By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
The defeat of so many Trump-backed MAGA candidates appears to augur the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. But wait five minutes. Because the Republican hierarchy blows with the wind. And even if Donald Trump disappears, that will not be the end of Trumpism.
Nevertheless, as the electoral dust clears, many commentators are heralding the results of this midterm election as a strong win for the Democrats because they have held the Senate, and the predicted gargantuan Republican gain in the House has not materialized. More than that, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, ebullient over the results but careful to define himself as a “small-c conservative,” called the election a victory for Madisonian democracy. I agree with Scarborough. Although who will control the House is still, as of this writing, uncertain, the election results were a victory of sorts for democracy.
The common wisdom is that in midterm elections, voter turnout is low, and the president’s party usually loses the House and Senate by large numbers. But in this midterm election, voters apparently were fueled by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June autocratically eviscerating the constitutional right to an abortion, and by an understanding of the MAGA/insurrectionist threat to democracy. Voters came out in numbers almost equivalent to those in a presidential election.
The polls—particularly Republican ones—predicted a huge “red wave” for Republican candidates, many of whom were Trump-promoted MAGA clones. Contrary to this puffery, the most prominent of those backed by former President Donald Trump lost to reasoned Democrats. And many of the Democrats that Trump tried hardest to defeat—won.
In Pennsylvania, Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz lost to the Democrat, John Fetterman, for Senate. And the insurrection-supporting antisemite Doug Mastriano lost big to Josh Shapiro for governor.
In New Hampshire, the targeted Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan neatly won her contest beating MAGA Donald Bolduc.
In Michigan, the Democrats--Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney-General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, staunch defenders of democracy all, handily won reelection against right-wing opponents. And they did so despite the toxic atmosphere created by threats against them and the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, as well as persistent attempted intimidation of poll workers.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers won reelection. And although right-wing Republican Ron Johnson managed to retain his senate seat, he only narrowly defeated Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes, despite Johnson’s use of racist ads.
The Democratic gubernatorial and Secretary of State wins are particularly important to the integrity of future elections because so many of their MAGA opponents are election deniers who refuse to acknowledge that President Biden won the 2020 election, and who have vowed to make anti-democratic changes to limit the ability to vote and whether and how votes are counted.
It is true that in Florida, Republicans Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio won big, and a number of the House seats went to Republicans. But that should have been expected given that DeSantis redrew Florida’s electoral map—and even created a new district—to make sure Republicans would win in his state.
In the Senate race in Georgia, Raphael Warnock was marginally ahead of Trump’s Herschel Walker. Since neither received more than 50 percent of the vote, their race will go to what is sure to be an expensive, bitter runoff on Dec. 6. This may feel like a rerun of Warnock’s nail-biter 2020 runoff in Georgia, but this time—since Senators Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto won their hard-fought races in Arizona and Nevada—Warnock’s race will not determine who controls the Senate. However, the Georgia race remains crucial since a Warnock win will solidify Democratic control, limiting the power of nominal Democrats like West Va. Senator Joe Manchin to hold the party’s policy agenda hostage, and might even permit elimination of the filibuster.
As for the House of Representatives, the GOP was hoping for a tsunami of 50 to 60 seats but has gotten only a dribble. There are 20 House seats still in contention and so there is even a small possibility that the Democrats could yet retain the House.
In addition, election night was a big win for women’s control over their own bodies. In Michigan, Vermont and California, citizens voted for state constitutional amendments protecting the right to an abortion. And in very red Kentucky, an abortion ban was voted down.
The participation in democracy we saw on election night this year is heartening and speaks well of the electorate. The problem, though, is that if, once all the votes are counted, the Republicans obtain control of the House by even one vote, they will have power and the ability to use that power to further undermine democracy.
Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy already announced months ago that if he became Speaker of the House, revenge will be a mainstay of his agenda: investigation of the members of the January 6 committee, removal of them from their committees, the impeachment of President Biden, and elevation of insurrection supporters like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan.
So, to those who treasure democracy: take a deep breath. Heave that sigh of relief at having, for the moment, stemmed the MAGA tide. But if the Republicans obtain control of the House—no matter how small their majority—be ready to fight tooth and nail, because those who want to defend democracy will need to do so.
And if the Democrats retain control of the House and Senate, recognize that they have only won one battle in the war (hopefully a bullet-less war) to keep our country’s democracy. And tomorrow, get up ready to fight the next round.
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.