‘No Republican blowout,’ according to preliminary US midterm election figures. While much remains vague about Tuesday’s elections, Democrats fared significantly better than projected.
Republican margins narrow
Republicans are facing a time of great uncertainty in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2024. It wasn’t supposed to be this close. However, the midterm elections are always difficult for the ruling party. Historically, when Democrats faced a midterm election while controlling the White House and Congress, Republicans won handily.
Republicans swept the House in 1994, during Bill Clinton’s first term. It was even wider in 2010. Joe Biden has proven to be a president with little of his constituency and few legislative triumphs for his first two years of unified government, owed mainly to the Democrats’ thin majority in Congress in 2020. Meanwhile, inflation is around 8%. It was expected to be a humiliating night for the Democrats, which would send the Biden administration reeling. It wasn’t.
There were bummers. There were also painful losses for Democrats: the repulsive Peter Thiel follower JD Vance won a Senate seat in Ohio; other candidates who continually grab the enthusiasm and hope of national Democrats, such as Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams, lost.
However, Republican margins are thin, even when the party has the wind at its back. Trump-backed, election-denying candidates fared poorly, as did those who most actively oppose abortion rights. The Republican Party is in chaos, unable to abandon Trump but unable to thrive while tied to him. They will be weakened and vulnerable if they end up with a majority.
No red tsunami
Much remained vague at the time of writing, but we know the following: first and foremost, there is no crimson tsunami. Republicans are doing better than in 2020 but significantly less well than was expected just a few months ago.
Second, while the Dobbs abortion verdict did not result in the blue wave that Democratic operatives had predicted, pro-choice counter-mobilization has significantly tempered Republican victories.
Third, while Joe Biden emerged largely undamaged from the midterm midterms, the same cannot be said for Donald Trump. Several of his hand-picked and personally sponsored outsiders may have won unexpected primary victories, and some may still win their elections. However, the great majority underperformed compared to more traditional Republican candidates in the same states.
Georgia delivered perhaps the most humiliating outcome for Trump: Brian Kemp, the candidate he campaigned hardest against, was easily re-elected governor, while Herschel Walker, his hand-picked Senate candidate, polled almost 5% behind Kemp and is likely to face a highly uncertain runoff against Raphael Warnock.
Fourth, Trump’s major Republican party, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, not only easily won re-election but polled over 2% ahead of Senator Marco Rubio and gave his party three new, gerrymandered House seats.
All of this indicates that, even if the Republican Party gains control of the House and/or Senate, it will face a very uncertain period in the run-up to the 2024 presidential elections. It is abundantly evident to everyone that Trump is both a need in the primary and a liability in the general election. Everyone except Donald Trump that is.
‘Trump can yet win in 2024.’
One thing is sure: we are not living in a post-Trump world. We are living in a Trumpian era. So Trump might return to power. Numerous candidates who share his ideals have won seats in this election.
The Democratic Party must do far more to reach out to Black voters. For example, in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams lost to Brian Kemp, we saw a different level of investment than in past campaigns.
This was the most significant election since a raft of voter-suppression legislation were passed, and we are still faring with the legacy. As a result, the political landscape has transformed, and we need a multi-racial, multi-generational pro-democracy movement to respond.
We live in a very divided country, and Democrats still have a long way to go to win people over.