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What the Hell Just Happened?: A Guide to the 2022 Election

What the Hell Just Happened?: A Guide to the 2022 Election

We were told there would be a “Red Wave” of voters angry about crime and drag queens. That didn’t happen. 

A first-term President’s party usually faces big losses in the midterm elections as American voters race to ensure that their newly elected President can’t do anything. Reagan lost 26 seats in Congress in 1982. Clinton lost 52 in ‘94. Obama lost 63. Trump dropped 40. With a few races yet to be called, it looks like Biden will lose about 10. Meanwhile, pending the outcome of the Senate runoff in Georgia, it looks like the Manchin Administration will come to an end as Democrats gain an additional seat.

What will Republican Congressional control mean for the country? Probably nothing. With a very narrow advantage in the House and a delegation packed with attention-whores, religious nuts and grifters, merely selecting a leader is likely to be filled with drama. This Congress will be a dark circus, likely contributing to Democratic momentum in 2024.

So did the good guys win? Not exactly. The Senate map should have presented Republicans with a nightmare scenario, defending what had been competitive seats in places like Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin while facing few opportunities for gains. Instead, the map seems to have hardened, shrinking the number of competitive states.

Colorado and New Hampshire seem to be solidly blue at the federal level. Michael Bennet in Colorado outpolled the Democratic Senate candidate in Illinois. Florida and Ohio are solidly red, perhaps joined by North Carolina. Arizona is no longer a Republican state and Nevada is drifting blue.

Nobody won or lost, everything just became more of what it already was. Trends in US politics set in motion by the election of her first black President have now solidified. 

Dobbs was supposed to change everything, and it probably contributed to Democratic turnout in an otherwise challenging environment. But there was no sign of Republican power cracking in its strongholds. After a high-profile, exhausting and passionate campaign by Beto O’Rourke to unseat conservative mullah Greg Abbott, the Democrats managed the same vote percentage they achieved in the previous race. 

Ron DeSantis rolled to a blowout victory after killing off thousands of his own 2018 voters with pandemic policies designed to protect his donors. Nothing Republicans did over the past few years, from killing off grandma to keep businesses open to stripping reproductive rights to outright sedition seems to have flipped a vote. 

America’s tribal boundaries intensified in 2022. Republicans feel free now to run as unapologetic Fascists without eroding any of their base. They seem satisfied to hold their ground with no prospect of expansion as long as they control a large enough slice of the electorate to cripple the federal government. There’s no sign that this deadlock can be resolved through electoral politics. 

Aging, rural whites, especially those with a middle to upper income and a high school education, are now the Republican base. Democrats depend on a coalition of minority voters, urban and suburban residents, and college-educated whites. The exceptions to this pattern are steadily either falling in line or falling away. 

Republicans’ white base is dying off at an accelerating pace as mortality rates in Republican areas soar. What’s keeping the GOP competitive is the fluidity of whiteness. Hispanics and many other immigrant minorities are becoming white, taking the place of aging boomers at the front lines of the culture wars. Ron DeSantis won in Florida by pitching white nationalism to Hispanic voters. The same strategy propped up Greg Abbott in Texas. 

Gains on either side are largely impossible as both see the other as demonic. Your Republican uncle who ten years ago spent Thanksgiving Dinner complaining about taxes, now insists that Democrats are blood-sucking child molesters bent on oppressing white men. Post Dobbs, Democrats see Republicans as unreconstructed Confederates bent on rolling back every element of modern civil society. There’s no room left for persuasion.

Policy has largely disappeared from our politics. Elections are about defining and motivating a racial (Republican) or cultural (Democratic) tribe. The future course of this model depends on how quickly Republicans can turn immigrants into white people, how quickly aging Republicans die off, and how long it takes for a massively more progressive younger generation to become politically engaged. All of this, of course, assumes that the glacial progress of our electoral evolution isn’t interrupted by another coup attempt – the most likely next step in our politics. 

Four years ago, in the summer before the ‘18 election, I described this as the most important election of our lifetimes. It was Democrats’ chance to seal gains from the Trump backlash and begin to move the country forward. Democrats failed to realize that goal, but Republicans gained nothing. The 2022 election was a stalemate, buying a little more breathing room for a struggling democracy.


  1. Came back here to reread this today. Would be sad for it to be the last word on this blog, but I’d understand too, per the earlier post about there being not much more to write about.

