The Blue Tide Confronts The Red Dribble!

The Blue Tide Confronts The Red Dribble!

Well! We’ve had ourselves an election! While we’re not completely certain of all the results yet, here’s what we know for sure: Democracy won the day! So did Democrats.

Here’s the take-away. This was a stunning rebuke and defeat for the GOP, the best mid-term election performance for the party in the White House in 20 years, and the best mid-term performance for the party in the White House going back 100 years, except for a single year after 9/11, when the country rallied around the flag.

All those dire predictions of the red tsunami sweeping progressives away turned pathetically into a dismal little pinkish trickle. And if trends mean anything, the blue wave–or blue tide–is coming in steadily and consistently, as The People Speak. These returns were brought about by a de facto coalition of women, men of color, women and men alarmed for the future of democracy, people who managed to be concerned (all at the same time, like walking and chewing gum, think of it!) about abortion, inflation, environment, guns, immigration, and democracy–and most of all, it was about the youth vote.

In fact, Congress got its very first member from Gen Z, Maxwell Frost, who is 25 years old, an Afro Cuban with a background in activism — including with the student-led anti-gun violence campaign, March for Our Lives, born out of the Parkland high school massacre. His Orlando, Florida, campaign focused on issues like gun violence, climate change, and reproductive rights, all of particular concern to young voters. Also — get this — he’s a rock drummer! Ya gotta love it.

And these mid-terms were, when it came down to it, about women and abortion politics. There were signs going into the election that young women were especially incensed by the Supreme Court’s ruling–and that’s reinforced by exit polls, which found that abortion was the top issue for 44 percent of voters under the age of 30 — far more than the population share that chose inflation. Women were also more likely than men to say that abortion was their top issue in the exit polls (33 percent vs. 22 percent).Abortion is likely to reshape the country’s political landscape. Abortion-rights activists now have momentum to push for referenda or ballot measures like those that passed in Kansas and Michigan, perhaps in states with active or pending bans like Ohio, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The subject is at last out of the closet, and the word itself is losing or has lost its stigma.

Yes, more than 220 Republicans who questioned or denied the 2020 election results were winning in the mid-terms so far. BUT! All but one of the “America First” slate of candidates who espoused conspiracy theories about the 2020 election (especially candidates for secretaries of state) who stood ready to delegitimize the 2024 election were defeated! Yes, Stacey Abrams made Georgia safe for voting by people of color but then lost her gubernatorial race because of the sexism of many black men who voted against her. Yes, Beto O’Rourke only came close in Texas, terrific Val Demings lost in Florida, Trump–endorsed fake hillbilly J.D. Vance beat Ohio’s Tim Ryan (who gave the most elegant concession speech, modeling what grace sounds like). So we can’t afford to relax our vigilance or our activism. BUT! Fetterman beat Oz! And Michael Bennett won above expectations in Colorado! And in the governors’ races: in Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro trounced anti-abortion-obsessed Doug Mastriano, Gretchen Whitmer won in Michigan, and New York got its first elected woman governor, Kathy Hochul! So far in Arizona, Democrat Katie Hobbs has maintained her lead ahead of slick election denier Kari Lake, and Hobbs looks likely to win; at this writing, Sunday night, it’s still a bit of a nail-biter. But all these wins brought to a screeching halt plans by some Trump allies and other influential donors to take over the election apparatus in critical states before the 2024 presidential election.

We don’t yet know the results in the House races, but we do know that Democrats secured the Senate, after Arizona incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly won against Trumpist Blake Masters, while in Nevada, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto carried the day.

That got the Democrats to 50 Senate seats and control of the chamber. If Georgia’s Warnock wins his December runoff, as he did last time, Democrats will have 51. And that would mean Joe Manchin is off the hook and Democrats wouldn’t need to genuflect to him for everything. Meanwhile, Democratic congresswoman Abigail Spanberger has been reelected in Virginia’s 7th District, in a race widely considered a litmus test for how Democrats might fare in swing districts during an election cycle that historically favors Republicans.

