Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Something to Know - 23 November

Today, we have the 2nd of two papers from Andy Winnick.  You also have a lesson in our history from HCR.   Family and friends will be arriving today, and will be here through much of the weekend.   We will all enjoy being together for conversation, food, and the fact that we are still around despite the waves of Covid and insurrection.  You should do the same.

A Preliminary Look at the November 2022 Midterm Election

Prepared for a talk at the La Canada Democratic Club 11/20/2022
Andy Winnick  (
Professor Emeritus of Economics and Statistics and
President, The American Institute for Progressive Democracy

1.  I assume all of you have rather carefully been following the election results in the various media, so I will not discuss the detailed state-by-state results.  Rather I want to focus on some particular trends and patterns.

a. There were 7 states (6 "battleground"  and one, Indiana, solid Red) in which there were elections for key officials, such as Secretaries of State, officials that have significant influence over how elections are conducted, and where MAGA supporters, i.e. Trump Republicans, were running. In all but Indiana, the "election deniers" lost. In Arizona, a rather conservative state, Trump-supported candidates ran for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and for the Senate – and all lost.

b. There were 5 states in which the abortion issue was specifically on the ballot, some were more liberal states, some more conservative.  In 2 cases the issue was whether to put the right to an abortion in the state constitution, and in 3 others there were measures to severely limit or prohibit abortion.  In every case, the pro-abortion rights measures won.

c. There were 6 states in which Trump-endorsed candidates ran for the Senate, in 5 of the 6 the Trump person lost.  The only exception was Vance in Ohio, and his Democratic opponent failed to get much of any support from the national Democratic party (which is a whole separate issue).

d. There were 6 Trump-endorsed candidates for state Governor… all lost.

e.  In the House of Representatives races, while some Trump-supported folks running for the house won, 8 lost. Overall, Republicans beat incumbents in only 5 races, while Democrats beat incumbents in 3 races. Looking at the races where there was no incumbent, that is, the seat was open: 32 Republicans won, and 30 Democrats won. So overall, there was no significant switch to the Republican side, and no significant increase in Trump-supported Republican representatives to the House. As usual, most incumbents of either party won re-election.

f. In a study by the news organization POLITICO of what is called "ticket-splitting," wherein individual voters vote for the candidate from one party for Governor, while voting for the candidate from the other party for Senator, it was found that this phenomenon played a crucial role in the defeat of Trump-supported candidates.  Moreover, this occurred in the face of a 30-year trend of the reduced incidence of ticket-splitting, from 25% in 1990, 16.6% in 2014, 10.3% in 2018 and only 7.4% this year. Nevertheless, in state after state, voters who supported a, shall we say, traditional Republican for Governor or for Senator, turned to vote for the Democrat candidate for the other office in an effort to reject a Trump-supported Republican candidate for that other office.

The overall conclusion is not simply that, in defiance of historical patterns, Republicans, as a party, in the 
 first mid-term election of a new                                                President, failed to take control of the Senate and won only a slight majority in the House. But far more significantly, democracy with a small "d" won. The movement toward election denial, toward autocracy and a loss of personal and political freedom was halted, or at least slowed. The American people, as a whole, chose to defend democracy, and for that we can be quite thankful.
Moreover, despite all our fears and the abundance of violent language before the election, there were almost no incidences of political, physical violence at or around election sites.

In addition, despite various efforts at voter suppression in some states, preliminary statistics indicate that the proportion of eligible voters that chose to vote was 47%, just under the 48% in 2018, which was the highest recorded voter turnout for a midterm election since 1978 when this type of statistic was first tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau. And, in 14 states, the turnout was higher than in 2018. On the other hand, compared to voter turnout in many other democratic nations, this is a rather pitiful figure. Nevertheless, for the U.S., this was another sign of a successful effort to defend democracy as a system.

Finally in this regard, compared to the post-election turmoil, legal and otherwise, that was threatened by Trump and his supporters, especially if they failed to win, and from the perspective of only 10 days after the election, things are remarkably quiet. Yet another good sign.