    What stuck out in this was the comment about how one of the things determining the future of our model is how quickly it will take a much more progressive younger generation to become politically engaged. I think we’re seeing that happen in real time.

    As garbage as Twitter is – especially after Elon’s takeover and ongoing Nazification efforts – I still follow updates on progressive-to-leftist movements there. I’ve followed the ongoing efforts to unionize Starbucks, which have in turn inspired traditionally “white collar” industries like tech workers and graduate assistants at universities to begin organizing. All this is being powered by under 30 activism.

    For a more striking local example, I think of what happened over in Nashville a few weeks ago. The GOP supermajority, aiming to flex its absolute authority, voted to expel two Black Democratic legislators for participating in a protest for gun control after the mass shooting that occurred at a private Christian school.

    Even I was impressed at the size of the turnout in defense of those legislators. Large numbers of (mostly) young people showed up seemingly from all over the state, and the local governments in the legislators’ districts voted unanimously to reinstate them despite (or maybe because of) threats from the GOP supermajority to strip funding if they did.

    Bottom line is that the anecdotes are starting to add up, and I think we’re seeing a trend. Young people are waking up and getting involved.

  2. Some interesting cracks are appearing in the GOP. Supreme Trump suckup Marc Thiessen is publicly calling for the GOP to reject Trump in 2024. It’s been years since I clicked on one of his columns, because he’s been such a nauseating lickspittle, but this passage is worth sharing:

    “It’s time for Trump supporters to acknowledge a sad but undeniable truth: Trump is spinning out of control. Yes, his presidency was filled with historic accomplishments, and he was treated unfairly by his critics in Congress and the media. But since the election, something has snapped. He has descended into a spiral of conspiracy theories and personal grievances. He has surrounded himself with the political dregs. He dines with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after the rapper made virulent antisemitic comments and Nick Fuentes, a notorious white supremacist — in a meeting that was apparently arranged by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor who was purged for defending pedophilia. Trump blasts the Supreme Court justices he appointed because they will not do his bidding from the bench. And now, in calling for the termination of the Constitution and his reappointment to the presidency, he’s apparently lost touch with reality.”

    At the start of the column he states why he made his particular Devil’s bargain, the most common reason, the packing of the courts with conservative judges. The Devil always delivers on his end of the bargain, but as all the fables go, the payback is a bitch. These guys are trying to stiff the Devil. Thiessen would have you believe that he is shocked, SHOCKED, that a spoiled, entitled, and willfully ignorant brat, who has been a raging asshole bully his whole life, who has gamed the system and suffered little, if any, negative consequences for all his bad deeds, would refuse to accept an obvious election loss, would throw a 2 year temper tantrum, would incite violence, and would be willing to burn it all down to rule the ashes. He can’t grok why the Tangerine toddler persists, even when the damage to the GOP keeps happening.

    What these fools don’t want to face is that every time an off ramp away from Trump presented itself (1st impeachment, Jan 6, 2nd impeachment, stolen documents, my dinner with Ye and Nick, suspend the Constitution) and the vast majority of them declined to take it, they effectively refinanced with the Devil, upping the interest rate each time. Thiessen finally took the ramp, but he thinks he can avoid those interest payments.

    1. After three years of dedicated work, seven years of being called out for it, and decades of getting away with it, the Trump Organization was found guilty of all counts of tax fraud, and fined the maximum possible…


      I won’t do the math but I’ll bet the three years work building the case cost at least twice that.

      The bad guys won’t pay until the system is built to punish them.

    2. The key element with Trump is the loyalty of the MAGA crowd. All the Republican politicians kow tow to Trump because they are scared out of the wits (literally) by the MAGAts continuing to support Trump. As he said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and get away with it. As long as he is able to maintain the loyalty of the cultists the Republican politicians will continue to support him. Chris ladd covered that in an earlier post.

      The good news is that there are signs that the cultists are beginning to tire of Trump. His rallies are not as crowded as they once were. Some key politicians are beginning to question their unquestioning loyalty. If he loses a Presidential primary, he will quickly fade from view. But that or loing the next election will be the most dangerous times, because some of his cultists will quickly resort to violence.

      There is also a very high possibility that the Republican Party will split prior to the nominating convention.

      But you are correct, it is going to be a very bumpy ride.

