Why the predicted “red wave” didn’t materialize in the 2022 Congressional election.
At the beginning of election night as the results in Florida arrived and the Dems lost four seats I began to think “Oh shit” as I thought about how a national abortion ban could impact my blue state.
However, as the night continued, and the Democrats began picking up seats in Ohio and North Carolina I was stunned as the much anticipated “red wave” was a mirage.
Seats that were predicted to go for the Republicans like KS-3rd (R+3), NC-13 (R+2), and CO-08 (EVEN) were instead plucked up by the Democrats preventing the election from being called for weeks. The biggest political upset came from Southwest Washington in the 3rd district where Nate Silver predicted had a 98% chance of going Republican, was instead picked up by Perez who won over MAGA Republican Joe Kent. The first time a Democrat won that seat since 2008.
While control of the House did flip to the Republicans, they’ll have a much smaller majority than what the media predicted they would have.
Let’s breakdown how the red wave fizzled into a red trickle.
Despite the real issue of inflation, the plurality of voters according to NBC exit polls suggest the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Conservative Supreme Court played a huge role in the midterms.
In exit polls 62% of all voters believed abortion should be legal in most cases, something most Republicans shrewdly tried to make illegal and ban them with no exceptions. Disgust about 11-year-old girls in jail for having a miscarriage and Republicans openly bragging about taking away rights drove a huge block of women into the arms of Democrats. John Fetterman in Pennsylvania won 57% of female voters and promised on the campaign trail to enshrine Roe into federal law if elected.
The majority of voters nationwide supported abortion being legal in most case which drove women, independents, and people of color to the polls in record numbers. In Wisconsin turnout for young voters and people of color was 130% and 200% of what it was in the last midterm.
The 2-month ad blitz by the Republicans about a manufactured crisis like crime and immigration didn’t work. Michigan easily re-elected Democratic governor Whitmer whose coattails flipped control of the state house and senate to the Democrats. Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, Tony Evers in Wisconsin, and Katie Hobbs all Democrats won their governor races because voters did not like having rights ripped away from them by Republicans.
Legislative Wins and Executive Orders
During the summer a string of legislative wins by the Biden administration and executive orders canceling up to $20,000 in student debt helped the President’s party. The Inflation Reduction Act, lowering the costs of medication for Medicare recipients, some student loan forgiveness, and pardoning non-violent drug offenders likely boosted enthusiasm among Gen Z and young millennials in the polls. When you enact policies the American people and your base wants your approval rating goes up. While we didn’t get the minimum wage increase, expanded Medicare to dental and hearing aids, there seemed to be enough in the bill for the Dems to campaign on to prevent huge losses in the house.
Pardoning non-violent drug offenders for something as simple as possession of weed is widely popular among Dems, Independents, and even some Republicans. The Republicans relentlessly tried to hammer Democrats on crime and inflation hoping it would sway the public to elect them so they could shut down the government and demand concessions from President Biden. Instead, the Republicans not only lost the Senate but barely won the house with 221 seats. The narrowest margin for them since 2001.
Republicans Had No Plan for Inflation
While Republicans spent up to a billion dollars or more on internet and television adverts blaming Biden for inflation, voters had no idea what their plan was.
What was the Republican plan? Cutting veterans benefits? Slashing Social Security and Medicare? More Tax Breaks for Billionaires?
They thought if they could tie inflation to Biden, they would pick up seats. But voters weren’t as gullible as they thought. Plus, nearly a third of Republicans voted for the Inflation Reduction Act undercutting their argument that President Biden hadn’t done enough when he did and got bipartisan support. And the fact that Biden was clever in releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum reserve caused their argument to collapse as gas prices dropped thanks to the Biden administration.
Backlash to Republican Fascists
While some of these guys did win like Jamie Vance in Ohio, voters appear to have had it with Republicans wanting to turn us into an authoritarian fascist form of government.
Right-wing extremist Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is barely clinging on by 600 votes in an R+7 congressional seat. The one who compared the insurrection storming the capitol to 1776, seems to be too extreme even for Western Colorado. In Southwest Washington Republican Joe Kent lost to his Democratic challenger Marie-Perez in a surprise upset as Kent was expected to win by 98% according to FiveThirtyEight. While there were a few surprise pickups for the GOP in New York where head of the DCCC Sean Maloney lost his congressional district to a Republican along with three other Democratic nominees, the overall results suggest that this was not a red wave but more of a red trickle thanks to younger generations coming out in huge numbers for Democrats. You can thank people under 45 for preventing a red wave from ever forming.
Minimized Losses & Conclusion
The fact that the Democrats were able to fend off large losses is stunning for this historical reason. From 1922–2018 the party that controls the White House lost an average of 30.1 seats in the House of Representatives, in this election they only lost a total of 9 seats. Just nine seats.
The fact that turnout is close to the 2018 election results combined with Democrat’s winning key governor races in swing states leads me to believe on thing. The overturning of Roe v. Wade and Republicans openly bragging about forcing women to carry pregnancy disgusted so many independent voters that they were willing to vote Democratic despite high inflation and gas prices. The second factor was that many Republicans in high office openly questioned the previous election results and said they would only accept the results if they won (like an authoritarian from Mussolini’s Italy). These were the two biggest reasons why the Democrats overperformed expectations. They didn’t win the House, but they’ve kept the Senate and picked up seats against the rise of authoritarian Republicans and conspiracy theorists.