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9 November 2022

The Republican “red wave” has turned into a ripple

Many expected a landslide victory for the right over the Democrats in the US midterms – but the voters had other plans.

By Emily Tamkin

Midterm elections are meant to be bad for the party in power. Midterms are definitely meant to be bad for the party in power when inflation and gas prices are high and the president isn’t popular with voters. Midterms shouldn’t be good for the Democrats when the Republicans have had two years since the 2020 presidential election to make it more difficult to vote in certain districts and to try to redraw electoral districts in their favour.

And yet, though many went into the midterms on Tuesday night (8 November) expecting a Republican landslide, as of Wednesday morning we still do not know who will control the Senate or even the House, which Republicans were supposed to win easily. Democrats held on in swing districts in Virginia; they even gained some in Ohio. And while Florida looks lost to Republicans for the foreseeable future, Pennsylvania (where John Fetterman won the Senate race), Wisconsin and Arizona, all of which Joe Biden won in 2020, appear to be at the very least still in play for the party. The Democrats’ victory at the 2020 presidential election wasn’t a fluke. Nor was it an aberration for the Republicans.

In the coming days we will see who actually has control of the Senate and House (the latter, at least, will still almost certainly be Republican; midterms are meant to be bad for the party in power). And we will undoubtedly hear competing explanations as to what happened. Some will say moderates were scared off by Donald Trump’s continued dominance of the Republican Party; others that Republicans lost because he wasn’t on the ballot. There will be theories of demographics and strategy and radical versus moderate politics. All of that is to come.

I wrote on 7 November that Democrats should stop falling for Republican messages and reject political debate on right-wing terms. I’m going to take this opportunity to do the same: however Republicans try to spin the results, whatever nonsensical claims of fraud they draw up, their electoral offer was rejected by many who were expected to eagerly vote for it. They put up bad candidates and they ran extremist campaigns. They beat themselves. Even if they don’t want to change course to protect the democratic process that they have shown repeatedly they don’t care for, maybe they’ll do it for their own selfish political futures.

[See also: What the US midterm results mean for the war in Ukraine]

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