What the voters said in 2022 US midterm elections (MSNBC) : “We want this to be a normal country, for want of better words”

Nov 18th, 2022 | By | Category: In Brief
“Nightmare” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

RANDALL WHITE, TORONTO. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2022. Now that the slender Republican majority in the House has been confirmed, I can report on our journey to northeastern California for the 2022 US midterm elections.

(And Nancy Pelosi’s announcement yesterday of her resignation as leader of the Democrats in the House, while continuing to represent her San Francisco constituents in the 12th Congressional District of California, marks a related turn in the road.)

The Senate

The general picture in Washington, DC is captured in a CNN website headline : “2022 midterms: CNN projects Democrats keep Senate as GOP wins House.” For the latest numbers see, eg, the still regularly updated Reuters site.

How it looked on TV in Orangevale, CA.

In the end virtually all the national numbers are quite close.

The Democrats, eg, have 50 seats in the Senate and the Republicans 49. The very close race in Georgia will be decided in a runoff between the two very different African Americans Raphael Warnock (Democrat) and Herschel Walker (Republican) on December 6.

(Warnock is slightly ahead of Walker in the November 8 midterm numbers. But neither can reach over 50% of the vote, as required by Georgia law, in the face of the more than 2% taken by Libertarian Chase Oliver. This has led to the December 6 runoff between Warnock and Walker.)

The House and midterm history

“Bio-nary System” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

As historian Jill Lepore might underline, US federal politics is about nice round numbers. There are 100 members of the Senate — two for each of the 50 states. Then there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, representing congressional districts in each state, democratically based on population.

In the House, as of Noon ET today (and according to the Reuters numbers), the Republicans have now won the 218 seats that constitute the barest majority. The Democrats currently have 212 seats. There are five congressional districts where the final result is not yet clear, as ballots continue to be counted. Republicans are leading in four of these districts, and Democrats in one.

Whatever else, Democrats have lost control of the House to Republicans by a small margin, but retained control of the Senate by an even smaller margin. This is a real achievement, in light of the historical experience with US midterm elections. The president’s party typically suffers much more from the controversy an administration is bound to provoke over its first two years.

The US TV coverage we’re watching (well CNN and MSNBC at any rate) is saying that this is the best any Democratic administration has done in a midterm election since John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s. And, whatever else again, the Republican “Red Wave” predicted by many now so-called junk polls did not come off (except possibly in Florida, less plugged into Trump Inc).

California 3rd district

On a much more micro level the 3rd Congressional District of California, where we spent the week of the 2022 US midterms, is one of the five House districts that remain technically undecided. The Republican Kevin Kiley, however, is comfortably enough ahead of the Democrat Kermit Jones.

(California’s current 3rd district is a somewhat bizarre place, covering much of the most easterly part of the state — “a largely rural district that stretches nearly 450 miles from Death Valley up through Plumas County.” It has the look of a highly gerrymandered territory, even though California has an independent commission defining congressional districts after each decennial census — broadly comparable to what we have in Canada!)

Fate of 2020 election deniers

A final note on the 2022 midterm numbers comes from Daniel Dale at CNN :

“Nobody who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election has won a 2022 race to run future elections in a swing state … Voters in the 2022 midterms have repudiated every fervent 2020 denier who ran for secretary of state in a state that is expected to be competitive in the 2024 presidential election … The midterms have not, however, been a total failure for 2020 deniers. CNN projects that four Republican-dominated states have elected secretary of state candidates who rejected, questioned or tried to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. At least 18 such candidates have been elected as governor or senator … most of them incumbents.”

Concluding impressions of Canadian observer

I have three concluding impressions. First, while the 2022 midterms have proved much less troublesome for both Democrats and democracy in America than certainly I, like many others, thought possible, there is still much for progressives (and independents) to worry about in US politics today. Democrats need to listen harder in 2024!

Second, the most striking thing I’ve heard about the 2022 midterms on US TV comes from someone appearing on MSNBC whose name I still haven’t quite managed to track down. Broadly, it runs something like : What the voters finally said was “we want this to be a normal country, for want of better words.” I think this does capture something of the mood of the electorate that turned out on November 8, 2022. What continues to worry me is that this also seems consistent with just sweeping problems which still cry out for action under the rug!

“Homage to Henry Miller” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

Finally, watching the results of the 2022 US midterms, as a Canadian temporarily residing in the part of California’s 3rd electoral district closest to the City of Sacramento, somehow reminded me of a contrast advanced in the early 1970s by the late “American social philosopher, cultural critic, and poet” William Irwin Thompson.

The contrast is between a “Dionysian USA” and an “Apollonian Canada.” (And for this distinction more generally, see HERE and HERE! The latter is proabably worth quoting : “The Apollonian, after the Greek god Apollo, represents a calm, reasoned, and structured form of art while the Dionysian, after Dionysus, is a deeply emotional and ecstatic one.”)

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  1. Thank you for this ‘birds eye view’ of the election, being in the U.S., but as a Canadian, not directly involved.
    I waited until the Georgia run-off to comment. I agree with much of what is written here. I’m glad there is some ‘wiggle room’ in the senate – that Warnock ultimately did win. However, I am disappointed by the small margin by which he won, especially learning about Walker’s actions regarding his negation of his responsibilities as has been reported.
    I particularly agree with one of the quotes about the desire for many in the U.S. to ‘return to normal’. It felt that way last night and at one point one of the TV commentators I was watching also used that term.
    It does appear that Trump may be fading in power/credibility. Here’s hoping that some shift is happening in a progressive way. It’s too difficult to imagine what our future generation will have if such doesn’t happen. It’s good to have publications such as this to keep us informed and thinking!

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