, Attorney General and Secretary of State seats currently controlled by Republicans are up for election.
The enthusiasm was palpable at the convention, which more than 5,700 attended. A story from the Associated Press on the 2010 endorsement convention the MDP held put the crowd estimate that year at over 2,000.
Michigan Republicans had a wave year of their own in 2010, taking statewide offices and flipping the state House of Representatives. Those wins combined with a longstanding control of the Senate gave the party a commanding presence in Lansing – something the Democrats are looking to unravel in 2018, wave year or not.
Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to maintain control of both chambers and the governor’s office. They were able to do so in 2014, the last time the full legislature and top executive slots were all on the ballot.
MDP Chair Brandon Dillon was among those who acknowledged the possibility of a wave year but warned against counting on it.
“I certainly think the wind is at our back… but if anybody thinks they can sit this one out and just allow a wave to wash over them they are sorely mistaken,” Dillon said.
He said he’d seen increased participation in Democratic politics following Republican President Donald Trump’s election.
“We’ve seen this since Trump got elected. People are showing up at conventions, county party meetings, volunteer opportunities,” Dillon said.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, also said the wave wouldn’t happen if party members got complacent. The Michiganders who supported President Donald Trump in the election still support him, she warned.
“If you stay home, if you think ‘oh it’s done, the blue wave’s here’ we’re going to have six years of what we’re looking at right now, and that should scare the hell out of everybody,” Dingell said.
Others, like Jim Rine of Grosse Pointe Woods, were hesitant to believe the wave until it actually landed.
“Perception doesn’t mean anything. It’s what actually happens,” he said.
Paul Massaron, of Southfield, said he’s interested in turning Michigan blue. But he’s also willing to work for it.
“It can happen if we make it happen, that’s the way I look at it,” he said.