Midterm Election Lessons

Lessons from the midterm election include: the Dem Party could’ve done even better if its meek leadership had been gutsier, ala FDR.

What hit the Republican Party in this midterm election was… well, the Republican Party.

Blow No. 1, of course, was from the party’s president and cult boss, former President Donald Trump, who wields his narcissism like a political bludgeon. But then Republicans got an even more damaging gut punch from the party’s own Supreme Court majority of six partisan hacks. They chose this election year to assert their personal ideological view that the government should control every woman’s birth decisions. Not popular! Then, like a karate chop to the party’s own neck, its congressional leaders let loose with a pre-election announcement that, if put in charge, the Grand Old Party would go after people’s Social Security and Medicare benefits.

But Republicans also got hit with something beyond their control: A bevy of new, unabashedly-progressive Democratic candidates running on real populist issues that matter to workaday people, backed up by legions of energized grassroots activists. Candidates like Summer Lee, who’ll be the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania. Championed by Working Families Party, Our Revolution and other little-d democratic groups, she beat back concerted attempts by corporate powers in both major parties that tried to demonize and defeat her, including a last-minute dump of $1 million into her GOP opponent’s campaign by an American-Israeli super PAC. Another is Lina Hidalgo, the feisty people’s advocate who is the top county official in Houston, Texas. She faced down a pack of ultrarich oil magnates, developers and other corporate interests who put up $9 million in a failed effort to boot her.

The Republican Party has put its future on the rutted road of right-wing extremism and corporate sovereignty. Grassroots progressives, however, showed in this election a promising path to democratic rejuvenation: Run aggressive campaigns offering real change from the business-as-usual politics and policies of both parties.

America’s political, corporate and media establishments were cocksure about their prognostications, repeated for weeks before this month’s midterm election, that a powerful “red wave” was going to hit America. It would sweep Democrats out and push Republicans into office all across America, they exclaimed.

How shocking and embarrassing, then, that on Nov. 8, their raging wave turned out to be just a little ripple. Republicans ran poorly, and many Democrats ran well. Still, the Dem Party as a whole could’ve done even better if its meek, don’t-rock-the-boat leadership had been gutsier, more progressive, and — yes — more Democratic, in the FDR mold. Well, murmurs the party’s Washington hierarchy, we can’t get too far ahead of the people.

Really? Why not ask the people themselves? That’s the virtue of the “ballot initiative” system. It allows grassroots groups to put issues up for a vote, rather than letting the public agenda be controlled by a clique of lobbyists, legislators and party-line followers. This year, there were 132 of these initiatives on the ballots in 37 states, and even more on local ballots. And vote after vote showed that the people are way ahead of the political insiders in support of strong progressive policies.

By big margins, three states said “to hell with the Republican Supreme Court,” enshrining women’s abortion rights in their state constitutions. South Dakota, supposedly a right-wing bastion, shoved their GOP governor and legislators aside to expand Medicaid health coverage to the state’s low-income families. In bright red Nebraska, nearly 60% of voters said “Yes!” to a $15 minimum wage. A big majority in Illinois amended the state constitution to guarantee collective bargaining rights for workers. Seventy percent of New Mexico voters made funding of early childhood education a constitutional requirement.

It’s not easy, but when politicians fail us, We The People can act. For more information go to: Ballotpedia.org/Ballot_Measures_overview.

Jim Hightower