Well, it’s all over.
I’m referring to the midterm elections, but depending on the final results, that sentence could apply to democracy, the American experiment, or hope for the future.
Republicans will likely take control of Congress, although the supposed red wave was grossly overstated. Knowing exactly who won what might take weeks to unsort. If Republicans gain enough power, you can trust them to grind government to a halt and lay the foundation for a Christian nationalist, white supremacist agenda.
So there’s that.
In any case, our wacky election system forced voters to contend with byzantine rules, arbitrary obstacles, active suppression, and racist fear-mongering ads that appeared to have swirled up from the ’60s Deep South. Plus there was the occasional knife-wielding lunatic threatening voters’ lives.
And that doesn’t even get into the fact that we keep forcing citizens to trudge to the polls for “the most important election of our lifetime“—over and over again.
You see, America has “an unusually high number of elections,” compared to other industrialized nations. We elect “half a million officials in total, from president to county coroner.”
We are the only democracy in the world that elects judges and prosecutors. On a state level, the number of ballot propositions can be overwhelming. And virtually nobody can keep up with all of the choices.
Some political experts believe that “the saturation of elections has significant downsides—exhausting voters and hurting the quality of governance by pushing lawmakers toward more campaigning, fund-raising and short-term thinking.”
Basically, we hold elections nonstop. But in a spectacular backfire, U.S. voters “participate at a lower rate than many other democracies,” which distorts our representative government “by putting in candidates that don’t reflect majority opinion.” Our system encourages extremist candidates to appeal to the most fanatical voters (i.e., the base) because those are the people most likely to show up. That’s why right-wing bigots can seize control even if they are incredibly unpopular.
And because the country is so divided, “even the slightest shifts among the few voters and few states that are truly up for grabs can tilt the balance of power.”
So if you’re frustrated that the nation can’t make up its mind whether it wants spineless Democrats or violent Republicans in charge, you are not alone. Neither political party can “sustain a durable advantage over the other, and political direction for a country of 330 million people is decided by a tiny sliver of voters in about half a dozen states—maybe a few hundred thousand people in all.”
Yes, an indecisive and easily swayed moderate in Missouri will always overrule your principled, well-informed vote.
Of course, the GOP is working hard to break this political logjam—not by winning the battle for hearts and minds, but by rigging every system to ensure that Republicans never lose again. To do that, however, they first had to capture the midterms.
Their message was that they alone could slay the evil demon of inflation, bringing unprecedented prosperity to a nation weary of paying an extra dollar for gas. Unfortunately, this is like Americans saying their top priority is fire safety, and then “turning to candidates with a history of arson, running on a platform of playing with matches.”
As we know, the idea that Republicans are good for the economy is one of the most enduring and bizarre myths in American history. It has never been true, and we have over a century of data that disproves it.
By “literally every relevant metric—economic growth, job creation, median household income, etc.—the U.S. economy has fared better over the past several decades during eras of Democratic governance.” We also have the real-world experience of the last 30 years, as each successive Republican president has created a worse economic crisis than the one before him.
Indeed, “the GOP has no credible plan to address inflation,” and “the only economic priority GOP officials are prepared to fight for is making permanent Donald Trump’s ineffective tax breaks for the wealthy—which would make inflation worse, not better.”
With all this in mind, why did so many voters say, “Let’s go with the religious xenophobes who don’t know how the economy works”?
The mainstream media will tell you that Americans voted with their pocketbooks, however flawed their logic may be.
You will also hear that many suburbanites are terrified of increasing crime, even if crime rates appear to have peaked or even fallen recently.
Or you might read that moderates—yeah, those guys again—believed that woke politics are turning their children into anti-American, gender-fluid snowflakes who shit in litter boxes.
These irrational motivations were all a factor.
However, you will likely not hear another reason, one that is perfectly obvious.
The truth is that many supposed “swing voters” know that the GOP is nothing more than a white-grievance party. They are well aware that January 6 was an attempted coup d’état. They acknowledge the rage and cruelty at the core of the Republican Party.
And they are fine with it. They even agree with it, but that’s not a popular thing to say.
So with the stench of Trump off the ballot, these closeted authoritarians looked for some excuse (e.g., inflation) to give them a plausible rationale to vote Republican.
It wasn’t about Republicans convincing them, because these individuals weren’t convinced. They were appeased.
They were simply looking for a reason, and they scrounged one up.
And their votes count more than yours.
Featured image by sjrankin/CC BY-NC 2.0