Democrats will Lose Seats: Perhaps No One “won” the Election

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The party’s prevailing midterm strategy did not work. Rather, it was “political malpractice” for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican rhetoric to go unchecked.

President Joe Biden addresses the crowd after speaking about the importance of electing Democrats who want to restore abortion rights, during an event hosted by the Democratic National Committee at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, October 18, 2022. [Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images]

‘Democrats fared reasonably well.’

So let us examine four unique aspects of today’s Election:

First,  Compared to recent midterm elections in which the party in power suffered a big drubbing (Clinton lost 54 House seats; Obama, 63; Trump, 40), Democrats fared well – even if they are expected to lose control of the House when the dust settles.

Secondly, In comparison to prior elections, the amount of money spent on this one was startling. According to Open Secrets, total spending on federal and state contests might top $16.7 billion.

American billionaires will have spent an estimated $1 billion, primarily on Republican politicians and causes. (Peter Thiel invested $30 million in the Senate races of JD Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona.) According to a report released Thursday by the nonprofit Americans for Tax Fairness, this is 44% more than billionaires’ total expenditure throughout the 2018 midterm election campaign.

What will the super-rich gain from their investments? Republicans will lack the numbers to override Biden’s vetoes, so they will likely try to use lifting the debt ceiling (as they did in 2011) to force Democrats to agree to additional tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks for their affluent benefactors.

Third, In contrast to earlier elections in which Russia has denied attempting to influence the outcome, Russia publicly boasted of such meddling in this one, in the form of a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

Last June, the Trump Supreme Court stripped half of Americans of their constitutional right to abortion, and Republicans in Congress have vowed to outlaw abortion nationwide. Meanwhile, more than half of the Republican candidates in today’s Election agreed with Donald Trump, claiming that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

What happens tonight in campaigns for Congress and state seats will impact the trajectory of both issues – the future of abortion rights and democracy – including Trump’s rumored bid to become America’s first dictator.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a Our Future is Now tour, which is hoping to register young voters ahead of Election Day, on November 6, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Jeff Swensen/Getty Images]

It ought to have been a Republican romp. It was not

This has been an odd and paradoxical campaign cycle, but one thing is sure: this is the finest midterm election for any administration since the 2002 election when the country was seized by the war fever of 9/11.

Democrats are likely to lose seats: perhaps no one “won” the Election. However, some states appear to have gone to the right (Florida appears to be lost to Democrats permanently), while others appear exceedingly strong for Democrats. Because the government is confused, this year has been confusing.

While Democrats control the elected federal government, the most significant revolutionary policy change has happened from the far right, with the repeal of Roe v Wade. It has not felt like the Democrats have had power during the last two years. So far, the main message is that there is no red wave and that polling is not biased toward Democrats.

The first term of a Democratic president, with Democratic control of the Senate and House, rising inflation, and the majority of the country dissatisfied with the country’s course, should be a Republican landslide. As of this writing, it appears that the Republican Party will retake the House, with a real potential of retaking the US Senate, depending on the outcome of some razor-thin elections.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to say if this is a win for Republicans or a loss for Democrats and the Biden administration. Republicans may declare triumph if this were the first midterm wipeout since 2010 or 2018; instead, they have underachieved almost everything.

Two things have happened: Donald Trump has sparked persistent turnout, and the Dobbs decision has further fragmented the electorate along cultural lines. People who get into the habit of voting rarely stop, and Donald Trump mobilized so many people on both sides that dull midterm elections are a thing of the past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Democratic of the 14th congressional district of the House Of Representatives addresses the crowd with a passionate speech to kick off the 3rd Annual Woman’s March in the borough of Manhattan in NY on January 19, 2019, [Ira L. Black/Corbis/Getty Images]

A wake-up call

Yes, the worst has been dodged for the party, but their dominant midterm strategy did not work.

Of course, circumstances colluded against them; midterm elections are typically difficult for incumbent parties. Add to that an unfavorable set of open seats, inflation, general concerns about the cost of living, and a crime surge since 2019. However, it is difficult to see how Democrats could have kept the House of Representatives this cycle.

However, there were prospects in the US Senate that needed to be more motivated by the party’s rhetoric and priorities. “You cannot win elections unless you have the support of our country’s working class,” Bernie Sanders wrote in an October op-ed. Abortion was a critical issue that inspired millions of people, many of whom were workers, to vote. Sanders was convincing, though, in saying that it was “political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go unchecked.”

Consider John Fetterman’s solid performance in Pennsylvania, where he appears to be on track to win, and Tim Ryan’s success in Ohio, where he outperformed Biden’s 2020 mark while falling short against JD Vance. They ran campaigns with strong economic messaging that were centered on everyday concerns. There is no reason why more candidates like them could not have been presented.

So far, Biden has had a relatively decent policy record as president, but his and the Democratic leadership’s failure to prevail on the economy and present themselves as the party of working people cost them today. No matter how low the prospects were, a loss is a loss: millionaire-funded NGOs can no longer be enabled to define the party’s rhetoric and priorities.

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