2. We need to wait a bit to see a detailed analysis of how folks voted broken down by age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, etc. But a few indications are already visible.  Young voters, under age 30, voted in almost as high a proportion as the record they set in 2018, and they voted even more for Democrats.  
On the other hand, the proportion of the major BIPOC groups supporting Democratic party candidates, while still high, fell across the board compared to the 2018 midterm. Black voters fell 4 to 7 percentage points, while remaining above 80%. Latino voter's support fell by 9 to 10 points but remained at 56% to 60%. Asian voter's support dropped precipitously from 77% in 2018 to 58% in 2022. Indeed, there were some complaints that the Democratic party was paying too much attention to winning back the white working class. (see #3 below) College students seemed to have voted at a record high level for the Democratic party. Preliminary figures indicate that, despite the abortion issue, both male and female voters swung more toward voting for Republicans. In fact, it appears that, compared to the 2018 midterm elections, while male voters swung 10 points toward Republicans, women voters swung 11 points toward them. Nevertheless, in 2022, males voted more Republican (51%) compared to Democratic (47%), while women voted more Democratic (59%) compared to Republican (40%). The so-called gender gap apparently continued, and indeed widened.

3. One more issue needs to be mentioned. For the first time in a long time, there were signs of more Democratic candidates very consciously reaching out to white, working class voters. Two examples, Fetterman in Pennsylvania successfully ran for the Senate, by vigorously campaigning in every county, while wearing very casual clothes (sweatpants and shirts and never a suit and tie), while showing his tattoos and stressing his working-class roots. In contrast, Hillary Clinton did no campaigning at all outside of the two urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Fetterman beat a Trump-endorsed Republican. On the other coast, Marie Glusenkamp Perez beat a white, male Trump-endorsed candidate in an eastern rural Congressional district in the state of Washington by stressing that she and her husband owned and actively operated an auto repair shop and built their own home, when they could not qualify for a mortgage to buy one.  Her most successful TV advertisement showed her in work-clothes, an overall, sliding out from under a car she was working on.

On the other hand, in Nevada, a split within the Democratic party between its older establishment elements, and its mostly younger, explicitly progressive members, caused the party its only loss of a Governor's race in the country, and almost cost the nation a successful, female Senate seat that kept Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.  Catherine Cortez Masto was running against a Trump-endorsed, white, male candidate -- which, ironically, may have helped lead to her narrow victory,

4. So, the two big takeaways from this election are, in my view, that democracy won, and Trump lost.
But both battles will surely continue for the next two years, as we move toward the 2024 Presidential contest. This is especially true since Trump has already announced his candidacy for the Presidency; the Republicans have gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but by only a very narrow margin; and the Democrats have maintained an even more narrow majority in the Senate (50-50 plus the Vice President who can decide ties), though they may gain one more seat in the run-off in Georgia on Dec. 6th.  Combined, this seems a sure recipe for tension, gridlock and many political battles as we move toward 2024. And the danger of physical politically motivated violence certainly remains. But hopefully the demonstrated commitment of the majority of Americans to democracy will endure.

5. There is a need for one significant footnote.  We should not be overly focused on Trump as an individual. Many of the core politicians in the Republican party clearly share his anti-democratic convictions. People like Dos Santos and too many others have shown themselves more than willing to gerrymander congressional districts in order to disenfranchise Black and other voters, quite willing to discriminate against LGBTQ people and their interests, block the right to an abortion, and interfere with young peoples' right to even read full versions of our nation's very mixed record about such things as our history of racism and misogyny. Indeed, it is being argued that Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in this election only as a result of new racist gerrymandering in Florida (Dos Santos)(+4 seats), Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana (+1 seat each) for a total of 9 Republican seats that would otherwise have seen a majority of Black voters electing Democrats. It appears that Republicans gained more seats by running in new gerrymandered districts than by challenging and beating Democrats. This was not done by Trump. (This is not to deny that Democratic state politicians attempt their own gerrymandering, but in more liberal states there are beginning to be independent, citizen commissions that every ten years, as required by that year's new official Census, draw new Congressional district boundaries.)

These same MAGA-type Republican politicians have also proved themselves quite willing to manipulate the conduct of elections in any manner that they think will support their gaining and keeping access to power.  Moreover, they have already clearly shown their willingness to lie about virtually anything if they perceive the truth as threatening to their quest for power and political control. To be blunt, they are proto-fascists and have no serious commitment to democracy or civil rights, except perhaps to the right to carry arms whenever and wherever they choose.  So the threat to democracy goes far beyond Trump and his specific movement and base, and will continue even if Trump himself is pushed aside. As Benjamin Franklin so famously said, we have a democracy (as flawed as it is), IF we can keep it.  The threat to even our flawed democratic structures is hardly past and clearly will not end when Trump exits the scene. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom.

"I was thinking about how people seem to read the bible a lot more as they get older, and then it
dawned on me—they're cramming 
for their final exam."- George Carlin

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