  3. Yeah, so those taking victory laps about the loser party “wins”, this is what is coming down the pike. The tyrant post this today on Truth Social:

    “So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great “Founders” did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

    Note the part about “the termination of the Constitution”?

  4. As I said earlier, evil scum like the psycho green will have more power because the fascists need the REALLY crazy to maintain control of the House. That means impeachment hearings that drag on for 22 months. Impeachment is now something a president has to just shrug at.

    And yes, the violence will increase. The hard right still not does believe this election was fair. What is my biggest question is if the House shuts down support for Ukraine, given they are the tip of the spear of NATO now, regardless of the official political statements.

  5. I somewhat disagree that republicans in general can run as unabashed fascists without consequence. It’s increasingly true in gop strongholds but Arizona might be a good example of a place where republicans might have been able to squeeze out a win if they were centering their campaign messaging around inflation and lowering taxes instead of around Trump and election denial. The victory of Yougkin in Virginia and the disparity between the election results of Kemp and Walker in Georgia demonstrate that there is still a small but significant block of voters who are willing to vote for a Republican that is perceived to be civil and not beholden to Trump.

    This might be because they view Trump himself as the thing that has been poisoning the political landscape rather than his election being representative of issues within the party itself and its core base. You and I would probably both disagree with that but I still see plenty of people even in the democratic party who think that the gop as it exists today can be “saved” if Trump is out of the picture.

  6. Democrats didn’t exactly win but they over-performed, keeping one branch of government and providing America with a much needed break before the ugliness of House MAGA politics gears up. The world needed reassurance. Republicans needed and deserved this gut check which they appear certain to ignore.

    I’m clear-eyed about how difficult the next two years will be for democrats. I can’t project more long term. As Marc Elias noted in his usual spare style, “Democracy is fragile “. Had the 2022 election met hyped expectations from the right, democracy wouldn’t have lived to see another day. America has bought time. How we use it is up to us. At least there is some hope.

  7. A very good reading of the present political situation. The current political party system is locked in place. There will be no major changes in the current gridlock in America until some really major event occurs to dislodge individual voters from their present orientation. The polarization will continue until that happens. IMO, that will likely be an existential crisis that occurs in conjunction with the 2024 election. It may be another insurrection larger than Jan 6. It may be a major split in the Republican Party. I do expect the Republican Party to split. It may be some more outrageous decisions by the Supreme Court.

    There are a number of similarities to the 1858 election. Those elections resulted in the nascent Republican Party controlling the House without a majority and the Democrats retaining control of the Senate. The Dred Scott decision occurred in 1857 and had a significant impact on the elections. But the really serious incidents associated with that did not occur until later. The Dobbs decision did have a major impact in this election, but not sufficient to dislodge the existing polarization. It required 44 ballots to select a Speaker. Basically the ensuing Congress was notably gridlocked.

    Finally, in 1860 the Democratic Party split into Northern and Southern branches. Each nominated different candidates for President. The old Whigs had previously effectively died out. The Republicans nominated Lincoln and won. Seven Southern States seceded. South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter. Then the remaining four states seceded and the Civil War started. History changed.

    I personnally expect some major developments, which will have sufficient magnitude to shake up the existing order in conjunction with the 2024 elections. Exactly what they will be, only time will reveal.

    The one thing I am sure of is that the present polarization cannot continue. Lincoln’s statement that a house divided against itself cannot long last is equally true today. It is possible, but IMO dubious that the US could split into several sectional nations.. However, in the final analysis, I believe that the ties that bind us are greater than those that separate us.

    Nevertheless a reckoning is coming.

    Also in reading the above, it is helpful to realize that the Democratic and Republican Parties have essentially totally switched orientations during the ensuing years. That includes the sectional orientations of the the two parties.

  8. What’s your take on the possible Trump vs DeSantis rumble? Trump has the vulgar charisma that excites the base, but DeSantis is smarter with more self control.

    Given that either one in the White House is bad for American democracy, here’s hoping they destroy each other.

    1. DeSantis is untested on a national stage (much like JEB! was before he promptly bombed). All that’s certain is, as you said, that he clearly lacks the charisma and TV presence of someone like Trump. That’s not nothing.

      That aside, what’s most important rn is to see just how big the Republican field gets. Trump got by in ’16 because his opposition was so fragmented that they couldn’t coalesce around an alternative. There’s a chance that that happens again.

