Thursday Reads: Election Aftermath
Posted: November 10, 2022 Filed under: 2022 Elections, Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump | Tags: "red wave", abortion rights, Joe Biden
The Yellow Cow, Franz Marc
I’ve been sitting here for awhile with my laptop open, staring into space; and I just realized that I’m kind of in a daze after the past few days.
Election day was much better for Democrats than I expected, even though I had read convincing arguments from Democratic polling experts Simon Rosenberg and Tom Bonier that they could do well. I actually included their predictions in my election day Tuesday post via a piece by Rosenberg.
My worst fears didn’t materialize, and that’s great; but we’re still in a kind of limbo waiting for results in Arizona and Nevada. It will also be a long time before California counts all the votes, so we may not know who controls the House for some time. In the Senate, we may not know until the December 6 Georgia runoff.
One thing we do know for sure is that abortion rights was an extremely important issue for voters in many states.
The New York Times: ‘My Main, Core Issue’: Abortion Was the Driving Force for Many Voters.
It was a driving force for a retired banker in San Antonio, an artist in Racine, Wis., an event planner in Miami Beach. It motivated college students and retirees, men and especially women. Even those who might usually skip a midterm election had been compelled to make time to cast a ballot.
Across the nation, voters felt an obligation to weigh in on what, for many, was a vital matter: abortion rights.
“Abortion was my main, core issue,” said Urica Carver, 41, a registered Republican from Scranton, Pa.
A single mother of six children, Ms. Carver, a caseworker for the state, said she would have most likely supported Republicans in the midterms. But the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer magnified an issue that outweighed all others, she said. Abortion, she said, was a personal decision, and she would want her own daughters to have the option if needed.
Ms. Carver voted a straight Democratic ticket. “If they didn’t support that right, regardless of who they were,” she said, “they were not getting my vote.”
Two Poodles, Pierre Bonnard
Abortion played a larger role in midterm election results than even many Democrats, who had made it central to their campaigns, expected. Pre-election polls had shown Americans fixated on inflation and crime, with abortion still a concern but not as much of a priority.
Those opposed to abortion rights also said the issue moved them to vote. But in states with ballot initiatives that could affect abortion access, the issue drew more people who supported abortion rights, or did not want more restrictions.
In all five states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot on Tuesday, voters chose to protect access to the procedure or reject further limits. And in some places where the future of abortion rights were uncertain, Democratic candidates who campaigned on the issue fared well — particularly in Michigan, where voters re-elected the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship and the Democrat John Fetterman won the Senate race.
Read the rest at the NYT.
John Hendrikson at The Atlantic: How Abortion Defined the 2022 Midterms. Where Dr. Oz stumbled, John Fetterman only had to say Roe v. Wade. And so it went across the nation.
In red and blue states alike, reproductive autonomy proved a defining issue of the 2022 midterms. Although much preelection punditry predicted that the Pennsylvania Democratic nominee John Fetterman’s post-stroke verbal disfluency was poised to “blow up” the pivotal Senate race on Election Day, the exit polls suggest that abortion seismically affected contests up and down the ballot.
Concerns over the future of reproductive rights unequivocally drove Democratic turnout and will now lead to the rewriting of state laws around the country. In deep-red Kentucky, voters rejected an amendment that read, “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” In blue havens such as California and Vermont, voters approved ballot initiatives enshrining abortion rights into their state constitutions.
In Michigan, a traditionally blue state that in recent years has turned more purple, voters likewise enshrined reproductive protections into law, with 45 percent of exit-poll respondents calling abortion the most important issue on the ballot. In the race for the Michigan statehouse, the incumbent Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, trounced her Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon, who had said that she supports abortion only in instances that would save the life of the woman, and never in the case of rape or incest. Dixon lost by more than 10 percentage points and almost half a million votes.
After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ended the federal right to abortion in June, many observers wondered whether pro-abortion-rights Democrats would remain paralyzed with despair or whether their anger would become a galvanizing force going into the election season. The answer is now clear—though, in fact, it has been for some time.
