(As of Wednesday morning, November 9, election results are still coming in. Major networks had not yet called control of the House or Senate for either party. The Georgia Senate race between incumbent Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker appears headed for a December 6, 2022 run-off election. This piece reflects results as reported as of 8:15 a.m. November 9).
Predicting elections can be a tricky business. I was reminded of that last night but don’t mind. The voters proved the pundits wrong again. Democrats did much better than many of the pundits predicted. The geniuses that predicted a massive red wave—and I saw one in the mirror this morning—were wrong. A lot of voters, especially in Pennsylvania and Georgia, are smarter than some of us assumed.
By the time many of you read this, we will know more about the midterm elections, but what we know now is that the Republicans are not likely to control both the House and Senate next year. We also know that MAGA Republicanism, at least the strain of it associated with Donald Trump, is losing its potency. Voters in key states rejected low-quality candidates hand-picked by Trump and the reactionary issues they ran on. Dr. Oz will be eating his crudités in New Jersey next year. And it looks likely Herschel Walker won’t have to worry about making a fool of himself in Washington.
What happened? It looks like the Trump Train has a wheel in the ditch. The voters—a lot of them—rejected the Republican message of hate and fear. They are less interested in getting the January 6 insurrectionists out of jail than they are in preserving democracy. Many voters decided the right to an abortion is more important than the right to carry a gun.
And a surprising large group of voters determined inflation, high gas prices, crime, and problems at the southern border are not all Joe Biden’s fault. They may also have realized a Republican Congress focused on returning Trump to the White House in 2024 and discrediting Joe Biden with revenge hearings and investigations, is unlikely to fix the economy.
With the benefit of only a few hours to digest the election outcomes, I have a few take-aways to share. First, character and candidate-quality counts. That’s why John Fetterman won in Pennsylvania over Dr. Oz. That is why a lot of Georgia voters walked away from Herschel Walker after the self-described pro-life candidate was accused of paying for ex-girlfriends’ abortions. That is why Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, an election-denier that called the press “bastards” at one of her finally campaign events, was not swept into office in a tidal wave.
Second, there is more interest in preserving democracy than Republicans assumed. That is why Pennsylvania’s Dan Mastriano, a participant in the January 6 assault on the Capitol, will be looking for work in the private sector. Could it be that voters realize that electing Republicans is hazardous to the Constitution?
Don’t get me wrong here—a lot of election-denying, Trump-loving candidates won that will try to use their new offices to undermine the 2024 elections, but the election produced clear signs that many of us don’t want to see thugs dressed in military garb intimidating voters outside polling places. That’s encouraging.
Third, pundits underestimated the importance of abortion, LGBQT+ rights, addressing climate change, preserving social security and Medicare, racial justice and equity, and basic civility as important drivers in elections. Voters I talked to in recent weeks told me they were afraid a Republican controlled Congress would move the country backwards. Had I listened to them more carefully, my predictions of last week would have been different.
Hopefully, Kevin McCarthy, now expected to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, will realize there is no mandate for Republicans to reverse Biden policies. (I’m not holding my breath).
Fourth, money continues to count too much in elections. While I am glad Democrats did better than expected in the midterms, I note that the Ds enjoyed a sizeable advantage in spending over Republicans in several key races. Friends of mine who regularly contribute to Democrats told me they were receiving up to dozen text messages a day from Reverend Warnock, Nancy Pelosi, Jill Biden, Mark Kelly, and others, begging for money. Would Democrats have done as well as they did without the funding advantage? Probably not.
Let’s talk about Maryland. I will leave it to others to provide better informed comments on the election outcomes in Maryland, but I am sorry that First District voters are returning Andy “Handgun” Harris to Washington. By reelecting Harris, the First District missed an opportunity to send a woman with expertise in legislation and domestic policy, a focus on improving the lives of people on the Eastern Shore, and basic decency, to Congress. I hope Heather Mizeur will consider running again in 2024.
Maryland should be proud that voters soundly rejected right-winger Dan Cox. Wes Moore will be the new governor. That’s exciting. But please forgive me if I do not join the small group of people already suggesting that Moore should now set his sights on national office. Until this year, Moore had never run for political office. Let’s see how he does as governor before suggesting that he is the next Barack Obama. Okay?
I’m looking forward to watching the next From and Fuller for a more in-depth analysis of the election. Look for it tomorrow.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.