As I watch CNN’s flashy election coverage at two in the morning, I can’t help but notice the soothing, conflicting wash of relief I was having while the results rolled into my laptop.
To be honest, I was expecting these midterms to be a blowout for Republicans. If you read my previous piece, I’m sure you could’ve already sensed some of my pessimism through my talking about Trump’s primary endorsements this past year.
And speaking on these endorsements, while so far he achieved a nearly 70% success rate with his candidates last night, it’s highlighted by some astonishingly profound losses in Tuesday’s election that have helped me claim a rejuvenated love for a political institution struggling for my attention.
Republicans had notable losses last night, with Pennsylvania’s race between Dr. Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman becoming an iconic upset for a race they believed would be a lock. The lieutenant governor of the State of Brotherly Love won the race by a slim majority of 50.4%.
House races across the nation have given surprises to the Democratic Party, from open races in North Carolina to incumbent seats in toss-up states; incumbent Michael Bennet won a tossup Colorado seat against Republican Jim O’Dea, and Colorado’s House of Representative seat is looking to be taken from Republican incumbent Lauren Boebert by Democrat Adam Frisch. Similar races across the country have held up in the Democrat’s favor in a massive upset to what was expected to be a “red wave,” nearly defying one of the most well-established theories in politics.
Midterm elections are a disadvantage for the party under the White House. It’s been well defined that whoever is in charge of the executive branch will be facing losses in the House of Representatives and the Senate, likely losing majorities in either chamber. We saw it in recent political memory from Donald Trump losing the House in 2018, and Barack Obama having divided chambers since the 2010 midterms. Right now, however, President Joe Biden appears to be riding one of the shallowest red-waves in recent memory, projecting to lose the House by the slimmest margins.
In statewide races, the Democrats outperformed expectations, with governorships in both Massachusetts and Maryland flipping to the Democratic party. Notable here is Maura Healey, as she became the first openly lesbian governor-elect in U.S. history, and the first female governor in Massachusetts.
Historic representations of women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community were seen in polling results, with gains in diversity felt amongst both parties. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former press secretary under President Trump, will now be Arkansas’ first female governor. Katie Britt will become the first elected female senator in Alabama, and Florida’s Maxwell Frost is Gen Z’s first representative elected to Congress.
We also need to talk about the elephant in the room back home, or should I say the elephant that lost a governor race that was unwaveringly competitive: Kathy Hochul has been elected to her first full term in office, being the first woman in New York’s history to do so. The moment comes as Representative Lee Zeldin fought a surprisingly close race in what came to be the state’s closest governor election in 20 years.
The margins are undeniable: While the rest of the country missed it, New York is being wiped out by a red wave.
The governor’s race was much tighter than Cuomo’s 20+ point victory back in 2018, with Hochul barely receiving 53% of the vote. Other races in the Empire State are seeing unprecedented flips towards the Republicans. Robert Zimmerman lost to George Santos in a district that went for Democrats by over 12 points in 2020; incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney lost to Assemblyman Mike Lawyer, and Pat Ryan, a long-time incumbent Democrat, is narrowly expected to win New York’s 18th Congressional District in a race he won by nearly 15 points two years ago.
The margins alone speak for themselves. New York is a blue state, but redistricting and a disdain for traditional Democrats has paved the way for an increasingly red presence to a state that has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.
I’m certain to be writing more on the outcomes in the coming weeks, especially as the House results are still being certified and as we’re underway to face another runoff election between incumbent Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Just as Republicans outperformed in the 2020 election in what was predicted to be a Democratic storm, the Democrats are outperforming the ‘red wave’ that never transpired this year.
It’s unsettling, for sure. Partisanship in this nation has never felt higher, and the thought of seeing chambers dominated by narrow margins does not seem good for policy initiatives that either parties want to pass. Bickering and stalling in Congress is going to be more rampant than it ever was, and for most that’s definitely not what they voted for.
But I’m willing to see a glimmer of hope in the American people. Maybe within our partisanship, we can understand what our commonalities really are. For example, the country doesn’t care for ardent election deniers. We’re seeing Senate races where true election deniers are being ousted or facing competitive races, from Oz’s defeat, Walker’s tight race or Blake Master’s struggle to take Mark Kelly’s Arizona seat. Josh Shapiro won his race against election denier Doug Mastiano for governor of Pennsylvania, a major win for election rights in a solid toss-up state.
The American public also approves of abortion access — or rather, doesn’t approve of ardent restrictions to it. Three states — California, Michigan and Vermont — have passed constitutional provisions to guarantee abortion rights, and Kentucky has rejected a measure to prevent abortion rights from ever being constitutionally protected (no to a no means they do care!). Abortion in general seemed to be one of the more salient issues of the election, carrying more weight with voters this year than initially projected, speaking to a larger narrative that Republican extremism is not what the public truly wants.
So, take this time today to breathe a sigh of relief. There are many things to be fearful of in the coming years — don’t worry, our existential angst for the 2024 election will never go away — but for now, sit back, relax and watch the red tides recede into the big, blue ocean.