In August, just six weeks after Dobbs, Kansas voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that could have ushered in a ban on abortion. That grassroots-movement defeat of the ballot initiative was a genuine shocker—and it showed voters in other states what was possible at the local level.
William James Webbe, The White Owl, ‘Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,’ signed with monogram and dated ‘1856’
Right leaning Axios reports that anti-abortion groups think the problem is that Republicans distanced themselves from the abortion issues: Republicans’ abortion silence backfires in midterms, by Oriana Gonzalez.
The blame game has begun around what led to Republicans’ disappointing results in the midterms, with some outside groups zeroing in on the party’s lack of an abortion message.
Driving the news: Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a large anti-abortion organization with close ties to GOP leaders, slammed Republican candidates who distanced themselves from abortion bans and failed to clearly communicate their stance on the issue, calling it “political malpractice.”
The group said in a memo that to “win in competitive races,” candidates needed to focus on defining their opponents as “abortion extremists” and “contrast that with a clearly defined pro-life position centered around consensus such as pain-capable or heartbeat limits.” [….]
They specifically praised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, whose closely watched race is headed for a runoff.
Yeah, no. I don’t think that would have worked. The candidates who did talk about it mostly didn’t do well.
More points of view on what kept the anticipated “red wave” from happening
Noah Berlatsky at Public Notice: The red wave that wasn’t.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the results of the 2022 midterms were still uncertain. Control of both the House and the Senate remained up for grabs; the latter may ultimately be determined by a run-off in Georgia in December.
We do know one thing though. Joe Biden has had the most successful midterm of any president in 20 years. The Democrats in disarray narrative looks a lot more like Republicans in disarray. The American people, it turns out, did care about inflation. But they cared about democracy too….
The Democrats currently have 50 seats in the Senate and a narrow majority of 224-213 in the House. Holding that, or losing a handful of seats in the House, may not seem like an impressive outcome. Usually, though, the president’s party gets clobbered in the midterms. Donald Trump in the 2018 midterms lost 40 seats in the House. Barack Obama lost a whopping 63 seats in 2010. In comparison, his 13 seat loss in 2014 seems relatively mild, even though it shifted control to the Republicans again. George W. Bush lost 31 seats in his 2006 midterm.
You have to go back to the 2002 midterm, in the rally around the flag aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to find a midterm in which the president’s party made any gains. The Republicans that year picked up eight seats, solidifying their hold on the House. Before that, the president’s party lost control of the House in every other midterm election since 1978.
Biden’s achievement — even if he ends up losing a handful of House seats — is all the more remarkable because his popularity remains in the doldrums. Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight has his approval at around 41.4 percent. That’s lower than Trump’s (42.2 percent) and or Obama’s (44.8 percent) at the same point in their presidencies, when they experienced catastrophic losses.
Biden’s low approval ratings and high inflation nationally led many pundits to believe that there would be a red wave in line with most midterms. Pundits said that New York governor Kathy Hochul could be in danger of losing her blue state to challenger Lee Zeldin. Analysts also suggested Democrats could lose a Rhode Island House seat they’d held since 1991, as Republican Allen Fung looked prepared to unseat Democrat Seth Magaziner. Colorado Democratic Senator Michale Bennett was supposed to be in trouble. So was Washington state’s senator Patty Murray.
Oops! The media’s favorite meme, “Dems in disarray,” might need revisions. Read more at Public Notice.
Cows, by Vincent Van Gogh
This is a “guest essay” at The New York Times by Sohrab Ahmari: Why the Red Wave Didn’t Materialize. Ahmari thinks the Republicans’ failure to help or even empathize with working class Americans explains their electoral losses.
A week before the midterms, a video circulated online of a Starbucks barista crying while explaining the need for a union: “I’m a full-time student. I get scheduled for 25 hours a week, and on weekends they schedule me the entire day — open to close.” The manager is bad, the staffing is inadequate and the stress is overwhelming.
The video should have elicited sympathy from anyone familiar with the lousy wages and grinding conditions that characterize today’s service economy. That was not, though, the response of the full spectrum of conservative media and personalities, from Fox News to The Daily Wire to Sebastian Gorka.
