While 2016 proved to be a devastating year for the Democratic Party, the special elections of 2017 will serve as a crucial indicator as to which party will dominate Congress and state legislation in 2018. For the Republican Party, these elections will demonstrate whether the midterm elections of 2018 will serve as a referendum on the Trump administration. However, for the Democratic Party, these elections will provide the first opportunity where members of the party can gain the favor of the states that previously voted for Trump. Additionally, these elections will further serve as evidence to see whether the 2018 elections will see a dramatic turnout by minorities and immigrants.

Since the inauguration of President Trump, there have been nine state congressional races, five of which the Democratic Party won. While this may not seem like a dramatic victory, it is a strong indication that the midterms will be poised to have record turnout, just as the state races saw. In both the 2008 and 2016 elections, the whispers of Hillary Clinton running prevented many newer legislators from running for president. Sarah Kovner, a Democratic donor and fund-raiser, stated, “There is no one else — she’s the whole plan” in a March 11, 2015 New York Times article. However, because the party suffered such a deep identity crisis in the wake of Donald Trump’s unprecedented win, the vast enthusiasm, momentum and energy the party is witnessing will enable many new faces to enter the political arena and run for offices previously controlled by established parts of the party.

This possible progressive wave of voters in the 2018 midterms is further likely after February’s Delaware state Senate election. The voter base of the Democratic Party is characteristically known for not participating in off-year elections; however, in the Delaware state Senate race, the voter participation actually increased. One state senator may not seem like a significant gain, but this was a remarkable achievement, as it enabled the Democrats to keep full control of the state government; one party controls the house, Senate and Governor’s Office. This is crucial, as the Republican Party fully controls 32 states. If the Republican Party manages to win two upcoming elections and garner two more states with full legislative control, they will have the ability to demand a Constitutional Convention, allowing them to permanently amend the Constitution. States can call for an Article V Convention if two-thirds, or 34, of the states call upon the federal government to amend the Constitution. In order for an Amendments Convention to be drawn, a political party must control both the state House and the Senate. Since 2010, Republican mega donors such as Charles and David Koch have been eager to call for a convention to include permanent conservative amendments such as a balanced budget, according to an Aug. 22, 2016 New York Times article. The last nearly-successful attempt at amending the Constitution was in the 1980s, when the federal deficit became so massive that a total of 32 states petitioned Congress for an Article V Convention to submit a balanced budget proposal. Much like our status quo, it was only two states from the required minimum of 34.

However, it is not only Delaware that is showing positive signs for 2018 Democrats, but also Iowa. In December 2016, Jim Lykam won his state Senate race by a whopping 31 points more than 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according tothe New York Times. Additionally, Monica Kurth — the representative running to replace Lykam’s old seat — won the race by 34 points in Iowa, a battleground state that Clinton lost and Trump unexpectedly won. In Connecticut, according to a Feb. 28 Connecticut Mirror article, Democrats were hopeful on Feb. 28 when they claimed victory over a state House and Senate race, similar to that of Delaware. Similarly, even Democratic losses are showing signs of progress, as seen in Connecticut when candidate Senator Eric Berthel (R-Conn.) won the election for state representative over Democratic candidate Greg Cava by only 10 points, compared to the 22-point margin only three months prior. In Minnesota, the state House got severely more competitive, with the margin of victory being only 6 points, compared to when President Trump carried the state by an astonishing 23 points in November.

What is also significant about all these races is that they are occurring at a state level, motivating party strategists and funders to focus on crucial state races that were often forgotten under the national Barack Obama victories of 2008 and 2012. Since 2008, Democrats have prioritized only national elections and forgotten about the importance of controlling state legislatures, those that directly impact constituents. The success of state races also brings about positive media coverage on local television, the primary news source for many Americans. This is important because it significantly influences the way individuals perceive the status of this nation; while national news coverage has focused on the chaos of the White House administration, local coverage has depicted the crime, job loss and infrastructure decay that plagues American cities. If the new Democratic candidates are able to win state elections, they can begin to shape local news and better showcase the new policy plans meant to change the nation. All these efforts will encourage a natural grassroots movement that can prove to be a reckoning force for the Republican majorities in the House and Senate in 2018.