Thoughts On Warnock and The Midterms

The Daily Escape:

Mauna Loa erupting, Big Island, HI – December 5, 2022 photo by Deron Verbeck

You’ve heard this by now:

The 3,537.3 million votes cast on Tuesday represented a 45.2% turnout in Georgia. The record was set in the 2020 presidential election at 69.4%.

The Georgia Senate runoff election was uncomfortably close. Wrongo and Ms. Right tuned in to election results occasionally throughout the night and we were very concerned when the partial results often showed Hershel Walker ahead, at least until the Democratic-leaning counties around Atlanta reported results.

This raises a few questions: First, how (and why?) would so many Georgians vote for a completely unqualified candidate? OTOH, when we see how many people voted for Kari Lake and Blake Masters in AZ, or Dr. Oz and Mastriano in PA, there’s real reason to worry about what the US electorate thinks.

While Trump’s most visible candidates lost, many others won, and Trump still controls the Republican Party to a frightening extent. The WaPo estimated that 176 election deniers won statewide races, or seats in the House of Representatives.

If things go sideways in America (think a steep recession) there should be little doubt that a few thousand votes could easily swing back the other way and we could be stuck with a full-blown neo-fascist government led by Trump or by one of his clones. Michael Tomasky in the NY Review of Books analyzes the current state of political play:

“This is our new condition—tight races between two armies of voters, each marching to the polls with the conviction that victory for the other side would be not merely an unhappy result but calamitous for the republic.”

Wrongo has been harping on the importance of voter turnout to electoral success. The fact is that turnout is becoming more important as the nation has become more clearly divided.  More from Tomasky:

“In the eleven presidential elections from 1972 to 2012…turnout averaged 56.1%. In the eleven midterm elections from 1974 to 2014, the average turnout was just 39.4%.”

Tomasky says that all began to change with Trump:

“…presidential turnout in 2016 was a bit higher than average, at 60.1%. In the 2018 midterm, turnout was 50%, the highest for a midterm since 1914. Then turnout in the 2020 presidential race set a modern record at 66.8%, the highest since 1900.”

We learned three things from the 2022 midterms: First, candidate quality is crucial. Party primaries aren’t set up to necessarily select the best candidate. They often reward candidates who fire up their base, because turnout is usually very low in primaries. Second, turnout in the general election is key in most contested Congressional districts and states. Third, we learned that we could control our destiny despite the pro-GOP “red wave” narrative pushed by the national media.

Axios reports that 2022 is the first midterm election since 1934 when the Party in power successfully defended every one of their incumbent Senate seats.

There was bound to be more turnover in the House, if only because there were seven times as many seats being contested. But it was also the first election after the 2020 census and the follow-on redistricting process. Much of the reason for the change of control in the House is due to redistricting.

This year, some incumbents were pitted against each other, ensuring one would lose. Others were in districts they could no longer win, which caused a few retirements and defeats. Almost all the incumbents (95%) who survived primary challenges won re-election.

And despite so much stability on the surface, Americans are incredibly polarized, and there’s widespread discontent. Given that, we should give credit to Democrats who didn’t dissolve into political infighting and who worked to get the job done against big odds. Georgia in particular was once again a hard-fought contest in which every vote counted. That means every Get Out The Vote (GOTV) organization and every phone call, postcard, text, door knock, made by them also counted. As did your donations.

Georgia isn’t turning blue. It’s important to note that Georgia’s Republicans swept every other statewide race (7 of them) without going to a runoff.

And for this Senate runoff, we should recognize the sacrifice made by Georgia voters who stood in line to exercise a right that shouldn’t be contingent either on completing an endurance race, or an obstacle course. We owe Georgia voters a debt of gratitude for their efforts in the face of voter suppression.

The year of Republicans blowing it has ended, and we shouldn’t expect them to let Trump pick their candidates in 2024.