The Biggest Election Ever… except the last one and next one
My new piece for you on the midterms is below — and lots of new people signed up for this newsletter, so welcome! I reply to people through the comments button at the end. And for access to all my entries, you can sign up to be a full subscriber here:
And if you haven’t ordered The Jan. 6 Report with my foreword on the coup conspiracy, you can order the Harper Collins edition here, and it will come out when the Report drops after the election…
A Big Election
The midterms are a week out and they’re looking like a very big election.
There is usually lower turnout in these non-presidential elections, but early numbers show record-breaking turnout. More people have voted than at this point in 2018, which were the first midterms since Trump’s election. You remember how things felt then.
What does high turnout mean?
We won’t know until the votes are counted. There are issues galvanizing liberal turnout — the Supreme Court gutting Roe, election deniers and coup supporters running for office — and then there’s the traditional surge for the party out of power in midterms. And a ton of economic challenges.
Some Democrats declare these midterms are more important than ever because “democracy itself” is on the ballot. (People say this to me a lot on The Beat!) That is true enough. But it was also the case last election, when Trump was ousted while trying to overthrow democracy. And it may be a major priority in the next election.
So one challenge for a “pro-democracy” movement is to meet this moment without devolving into hyperboles that dilute those stakes. Another is to “balance” the very real mission to defend democracy and the other issues people care about. It’s never easy to run a “meta” message about democracy in an election, and especially not when people are facing surging prices and crushing rents.
Far From Normal
Biden partly ran on returning America to the good part of “normal” times, after Trumpism and the pandemic. In many ways, however, these two years feel far from normal.
People are not stuck in lockdown, but the pandemic’s aftermath remains a huge disruption to daily life, politics and the economy. From job schedules to school, America remains in a huge transition, while “macro” factors like inflation and the supply chain hit working people the hardest.
Inflation has topped 9%, the highest annual rate in four decades. Savings are declining in real value, and people on fixed budgets can’t keep up. While the very rich don’t “feel” inflation — and elites may talk about it less in the Beltway — most people do.
$1,100 per week
Consider this one fact:
The median income in America is around $1,100 a week.
Half the population makes less than that. If you’re living on $150 a day, there isn’t room for hundreds of dollars to just… evaporate. So inflation is a huge deal for many people.
For all the polls about who people are voting for, some other questions may be telling right now. In a recent NBC poll, 65% of Americans say their family’s income is “falling behind the cost of living.”
More broadly, this year the share of people putting the economy as their top issue has hit 40% or higher — while a whopping 75% say the U.S. is going in the wrong direction. That is bad for the incumbent party, and a long way from “good-normal.”
Next week’s results will also test one of the oldest “iron laws” of electoral politics.
Incumbent parties lose seats in the midterms.
Typically, the losing party in the last election is motivated (even angry); the incumbent party gets complacent. The exceptions are quite rare (like the midterms after the Sept. 11 attacks).
On the other hand, our era also shows the limits of prediction by precedent — Trump, a once in a century pandemic, an insurrection. And liberals have plenty of reasons to be everything but complacent. So anything can happen.
P.S. What are you watching for on Election Night?
P.P.S. I just got to meet hundreds of Beat viewers at a great event at the Denver JCC. Was fun and interesting to talk with people in person about news, justice, politics and a little music. I spoke about our nation’s democracy and court crisis.. and also did a “breakdown” of one of my favorite Andre 3000 verses. For those who couldn’t make it, below are some of the ideas I shared on that if you want to peruse. And if you have a city or venue you’d like me to visit in the future, leave it in the comments!
Hi everyone -- will reply to some comments below...
has anyone voted early yet?!...
Here in OC California, my highest priority is to see Katie Porter reelected. Aside from that, I'll be looking at every race across the country to see how many candidates supporting the big lie will be defeated. Will we still have a democracy or a dystopian fascist state?