On November 8th, humility beat hubris. The election was not a triumph for professionals of either party who, with a few exceptions, didn’t see it coming. It is hard to claim credit for something you didn’t see. Meanwhile, voters, who generally lack hubris, quietly took a stand, particularly those in the middle who don’t talk to pollsters and just go do their thing.
There will be a lot of analysis forthcoming about who turned out and why, and how they all voted. But it is pretty clear that the “normal” people (see October 9th post), decided that Republicans were the riskier bet. They still don’t embrace either party – or politics in general these days – but when it came down to it, they decided that the Republicans go too far in ways that are more dangerous than the ways the Democrats go too far. That’s not approbation, but it is and was a choice.
It was quite remarkable. Midterm elections just don’t look this way, at least without a missile crisis 90 miles off our coast or an attack on New York City. President Biden’s numbers are “underwater,” as they say, and inflation is a problem. But given a choice between worse and worser, well, here we are, although it was a close call.
But humility will quietly recede and hubris will roar back. Hubris apparently runs rampant already in the state of Florida and will (no danger of a wrong prediction here), be back in DC any minute. So here are a few things for both parties to keep in mind if you don’t want the forces of humility to clobber you next time around.
1. Get Shit Done. Yeah, it is still a close divide, but that is no excuse. Democrats have enough of a mandate that no one wants to hear about how Republicans are the problem (even if they are) and, Republicans, neither standing up for Trump nor standing up to Trump counts as helping people who are still facing a wavering economy and high inflation. Cutting Social Security and Medicare and screaming about the Democrats – or about the election – is appealing to me as your chosen posture only because I am still a partisan Democrat and that posture is a loser.
2. Voting Rights. Almost all Americans take it as a given that every adult citizen in the United States has a right to vote and to have their vote counted. Republicans: If you are not for this, then you are not for our system of government and should not be a part of it. I get your strategic reasons for embracing racism and blocking voting rights – more of your people are uncomfortable with race than not. But even those who are uncomfortable with people whom they believe are different than themselves – and even those who have lingering attitudes of white supremacy – do not identify with ugly, screaming, violent and near-violent insurrectionists. You and yours variously led, encouraged, or tolerated that. If that is your brand, you will keep losing. Democrats: Do more and talk less. Starting every sentence with “regardless of race,” racializes. Failure to pass voting right legislation undercuts the argument that you stand for inclusive democracy. You need to act to protect free and fair elections and the right to vote.
3. Abortion. Americans did not approve of the Supreme Court decision taking away a right that women have had for two generations. Republicans: If you really believe that women should only have the legal right to make this decision only sometimes and in some places, you need a lot better messaging on it. Right now, it appears just a power play by a politicized Court of your making. And the argument that it is up to the states undercuts your message on the morality of abortion both to those who favor the right and to those who oppose it. It is logically inconsistent to say something is morally wrong in Mississippi but not in Colorado. Or morally wrong in Mississippi for those who cannot afford the flight to Colorado. Your arguments are mush. Democrats: Voters are with you on the legality of abortion. Most voters favor it being legal and don’t want to get into litigating details of circumstance. But most do not believe it is a morally neutral choice either; they are still with “safe, legal, and rare.” Don’t celebrate it; just keep it legal. Even in Mississippi.
4. The Economy. A little explanation and focus would help here. Blaming Biden, Putin, China, or immigrants really doesn’t make anyone more comfortable. Yeah, I know its a world-wide problem, but knowing that isn’t comforting to people. What is the focus and what is the government doing about it – in clear language that is oriented toward action not blame.
A final note to the news media: I have written plenty here to say polls don’t work the way they used to and forecasting just says what happened before will happen again. Next time, talk to fewer pollsters and forecasters, and talk more to the “normal” people. They knew what they were doing here, although they may not want to talk about it much.