Democrats also did well in state legislative races where it mattered most, holding all their legislative majorities while winning control of Republican chambers in a number of states. This too ran counter to mid-term patterns (Democrats lost hundreds of legislative seats during the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014). This year, in Michigan, which conducted its legislative elections under fairer maps than the maps produced after the 2010 redistricting, Democrats captured both chambers. The same thing happened in Minnesota. In both states, Democrats now have full control of the government.

Even if Republicans do take the House of Representatives, they will probably have something like 222 seats, if not less — only four more than needed for a majority–which means that Kevin McCarthy will have a difficult if not hopeless shot at becoming Speaker. What’s more, should he squeak through, he’ll be forced to make sworn trade-off bargains for power (like promising committee chair-ships) while trying to control his Crazy Caucus, otherwise known as the freedom clowns: the Jim Jordans and Marjorie Taylor Greenes. That maneuver, in turn, might mollify MAGAmorons but will alienate general voters in 2024.

Speaking of 2024, the Ron DeSantis victory in Florida is already giving Trump night-sweats. Won’t it be interesting to see them fight this out like two extinct mastodons in a Spielberg movie? (In fact, it’s already begun, with Trump launching a full frontal attack on DeSantis. Hurry with the popcorn, it gets better!) This will fracture their shared base, causing disorientation, confusion, and bitter infighting among and between the MAGAmaniacs, creating seismic cracks and then chasms in MAGA world. Furthermore, the powerful media empire controlled by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and more) turned against Trump almost instantly the morning after the elections, banner headlines crowing that Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.

Democratic wins in gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin reinforce the Blue Wall that Joe Biden reconstituted in the 2020 election. And–most importantly–these wins help guarantee election credibility in 2024.

If I were not recovering from back surgery, I would get up and do my little dance.

Democrats were badly burned in 2016, and have acted like the walking wounded ever since. But let’s step back a bit and peer more closely at this. Since 2016, Democrats have won three national elections in a row :2018, 2020, and now 2022. And make no mistake. These mid-terms are wins for Democrats. Republicans are in disarray; they’re disillusioned and disappointed.

As for Democrats, it’s time they stop sniping at Biden. What’s going on here anyway? when Republicans lose, they act like they won; when Democrats win, they act like they’ve lost! Gimme a break! Supposedly sleepy old Joe has passed the most progressive legislation in 65 years! It’s time to stop the handwringing, naysaying, and hair tearing. Despair is unfashionable and, frankly, boring.

Also, how about a shout-out to those dedicated vote counters in Arizona and Nevada who worked 18-hour shifts and stayed on the job through a holiday weekend to get it done and who, when conspiracy-smeared by Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, were accurately and gallantly defended by their boards of election supervisors, notably one guy named Bill Gates (!), a Republican who forcefully rebutted her and other election deniers already trying to destabilize the process.

All in all, it was an excellent week for democracy: Elon Musk declared that he was against misinformation–while tweeting more of it about Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, then urged his followers to vote Republican, and then announced that his newly bought Twitter was nearing bankruptcy; Lula da Silva won against autocrat Bolsonaro in Brazil; Ukrainian troops reclaimed Kherson from Putin’s retreating Russians; and ordinary Americans stood in line queuing to vote — some of them for hours on end.

Democracy triumphed.

For now. But as we know, democracy is not a spectacle sport, nor one that can, or should, be dabbled in or tried out, or tested at the last possible moment.

So, dear Americans, it’s time to stop listening to polls and pollsters before an election and to MAGAmaniacs after one. It’s time to listen to ourselves. It’s time to stop the ageism against the old and the young: Those superb young Gen Z voters—and that terrific old Wizard, Gandalf, chuckling in the White House. It’s time to own these results, to realize that the numbers from this election, against all odds and pundits’ prophecies, are brilliantly hopeful, like deep gulps of sweet, fresh air, lungfuls of them, challenging us to push further. And that will toughen our resolve, intensify our endurance, sharpen our wits–and save us from a hellovalot of indigestion.

Congratulations, my friends!