      How many candidates are we looking at right now? Trump, DeSantis, Abbott, Christie, Hutchinson, Hogan, Scott, Pompeo, Youngkin and Pence as the most likely.

      That’s quite a lot already.

    1. If you’ve read his collected works (starting with his pre-2016 you’d understand more.

      To be fair, and the more D-leaning folks here can enlighten me, did the NY State Dem. party “accidentially” flip some seats to the Rs because they’re afraid of more AOC-types? (Democratic Machine Politics… ugggh.)

      1. “the more D-leaning folks here can enlighten me, did the NY State Dem. party “accidentially” flip some seats to the Rs because they’re afraid of more AOC-types?”

        Hey look, an in-the-weeds local politics question I can answer!

        A bunch of things happened with the Democrats over the past couple years that resulted in the relative red wave:

        1) Reverse Gerrymandering

        NY had its first round with the the Independent Redistricting Commission, and it was a bit of a fiasco. The IRC couldn’t agree on maps, sent two (one Democratic leaning, one Republican leaning) to the Democratic supermajority in Albany. Democratic supermajority tossed both, voted for an extremely Democratic gerrymandered map of their own devise. Republicans sued, the maps were overturned in federal courts for violating fairness laws.

        Side note, funny that the GOP gets Democratic gerrymanders overturned, but not vice versa. Anyway,

        federal courts then rewrote the maps, and they are, I personally attest as someone who believes redistricting should be algorithmic shortest splitline and removed from human hands entirely, completely fair to Republicans and Democrats. They’re honestly probably the most fair maps NY state has had.

        Anyway the IRC is now submitting new Assembly maps that are far more productive and acceptable, so they’re learning. Hopefully they can take over and the maps can remain fair.

        But the result is that it made a ton of Democratic seats more competitive and even in the process caused some popular Democrats to compete against each other where otherwise they’d normally have been in neighboring districts.

        2) “Crime”, the story of the NY Post and Mayor Cop.

        The NY Post has a pretty much default freak-out mode for every hint of crime that ever happens anywhere in New York City, but this time it actually had a 20% rise in crime year-over-year to compare against the Democrat’s misunderstood and extremely under-communicated bail reform laws, which unfortunately went right into effect as the pandemic made more people homeless and desperate than ever. So the Democrats = rising crime narrative had particular valence locally.

        Don’t get me wrong, that’s not all just GOP straw-manning. Democrats have been stuffing themselves full of hay and asking to be beat down for years. And instead of having a Cop Mayor who could say “Hey man I’m a cop I’ll fix crime,” they had a Cop Mayor who nodded and said, “Yeah it’s true crime is a Democrat problem.”

        Note that a 20% rise in violent crime is still far under historical averages, is already receding as the pandemic stresses recede, etc etc blah blah blah. It’s not my job to excuse away public danger. It’s the Democrats to show they care.

        3) The Machine Beheaded

        Our new governor was not originally elected into office, Hochul took office after Cuomo’s fall from grace as the governor who everyone knew was a bit of a bully and a bit handsy “but got things done” to the governor who everyone was suddenly like “Yo he’s a bully and super handsy! We can’t have him in office!” That happened because he really messed up handling the pandemic by sending infected patients back into old people’s homes, the demographic most at risk from COVID. Then in classic “it’s not the issue, it’s the denial” case study, Cuomo refused to admit that he was responsible for that decision and exerted all his power to try to hide the data that showed that New York state mortality was particularly high.

        Which, sidenote, still frustrates me. In the end per capita, New York’s mortality rate was far higher than Florida, and yet most people still expected De Santis to suffer politically from COVID? De Santis’s policies initially lead to more spread but Cuomo’s policies continuously lead to more death.

        Anyway, Cuomo’s ass was on the line for that when women started pointing out the previously well-known fact that he has a tendency to touch them inappropriately. They saw the opportunity to get him while it stuck and stuck it did.

        The reason this matters is Cuomo was a major part of the Democratic machine and highly effective at it. So without him and some of his people (pushed out of administration by Hochul), the machine was beheaded and stumbled.

        It wasn’t really until a few weeks before the election that Democrats in NY started taking polls seriously and doing the usual consolidation and coordination with interested parties. Until then it was mostly just Zelden controlling the narrative and finding new voters and the Democrats shrugging and saying, “Nah uh, this is a blue state, we have a supermajority.”

        Those three combined resulted in Republican gains in the state.

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