Well…wow! The Democrats did better…much better…than expected on Tuesday. As of now, with 3 seats still undecided, they are favored to retain control of the Senate. The GOP advantage in the House will almost certainly be within single digits. Democrats actually made gains in governorships and state legislatures. Very few election deniers, for key offices like Secretary of State, were able to win.
This was more than an impressive showing for Democrats — and more than the absence of “the red wave” that nearly every pundit and every poll was predicting. Compared to what typically happens to the party in power at a midterms election, 2022 was an historic victory for Democrats.
Part of the reason why? Exit polls indicated that voters’ concerns over threats to democracy and GOP extremism were much higher on people’s mind than pre-election polls had suggested.
As an added plus, the threat of wide-spread election day and post-election chaos never materialized. There were no notable reports of violence anywhere. Almost all losing candidates conceded defeat without making a fuss.
There is no other way to paint this: The midterms were a defeat for the GOP and a near complete disaster for Trump. We dodged a bullet — a hail of them. The left may have brought a knife to a gunfight — but that appears to have been sufficient. Whew!
Perhaps I should I have titled this column: Democracy Dodges a Bullet. Because that was the big winner in last week’s midterms. We can briefly breathe a collective sigh of relief: we still have a free country.
Don’t be fooled however. The danger has not passed. Donald Trump is still a powerful force in the Republican Party. And, after his impressive re-election, Ron DeSantis is looking especially strong as a possible alternative — which many on the left fear would not be an improvement.
More generally, Trumpism remains alive and well in the GOP. Outright lies about stolen elections, disinformation about nearly everything and increasingly overt support for racist beliefs remain at the forefront of Republican strategy. The 2024 race is likely to prove at least as fraught with peril as this one. And even with a small GOP majority in the House, we can still expect an attempt to impeach Biden — and other very dubious investigations — in the months ahead.
The Democrats may have done well this week. But the country remains almost evenly divided — with entrenched partisanship seeming to only get stronger as time passes.
Finally, what does all of this say about my contention (in my prior post) that traditional grassroots efforts, such as phonebanks, are declining in value? Although it’s hard to draw a direct line from A to B, one can make a case that the grassroots helped turn the tide in several close elections. At the very least, my expectations of a midterms disaster were (happily) not realized. As such, I am preparing a small serving of roast crow for the holidays.
But one can just as easily make the case that grassroots efforts had little, if any, effect on the final results. And that a failure to effectively counter the tactics of the right made numerous races closer than they otherwise would have been. The left represents the clear majority in the country; this was not sufficiently reflected in the election results.
Either way, the 2022 midterms were just one battle in an ongoing war. Neither side is close to claiming victory. Buckle up. And get to work. 2024 is just two years away.