The more we learn about the 2022 midterms, the clearer it becomes just how off the mark many pundits and strategists were in their preelection analysis of the dynamics.
That proved true for the fantastical “red wave,” the notion that abortion was “fading” as a potent issue, and the idea that economic concerns would dominate all other issues.
Now we can say with certainty again that contrary to popular belief, democracy itself was very much on the ballot in the view of a definitive portion of the electorate.
That was the conclusion the White House also came to when President Joe Biden warned voters of the existential crisis facing the republic just days after Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, suffered brutal injuries during a break-in at their San Francisco home.
Biden drew a direct connection between the targeted invasion of Pelosi’s home and the violent Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol inspired by Donald Trump.
"The assailant entered the home asking, “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” Biden recounted during the Nov. 3 speech at Union Station. "Those were the very same words used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol on January the 6th when they broke windows, kicked in the doors, brutally attacked law enforcement, roamed the corridors hunting for officials, and erected gallows to hang the former Vice President, Mike Pence."
Ultimately, Biden implored voters to consider how their vote would impact the future of the republic.
“This is no ordinary year,” Biden said. “So I ask you to think long and hard about the moment we’re in. In a typical year, we’re often not faced with questions of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put us at risk. But this year, we are.”
Among Biden's many critics following the speech was longtime Obama aide David Axelrod.
"Issues of democracy are hugely important at this moment and in next week's election. Totally appropriate for @POTUS to address them," Axe tweeted after the speech. "Still, as a matter of practical politics, I doubt many Ds in marginal races are eager for him to be on TV tonight."
Sure, democracy is on the line. But whatever you do, Mr. President, don't use your bully pulpit to elevate the issue for voters.
In fact, Axe’s former boss Barack Obama also pounded home the issue in Philadelphia while campaigning for Democrats alongside Biden on the final weekend before Election Day. Axelrod’s tweet seemed more critical of Biden as messenger than the message itself. Still, it was a message that bore repeating as many times by as many different people as possible, including the president of the United States.
As it turned out, Axe’s let's-stick-our-heads-in-the-sand hot take was entirely off the mark. New post-election polling of 71 highly competitive House districts conducted by Impact Research for the progressive PACs End Citizens United and Let America Vote shows just how heavily issues of democracy weighed on voters, serving to both juice turnout and sway independents—a dream combination by any operative's measure.
Fully 60% of voters in these districts said protecting democracy was an extremely important consideration driving them to the polls, according to Huffington Post, edging out inflation (53%), abortion (47%), and crime (45%). When voters were asked to single out two issues only, inflation (55%) and protecting democracy (50%) took the number one and number two spots.
For Democrats in particular protecting democracy was a key motivator, with 73% calling it an extremely important reason they voted; 51% of independent voters said the same.
Those who voted for Democrats also named protecting democracy as their top issue at 41%, with 39% citing abortion and 38% mentioning their distaste for the GOP candidate.
But the issues of democracy, abortion, and flagging GOP candidate quality all seemed to reinforce each other, with the erosion of bodily autonomy and a long slate of GOP election deniers serving as force multipliers of the Republican Party’s anti-democratic extremism.
That was the clear takeaway for Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan of New York, who shocked the Beltway in August when he won a special election in the state’s 19th Congressional District, and then delivered a repeat performance just months later in the state’s newly drawn 18th District.
“What people missed in polls — which I heard over and over again in conversations, if you actually listen — is people link these issues together,” Ryan told Huffington Post. “People intuitively, of course, understood that if you’re taking away a fundamental right from more than half of the American people, then all these other rights and freedoms are on the table. And that becomes an existential democracy — small-d democracy — issue.”
The Republican Party continues to flail and point fingers at one another. The traditional media pretends it did not completely blow it on predicting a “red wave” a few weeks ago. On today’s episode, Markos is joined by Democratic political strategist Simon Rosenberg. Rosenberg was one of the few outsiders who, like Daily Kos, kept telling the world that these midterm races were closer than was being reported. The two do a little gloating about being right in their optimism coming into the 2022 midterm elections, give their analysis of Democratic candidates' successes, and point to signs that the Republican Party is terrified as we head into the 2024 election cycle.
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