“Boo Hoo!” replied Media Research Center TV, a conservative media site. “This ‘person’” — the barista happens to be transgender, hence, I suppose, the scare quotes around “person” — “was in tears because they had to work eight hours a day on the weekend.”
Episodes like this may be one reason the red wave didn’t materialize, why Republicans failed to usher in a new dawn of prosperity for the multiracial working class that Republican leaders from Senator Ted Cruz to the House policy honcho Jim Banks say they want to champion. When it came down to it, the Republican Party offered ordinary American workers little that might have bolstered their power or leveled the economic playing field. That failure helped dash conservative hopes for a clean Republican sweep.
Read more at the NYT.
Some Republicans and pundits are blaming Trump.
The New York Times: Trump Under Fire From Within G.O.P. After Midterms.
Donald J. Trump faced unusual public attacks from across the Republican Party on Wednesday after a string of midterm losses by candidates he had handpicked and supported, a display of weakness as he prepared to announce a third presidential campaign as soon as next week.
As the sheer number of missed Republican opportunities sank in, the rush to openly blame Mr. Trump was as immediate as it was surprising.
Hunting Dogs in a Boat (1889) by Winslow Homer
Conservative allies criticized Mr. Trump on social media and cable news, questioning whether he should continue as the party’s leader and pointing to his toxic political brand as the common thread woven through three consecutive lackluster election cycles.
Mr. Trump was seen as largely to blame for the Republicans’ underwhelming finish in Tuesday’s elections, as a number of the candidates he had endorsed in competitive races were defeated — including nominees for governor and Senate in Pennsylvania and for governor of Michigan, New York and Wisconsin.
“Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser with ties to Pennsylvania, said in an interview.
Former Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who has long supported Mr. Trump, said, “I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party,” adding that the party “can’t become a personality cult.”
The chorus of criticism, which unfolded on Fox News and social media throughout the day, revealed Mr. Trump to be at his most vulnerable point politically since the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
The Washington Post: How Trump, infighting and flawed candidates limited Republican gains. This is one of the Post’s trademark gossipy reports with 5 authors and many sources, so you’ll need to go read the whole thing if you’re interested. Here’s the intro:
Florida Sen. Rick Scott made a plea to about 35 of his colleagues during lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices in early August: Send money to the NRSC from your personal campaign accounts. The candidates were in need.
The Republican outlook had gone from glossy to grim since the July campaign finance reports. Despite $5-a-gallon gasoline and a historically unpopular president, Democratic Senate candidates in pivotal states had big financial and polling leads. First-time Republican candidates propelled by former president Donald Trump, on the other hand, were viewed unfavorably in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona and Georgia.
But Scott’s hopes of a united GOP response were dashed as soon as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stood to address the same room: Send 20 percent of the money from their leadership PACs, he told the senators, to the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group controlled by his own loyalists, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The implication, said multiple people familiar with the exchange, was that senators needed to choose sides in a months-long battle between the two Senate leaders about the best strategy for winning, a conflict that would have serious consequences in the fall.
Bull, 1911, by Franz Marc
At least one senator left the meeting frustrated that Scott had to come hat-in-hand so late in the campaign, according to people briefed afterward. Other senators raised private concerns broadly about how Scott had managed the committee. Others blamed McConnell….
From the outside, this year’s elections looked like a virtual Republican lock. Since Lyndon B. Johnson, new Democratic presidents have lost an average of 45 House and five Senate seats in the midterms. Republicans went to the polls Tuesday needing to gain just five House seats and a single Senate seat to take control, amid soaring inflation and broad dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction.
But behind the scenes, nothing came easy to Republicans this cycle, as their historic tail winds collided with the fractious reality of a political party in the midst of a generational molting. GOP leaders spent much of the last year fighting against each other or plotting against their own primary voters. They were hobbled by unprepared first-time candidates, fundraising shortfalls and Trump, whose self-concern required constant attention — right up to the eve of the election, when he forced party bosses to beg him once again to delay a presidential campaign announcement.
That’s all I have for you today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!