Elections always have consequences, but they also herald shifts in the political environment and developing and maturing trends that will shape future elections.
Even though final results are expected to be slow to come in some locations, here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s elections:
You are reading: The midterms are over — what did we learn?
Political currency has changed: As someone who has spent nearly his entire adult life in politics, President Biden learned that the winning formula with voters is to pass bills and spend money. Passing bills and spending money signals that problems are being solved. Biden’s record includes four significant pieces of legislation and lots of spending: COVID relief, infrastructure, CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. The problem for the Democrats was that they did not produce quick results, so few candidates embraced the spending as problem-solving and ran on Biden’s accomplishments as central campaign issues. The political impact of massive spending bills may need to be recalibrated going forward as Democrats determine its efficacy in elections.
Rise of the Latina: Articulate, energetic and passionate Latinas ran as Republicans in 2022. Reporting in VOX on the surge of Republican Latina candidates, “There’s also growing frustration in the Hispanic community that Democrats no longer reflect their values, and we’re seeing more candidates willing to run because of it,” according to Olivia Perez-Cubas of Winning for Women, a group dedicated to electing Republican women. The movement among voters of color toward Republicans could be viewed as their own declaration of independence and their rejection of identity politics.
The GOP has a new face: Gov. Ron DeSantis won big in Florida and his victory could change the political paradigm in the Republican Party. Donald Trump, who is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid on Nov. 15, sees DeSantis as his main competitor. And Republican voters like DeSantis’s blend of effective issues management with a softer touch. Several high-profile Trump-backed candidates lost on Tuesday — notably, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the coveted seat of retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, and Tudor Dixon, who failed to unseat Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — and others were trailing, such as Kari Lake in Arizona, where the governor’s race was leaning Democrat with 62 percent of the vote counted. But some Trump-endorsed candidates fared well, including J.D. Vance and Ted Budd, who won Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina, respectively. It’s clear that Trump still influences America’s elections, but how “Trumpism 2.0” frames the GOP agenda going forward is in question with DeSantis strongly in play.
Media lost its way: The legacy media’s refusal to report on reality, events that people saw with their own eyes, cost them even more credibility with Americans. This trend is particularly true with independent voters, who Gallup found moved from 42 percent in 2018 to 27 percent in 2022 when asked whether they had a “great deal/fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.” Ignoring daily newsworthy events at the southern border, denying inflation and downplaying crime in major cities during most of the election season could make legacy media less relevant. Mainstream media will have to rethink itself and refocus on delivering more news and less commentary.
No ‘John Galt moment’ in 2002: John Galt, the fictional character created by Ayn Rand in her 1957 book “Atlas Shrugged,” organizes a strike of the “doers” against incompetent bureaucracy. In these midterms, voters neither affirmed traditional American values nor repudiated progressivism. Each party now seems to have a hard ceiling that cannot be breached regardless of the political environment. Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin lost the race for New York governor but owned the issue of crime, which is overwhelming New York City and Rochester. Party identity and the belief that “the other side” is evil and has bad intentions still drives much of America’s politics. Republicans pounded “kitchen table issues,” such as inflation, crime and education, but it was not enough to create the much-anticipated red wave.
In the end, elections determine which party must respond to the other party. In 2022, the lesson is clear that Democrats need to focus more on the economy, crime and education and moderate their push for a green economy, a war on fossil fuels, and the woke culture that stimulates America’s divisions. The GOP needs quality candidates who offer more than just loyalty to Trump. Most importantly, both parties must show respect to American voters, treating them like individuals and moving away from identity politics.
Elections demonstrate the ability of our system to self-correct. We Americans should all embrace the wisdom of the people and the resilience of our system of government — regardless of whether you are toasting victory or reeling from defeat.
Dennis M. Powell, the founder and president of Massey Powell, is an issues and crisis management consultant and the author of the upcoming book, “Leading from the Top: Presidential Lessons in Issues Management.”