The US is a country which loves elections.
As of the time of writing, we still do not know who will have control of the Senate, nor the outcome of the governor races in Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon, as they are doing an amazing job counting their ballots. Similarly in 2020, a week-long counting progress in Nevada had even become an Internet meme. This phenomenon of election outcomes taking days, if not weeks, to certify is disappointing because it has rarely happened in elections prior to 2020.
The Election: No Red Wave
Did the widely-anticipated “Red Wave” take place during the election? Greg Abbott won Texas pretty easily, though most polls favored him to win beforehand. Ron DeSantis’s performance in Florida was phenomenal, winning by a 20-point margin and even carrying the largely-urban Miami-Dade County, home to more than 2.7 million people; and the Republicans did well in the deep-blue New York State as well, flipping several congressional seats and only narrowly losing the gubernatorial race. However, the national outcome was rather disappointing for the Republicans.
John Fetterman’s victory over Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania was a surprise, considering that many predictions favored Oz after the disastrous debate, which should have raised serious concerns over Fetterman’s capability among the voters. However, frankly, both Republican gubernatorial and senate candidates, Mastriano and Oz, have their own flaws and only have won their primaries thanks to the endorsement of Donald Trump. Additionally, numerous early votes that heavily lean Democratic were cast before Fetterman’s fiasco on the debate stage. Likewise in Georgia, Kemp won solidly against Democrat challenger Stacy Abrams, while the coattail effect did not help the senate candidate Herschel Walker very much, another Trump-endorsed candidate.
There are several races that particularly upset me. In South Texas, where some redistricting took place while Hispanic voters are said to have swung largely right in recent years, Congresswoman Mayra Flores lost her reelection bid in the Texas 34th district by 8 points, even with pollings suggesting the race was a toss-up. Though Monica de la Cruz managed to flip the District 15 seat, it is hard to conclude that there was a “Red Wave” along the border. (Editor’s note: Since the time of writing, more data has come out, showing Republicans receiving a similar share of the vote in the valley as they did in 2020) In my “home state” of Kansas, a solidly conservative state, Democrat Governor Laura Kelly won her re-election narrowly. Although she presents herself as a fiscal conservative, many of her socially liberal positions were unpopular, including COVID restrictions in 2020 and the veto of two bills that would have banned transgendered females from competing in women’s sports. The abortion issue is another disappointment, which five states (CA, KY, MI, MT, VT) in the wake of the Dobbs decision placed on their ballot for a referendum, and all the outcomes were in favor of abortion rights regardless of some states being a lot more conservative than others.
Analysis: what caused this outcome
Given that Biden was a largely unpopular president, the economy was in a bad situation, and many polls suggested a Republican win, why did the “Red Wave” not happen?
In my opinion, the first reason is that Democrats appealed to the young voters well. About 27% of the voters between the ages of 18-29 have cast their ballot, which was amazingly high for a midterm election. After Dobbs, many Gen Z voters see abortion rights as their top priority over gun violence and climate change and were energized to vote, while the older voters tend to prioritize the economy and public safety. Young voters do not typically scrutinize each candidate’s positions or the most pressing issues in society, but instead are often single-issue voters blinded by those same old issues perpetuated by their professors and peers on campus and social media.
I also believe that state-level referendums on abortion have heavily disadvantaged the pro-lifers and the Republicans because, sadly, the American public supports abortion rights even in more conservative states. On a personal note, I believe that the unborn deserve the right to life, and such a human rights issue should not be settled by a ballot measure.
Another factor is the flawed Republican candidates “appointed” by Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I was always in favor of Trump’s policies as a president and even admired his funny personality. I also don’t believe the media’s claim that this election is another referendum on Trump because most people see current issues, rather than the ex-president, as their priority. However, he clearly does a bad job endorsing candidates, as he absolutely loves celebrities over experienced politicians, overly emphasizes their friendships, and cares whether his pick supported his election fraud claims or not. While having advantages in primaries, those candidates are usually quite vulnerable against the Democrats in competitive races. This, along with some of Trump’s recent remarks, has made many conservatives unwilling to see Trump run again as president in 2024. They are largely putting their support behind DeSantis, whose policies have turned out successful. If you ask me, I would suggest that Trump not run again, that DeSantis finish his job in Tallahassee because Florida needs a good governor, and that someone else with experience and the ability to appeal to the independents be the nominee.
I am not sure why the pattern of previous election polls tending to consistently underestimate Republican strength changed this time, as many of the toss-up races nationally ended up with Democratic wins. Nevertheless, the patterns in key swing states this year are strikingly similar to 2020, where all have extremely close margins of victory with Democrats winning Pennsylvania and Arizona senate races, and Georgia going to a run-off. Even though independent voters were dissatisfied with the current economic situation, many still rejected those Republican challengers who could potentially help lead toward a different path, as shown in exit polls. I blame this phenomenon on the increasing polarization, in which people don’t change their minds as easily anymore.
Last but not least, several states are taking many days before the final results come out. While it makes sense that the expanded early voting and absentee ballots coming in large quantities in some places have made the verifying process take longer, this delay is unacceptable and something should be done about it.
Overall from this election, I see the American Republic in a difficult situation.