Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The 2022 Almost-Post Mortem

I was a bit hesitant to write my post-mortem recap today, since some very important races remain uncalled. Incredibly, both the House and Senate remain uncalled, though the GOP is favored in the former and Democrats have the slight advantage in the latter. It would be truly delightful if Catherine Cortez Masto can squeak out a win in Nevada and so make the upcoming Georgia run-off, if not moot, then slightly less high stakes. But again, things are up in the air that ought make a big difference in the overall "narrative" of the day.

Nonetheless, I think some conclusions can be fairly drawn at this point. In no particular order:

  • There was no red wave. It was, at best, a red trickle. And given both the underlying fundamentals  on things like inflation and the historic overperformance of the outparty in midterm elections, this is just a truly underwhelming performance for the GOP. No sugarcoating that for them.
  • If Trafalgar polling had any shame, they'd be shame-faced right now, but they have no shame, so they'll be fine.
  • In my 2018 liveblog, I wrote that "Some tough early results (and the true disappointment in Florida) has masked a pretty solid night for Democrats." This year, too, a dreadful showing in Florida set an early downer tone that wasn't reflected in the overall course of the evening. Maybe it's time we just give up the notion that Florida is a swing state?
  • That said, Republicans need to get out of their gulf-coastal-elite bubble and realize that what plays in Tallahassee doesn't play in the rest of the country. 
  • That's snark, but also serious -- for all the talk about how "Democrats are out-of-touch", it seems that the GOP also has a problem in not understanding that outside of their fever-swamp base most normal people maybe don't like the obsession with pronouns and "kitty litter" and "anti-CRT". Their ideological bubble is at this point far more impermeable, and far more greatly removed from the mainstream, than anything comparable among Democrats.
  • Abortion is maybe the biggest example of this, as anti-choice measures keep failing in even deep red states like Kentucky, while pro-choice enactments sail to victory in purple states like Michigan (to say nothing of blue bastions like California). Democratic organizers should make a habit of just putting abortion on the ballot in every state, and ride those coattails.
  • It's going to fade away almost immediately, but I cannot get over the cynical bad faith of what happened regarding baseless GOP insinuations that any votes counted after election day were inherently suspicious. On November 7, this was all one heard from GOP officials across the country, even though delays in counting are largely the product of GOP-written laws. But on November 8, when they found themselves behind on election night returns, all of the sudden folks like Kari Lake are relying on late-counted votes to save them while raising new conspiracies about stolen elections. Sickening.
  • Given the still powerful force of such conspiracy mongering, Democrats holding the executive branch in key swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan is a huge deal. Great job, guys.
  • For the most part, however, most losing MAGA candidates are conceding. Congratulations on clearing literally the lowest possible bar to set.
  • The GOP still should be favored to take over the House, albeit with a razor-thin majority. And that majority, in turn, seems almost wholly attributable to gerrymandering -- both Democrats unilateral disarmament in places like New York, but also truly brutal GOP gerrymanders in places like Florida. This goes beyond Rucho, though that case deserves its place in the hall of shame. The degree to which the courts bent over backwards to enable even the most nakedly unlawful districting decisions -- the absurd lawlessness of Ohio stands out, but the Supreme Court's own decision to effectively pause enforcement of the Voting Rights Act because too many Black people entering Congress qualifies as an "emergency" on the shadow docket can't be overlooked either -- is one of the great legal disgraces of my lifetime in a year full of them.
  • Of course, I have literally no idea how the Kevin McCarthy will corral his caucus with a tiny majority. Yes, it gives crazies like Greene and Boebert (well, maybe not Boebert ...) more power, but that's because it gives everyone in the caucus more power, which is just a recipe for chaos. Somewhere John Boehner is curling up in a comfy chair with a glass of brandy and getting ready to have a wonderful day.
  • My new proposal for gerrymandering in Democratic states: "trigger" laws which tie anti-gerrymandering rules to the existence of a national ban. If they're banned nationwide, the law immediately goes into effect. Until they are, legislatures have free reign. That way one creates momentum for a national gerrymandering ban while not unilaterally disarming like we saw in New York. Could it work? Hard to know -- but worth a shot.
  • Let's celebrate some great candidates who will be entering higher office! Among the many -- and this is obviously non-exhaustive -- include incoming Maryland Governor Wes Moore, incoming Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, incoming Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman. Also kudos to some wonderful veterans who held their seats in tough environs, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Virginia congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, New Jersey congressman Andy Kim, Maine Governor Janet Mills, and New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan.
  • Special shoutout to Tina Kotek, who overcame considerable headwinds (and the worst Carleton alum) to apparently hold the Governor's mansion in my home state of Oregon. Hopeful that Jaime McLeod-Skinner can eke out a victory in my congressional district too, though it looks like that might come down to the wire.
  • I also think it's important to give credit even to losing candidates who fought hard races. Tim Ryan stands out here -- not only did he force the GOP to spend badly needed resources in a state they should've had no trouble keeping, but his coattails might have pushed Democrats across the finish line in at least two House seats Republicans were favored to hold. (I hate to say it, but Lee Zeldin may have played a similar role for the GOP in New York).
  • I'm inclined to agree that, if Biden doesn't run in 2024, some of the emergent stars from this cycle (like Whitmer or Shapiro) are stronger picks for a presidential run than the also-rans from 2020. But I also think that Biden likely will get an approval bump off this performance -- people like being associated with winners!
  • On the GOP side, the best outcome (from my vantage) is Trump romping to a primary victory and humiliating DeSantis -- I think voters are sick of him. The second best outcome might be DeSantis winning narrowly over Trump and provoking a tantrum for the ages that might rip the GOP apart. DeSantis himself, as a presidential candidate, is an uncertainty -- I'm not convinced he plays well outside of Florida, but I am convinced that if he prevails over Trump the media will fall over itself to congratulate the GOP on "repudiating" Trumpism even though DeSantis is materially indistinguishable from Trump along every axis save that he's not abjectly incompetent (which, in this context, is not a plus).
  • The hardest thing to do is to recognize when even candidates you really like are, for whatever reason, just not going to get over the hump. This fits Charlie Crist, Beto O'Rourke, and (I'm sorry) Stacey Abrams. It's no knock on them -- seriously, it isn't -- but they're tainted goods at this point. Fortunately, Democrats have a deep bench of excellent young candidates who we can turn to next time around.
  • And regarding the youth -- I'm not someone who's a big fan of the perennial Democratic sport of Pelosi/Schumer sniping. I think they've both done a very good job under difficult circumstances, and deserve real credit for the successes we saw tonight and across the Biden admin more broadly. However, we do need to find room for some representatives from the younger generation to assume leadership roles. Younger voters turned out hard for the Democratic Party and deserve their seat at the table. It says something that Hakeem Jeffries, age 52, is the immediate current leadership figure springing to mind as a "young" voice -- that (and again, there's no disrespect to Jeffries here) is not good enough.

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