Once again, the American people managed to mess up the hard work and effort of pundits, political scientists, and pollsters far and wide. It sure felt like the red wave posted by gleeful republicans and terrified democrats alike was coming. But the voters said “Nope”. But what exactly did they say?
The most honest answer is it is still too early to say for sure. The US House is likely going to flip to Republican, but in such a way that who will lead them is unclear. The Senate is going to stay with the Democrats, but the fact that it was and is extremely tight races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia that determined that is a baffling sentence to write considering how red those states used to be.
But even with this uncertainty, here are a few lessons to take away from the 2022 elections.
Crazy has its limits. Depending on how you count there were a lot of election deniers running this year. The BBC has a conservative estimate that overall, around 70% of those won. It looks like Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, who is crazier than a Jet fan on a winning streak (more on that later) will pull out a win but by a razor thin margin. So still, plenty of crazy out there, especially in the House.
However, crazy did much worse when it ran for executive positions like Governor and Secretary of State. Election deniers got crushed in swing state governor races like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They won for secretary of state in Alabama and Indiana but lost in Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona and Nevada.
So maybe the real wisdom of this is that we are ok with electing crazy to positions where the job is one of many, but not to positions where they can do immediate, real and lasting damage. It isn’t a really comforting line in the sand but at least it is a line.
Patriotism in unexpected places. I had an opportunity to go to Israel during their recent election. If you think we have crazy people on the ends of our political spectrum, you ain’t seen nothing. They have leftists that make Alexandria Ocasio Cortez look like Jon Bramnick. They have a right wing that makes Marjorie Taylor Green look like Jon Bramnick. But you know what both agree on? The Israeli flag. It is everywhere, at every rally left, right and center.
In America, the use of the flag has been almost entirely co-opted by the right wing. It is the most prominent symbol at every Republican rally. We can argue all day about what that really means, but in this election, there seemed to be a few signs that Democrats want to take back the ideas, symbols and language of patriotism that Republicans have so successfully taken over. Its early but here are some examples.
Senator Cory Booker on the stump here in New Jersey squeezed claps, smiles and even cheers out of grumpy skeptical union guys with his line that “it is time we stopped thinking about living IN America and started focusing on living FOR America”. He went on to acknowledge that what that means will always be different for different people but his argument that everyone ought to be working to make America better and stronger is an effective TikTok version of John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech.
Maryland Governor-elect Democrat Wes Moore is another example. Watch the last two minutes of his acceptance speech for a full throated, passionate articulation of what patriotism means from a left-of-center perspective by an Army combat veteran. Watch the speech but his lines about growing up in a family where “we loved this country even when it didn’t love us back” and “patriotism is not a boast, it is not self-righteous” and “patriotism is the realization that this country is great but working together we can make it even greater”. These all define a pathway for Democrats to reframe the patriotism narrative and recapture voters who desperately want believe America and our democracy are worth fighting for.
It is still too early to know if more democrats will embrace and use this idea and as John Fetterman’s flag blowing down incident showed they still have some practice needed in using the symbols of patriotism. But the idea that you can be left-of-center and passionately patriotic is worth watching.
Jets, Mets and Phillies. These three teams have more in common than the fact lots of people in New Jersey love them. The Mets and Phillies had great baseball seasons, the Jets are (speaking of weird sentence to write) are 6-3 and just beat the Buffalo Bills. So, this year, they all have “doing well”. The joy for Jets, Mets and Philly fans show at doing well is not restrained or cautious. It is just pure joy and happiness for as long as it last.
But as is usually the case, the joy doesn’t last and how these fans react to that is important also. Unlike some teams (hello Yankees, Dodgers, Cowboys) these fans didn’t complain and scream about the unfairness of life. Even the Phillies, who lost to actual proven cheaters, never asked a re-do on the games. Instead, they said, “damn that hurts” “good job boys”, “we will get them next year”. I expect that when Jets ultimately head south (sorry had to be said) they will react the same way.
Here is the point, so far with the possible exception of gubernatorial candidate Crazy Kari Lake in Arizona, people who lost this election are saying damn that hurts, good job, let’s get them next time. Sadly, I am sure that Kari Lake won’t be the only one who tries to blame the deep state for their loss. But right now it feels pretty good that the results of this election and the processes of voting and counting those votes, the process of democracy is behaving like Jet, Mets and Philly fans. I hope that continues throughout the remainder of this election. I pray that this lesson stays learned in 2024.