The 2022 midterm election results have come as a shock to many, with an unexpectedly strong showing from Democrats all across the country. The supposed “red wave,” the predicted domination for Republicans in many House of Representatives and Senate races, simply didn’t manifest.
Democrats maintained control of the Senate, but the house flipped to Republican control. Despite this, the result of the midterms comes as a disappointment to many Republican politicians, strategists and pundits.
The first instinct among Democrats, progressives and people aligned left politically is to see the midterm results as a win and a step in the right direction. While this is certainly true, election results should not be seen as the sole force to oppose far-right control. The midterm results should be celebrated with caution, as the social and political climate of the country remains on a dangerous path.
Recent events and trends are indicative of this troubling state of affairs, with the most notable being the surge in election deniers across the country. In addition to many Republican candidates doubting and rejecting the results of the 2020 presidential election, some candidates are expressing extremely troubling rhetoric regarding their own elections. Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was asked in a CNN interview if she would accept the election results should she lose. Lake refused to answer, stating “I’m going to win the election and I will accept that result.”
The midterm elections are also happening amid concerns of an increase in political violence in the country. Recently, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was beaten with a hammer after a man broke into their San Francisco home. David DePape, 42, was a far-right conspiracy theorist, and it appeared he had broken into the home with the intention of harming Speaker Pelosi.
The response from many conservative media outlets and politicians was to downplay the act of political violence. Senator Ted Cruz amplified a tweet from pundit Matt Walsh which suggested the attack was a random incident. Fox News host Jesse Waters stated “A lot of people get hit with hammers. A lot of people get attacked, and a lot of times they’re out on bail the next day and it’s a simple assault charge. So I don’t know why this guy is being treated differently.”
These responses are obviously disconcerting and raise concerns that acts of political violence are becoming more normalized in the United States.
The issues of political violence and election deniers also go hand-in-hand with the broad threat to democracy in the country. Many conservatives will push back against this idea and say it’s merely fear mongering, though the precedent set by President Trump after the 2020 election of rejecting results has certainly created a more present need for discussions about democracy. This sentiment is echoed by many Americans, with 70% of registered voters in a recent Pew Research poll saying “the future of democracy in the country” was an issue very important to their vote.
I believe that it’s imperative for Americans right now to stay vigilant on threats to the nation’s checks and balances, and to not have a false sense of security after the marginal victories of the midterm elections. A lot of Americans view our systems as indestructible, when in reality these systems which we take for granted are quite fragile.
A similar mindset was popular in the post-Cold-War era of American politics, which featured the neoliberal idea that we had reached “the end of history,” a poorly-aged sentiment that left the United States underprepared for the various crises which would quickly ensue in the 21st century.
We will always have current events biases that keep us from realizing the severity of events as they are happening. Americans must fight against the urge to take our systems and democracy for granted, even in times like these where the midterm results are favorable.
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