Victory Dances, Agony, and Arrogance
Elections Around the Country Carried Valuable Lessons for All
There was quite a variety of elections held all over the country last week, for all types of offices and referenda. As is often the case, there were more than a few surprises, results not really forecast by polls and pundits.Any single election, or even a collection of voting patterns, does not necessarily translate into future electoral results. But at times they do, and I think that is the case with these votes. I noted three consistent outcomes that I expect to see repeated in 2024.
One would be hard pressed to be a Democrat and not be something along the lines of giddy about this round of voting. Just about everywhere, on candidates and issues, Democrats did well. This in spite of the fact that Joe Biden’s poll numbers are disappointing (and wrongly, in my view) low. How did they accomplish this?
There was no big electoral trick at work here. Democrats generally ran from somewhere in the middle on issues, had rational, calm people as candidates who thought governance was at least as important as ideology, and were not afraid to suggest the occasional compromise might be in order. Most importantly, they offered alternatives to the politics of hate and anger. Voters lapped it up like thirsty kittens over a bowl of cream. As well they should have.
The one word description for Republican candidates, issues, and fellow traveler extremists. Something like this happens from time to time to pretty well all parties. What is striking in this case is that in spite of yet another loss (more on that shortly), it appears a great many of their so-called leaders still don’t get it.
The American voters spoke very clearly, yet the two most common responses I heard from Republicans completely missed the mark. Many said they just were not clever enough in their messaging, meaning that voters did not understand them. In fact, voters absolutely got their messages, and roundly rejected them.
Others, led by sages like Marjorie Taylor Greene opined that the problem was that the Republicans were not radical enough. Yeah, keep working in that direction and see how it goes for you, Marjorie.
This was the worst of the reactions. No small number of Republican politicians decided that this round of votes just proved that elections and pure democracy just don’t work. They know best, not the people.
And so, there are plots afoot to try cutting out the role of the courts, do more referendums with rigged processes and/or eliminate referendums all together (largely the case already, sadly, in many states, including the one I currently live in), and simply try to override clear popular mandates through legislation by badly gerrymandered legislatures.
In some ways, this arrogance is actually a continuation of the aforementioned Agony, but a huge slice of this is something that has truly taken root in the Republican party – a disdain for democracy, a fondness for autocrats, and the myth of a naturally endowed ruling class (say hello, Christian Nationalists).
The Actual Lessons Offered and Implications for 2024
The voters have been quite clear on their priorities and values. As I heard one commentator observe recently, the country is NOT divided on a long list of very important subjects. Polls, votes, interviews, etc. all make it clear:
- The vast majority of Americans think Roe vs Wade had it about right and what it laid out should be the law of the land.
- Even many who very much oppose abortion personally do not think this is territory for government mandates, but choices that should be made by the people involved. Many people interviewed when exiting polls said this was the major issue for them – even though they opposed abortion personally, they opposed government oppression even more.
- A huge majority of Americans want reasonable gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatics and large magazines and universal registration of weapons without exception.
- Once they see how it operates, people hate gerrymandering. They get that this is politicians selecting their voters, not the other way around.
- Most people think book banning is a terrible idea and they don’t like who is trying to do that. Candidates for school boards from “Mom’s for Liberty” and similar organizations went down in flames almost universally. Again, people get it.
- People really don’t like legislators pretending they are doctors, teachers, librarians, theologians, etc. Playing those roles quickly translates into bad laws dictating how everyone shall live by someone else’s priorities.
- Most of all, people are tired of politics of fear and hatred. They are hungry for rational discourse, healthy compromise, and an environment that says we can disagree and still figure out how to live together. Give us politicians who accept the challenge of convincing others rather than taking the power to coerce.
Does All of This Mean Anything for 2024?
I think it does. Anything could happen, any trend could change, but I think all this bodes well for Democrats in 2024 for three reasons:
- Biden appealed to Americans on essentially the discussion above for the 2022 midterms. Pundits said that was a losing proposition, that people only cared about the economy. He proved them wrong, with the Democrats doing remarkably well for party in power midterms.
- The mess that is Trumpism has ruined the Republican party forever and has created a consistent losing streak:
- Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by over 3 million votes
- His party lost over 40 seats in Congress to the Democrats in 2018
- He lost again in 2020, this time by over 7 million votes.
- In the recent midterms his party only got one house back by pitiful margins and see how that house is doing.
- The elections last week gave his party stinging defeat everywhere, especially in Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky.
One would think that sooner or later, the Republicans would figure out this is a loser in every sense of the word (maybe when he runs from a jail cell, they will get it?). But if not, the voters have made it clear that they get it and they will not further empower these sorry excuses for leaders. All bets could be off if someone besides Trump winds up being the Republican nominee (that is unlikely but could happen as these court cases complete), but in the end, I expect Biden and Company are in for a good 2024. They deserve it – so does the country.
And take a car load to the polls with you. See you next week.
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