In the US, midterm voters reasserted people’s right to abortion, and the right to vote in free and fair election. Voters said “Enough” to the GOP’s extremism, tiring of Donald Trump’s fascist cult of personality. The second impeachment of Trump following the deadly self-coup attempt to overturn the previous election on January 6, 2021, should have been the end of his political career, but Republicans remained in thrall to Trump, and he in thrall to Putin. Trump’s blatant attempts to steal the 2024 election by installing toadies as Secretaries of State were defeated by voters. Abortion rights triumphed at the ballot box in all six states where it was an issue: referenda enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution won in liberal California, Michigan, and Vermont while conservative Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana rejected abortion bans. Democrats gained one seat in the Senate by electing Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman to succeed retiring Republican Pat Toomey. Toomey voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection in 2021. Amidst a Second Cold War with Putin’s Russia, congressional Democrats got their best midterm since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. For the first time since 1934, when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal reaped rewards, the incumbent presidential party did not lose control of a single state legislative chamber. Instead, Democrats flipped both legislative chambers in Michigan and one in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada despite losing the NV governor’s race. This left the Democrats with new governing trifectas in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota. Trifectas are the safest and best way to enact modern laboratories of democracy — or autocracy — in our era of partisan polarization. Democratic governors will govern 57% of the US population come January 2023.
In the United States elections are decentralized affairs run entirely by each states’ Secretary of State. These Secretary of States are elected and are not equivalent to the national Secretary of State specializing on foreign policy, they just run elections. Until now, these races were widely ignored aside from the still controversial 2000 Bush v Gore US presidential election in Florida. But Trump’s effort to steal the 2024 election via electing 2020 election deniers as Secretaries of State in 2022 battlegrounds failed miserably. Democrats not only defended their incumbent Secretaries of State but gained one in Nevada. Trumpista election deniers attempting to become swing state governors were defeated in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs was rewarded for her defense of democracy during the 2020 election against Trump by defeating a protege of his in the governor’s race, becoming the first Democratic Governor of Arizona since 2009. Wisconsin split parties by re-electing an incumbent Trump-backed Republican Senator and a Democratic Governor. Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano indulged in Neo-Nazi appeals only to meet his downfall in the governor’s race to Jewish Democrat Josh Shapiro, who fittingly won by the largest landslide in decades in the swing state by a non-incumbent. Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, who survived a 2020 kidnapping plot by a white supremacist militia, was re-elected in a landslide with coattails: Michigan Democrats gained their first one-party trifecta over the executive and legislative branch for the first time in forty years. It is likely the Democrats will hold their seat during the Georgia runoffs. This also reflects a Covid rally-around-the-flag effect: if Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski and Georgia Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock are reelected, it will be the first time since Senators were directly elected in 1914 that every incumbent US Senator won re-election.
US voters engaged in concerted anti-fascism towards Trump’s cult of personality. Abortion rights won in every state across the ideological spectrum. Trumpista election deniers seeking to subvert the state election lost in every critical battleground state. The landslide victory for abortion rights in Kansas as well as Alaska Democrat Mary Peltola’s victory over Republican Sarah Palin in a summer special election signaled an atypical Democratic advantage in an election year in which they defined themselves as opposed to increased Republican extremism. Biden focused on making the elections a referendum on democracy, abortion, and opposition to “ultra-MAGA” Republicans after the January 6 coup attempt. Republican attempts to replicate the successful REDMAP project in 2010 fell short, as did a “red wave” lazily predicted by media pundits accustomed to strong midterm swings since 2006. The election was a rejection of Republican extremism, perhaps most strikingly reflected by Republicans failure to condemn the attempted assassination of Nancy Pelosi by a Trumpista shortly before Election Day. Republican’s majority in the House is thin that it may actually change due to a special election or two within the next couple of years.
Republicans ended up mirroring the Democratic thin majority of 222 from 2020. Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy will be unable to govern. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s record shows her to be the most capable and accomplished Speaker of the House in the history of the United States. By contrast all her GOP House rivals were unable to control their caucus after the 2010 Republican wave. McCarthy’s career is doomed to be a repeat of John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who by all accounts were more skilled politicians. Biden will be able to punch back at a dysfunction GOP House and highlight his record for 2024.
Ever since the Republican Party embraced anti-Obama racism to regain control of the House in 2010, the party has been unable to govern aside from passing tax cuts on the wealthy. But Trump’s covid stimulus also destroyed their support for austerity economics. Voters disliked inflation but knew the Republicans had no economic plan. The contrasts with Biden’s presidency, which includes notable landmark domestic reforms such as the Inflation Reduction Act despite a slim congressional majority. Voters prefer the party of governance to the party of insurrection.
Before the Republicans’ House majority was even official, Trump almost immediately launched a low-energy fourth bid for the presidency. Americans continue to underestimate the staying power of a cult of personality: Trump will likely defeat Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary and go on to lose to President Biden, again. But anything is possible as the A4 protests in China illustrate: even a cult of personality can end if the people have had enough.
Biden’s considerable accomplishments include successfully managing the Second Cold War with Putin’s Russia, ending both COVID-19 and unemployment as a political issue by distributing vaccines well and creating millions of jobs via fiscal stimulus, and the most effective climate change policy ever. The Inflation Reduction Act is simply put, the greatest climate change law in US history. The misnamed act will use $738 billion to reduce 2030 US emissions by around 42% below 2005 levels. It also includes long overdue reforms which would lower drug prices as well as efforts to combat the desertification of the Western US. This reinforces good news internationally: Ukraine is winning their war, Ethiopia ended their civil war, and Brazil reelected Lula over Bolsonaro, ensuring the Amazon will not turn from a rainforest to chaparral quite yet. Combined with Europe ditching dirty Russian energy after Putin’s war, this is a year with the best climate policy news of the 21st century so far. A lot is riding on the COP27 summit.
So far Biden’s accomplishments sit with Barack Obama’s reforms as the most important domestic policy produced in the United States since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s. We should recognize how the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, saved millions of lives during the Covid-19 pandemic — and know that Trump never stopped trying to repeal it despite his failure to do so in 2017. As soon as white Republicans realized COVID-19 was disproportionately killing people of color in the United States, they minimized the danger of the virus and outright encouraged its spread. Trump’s handling of COVID imitated Reagan’s malignant policy towards the LGBTQ community’s experience with HIV/AIDS but on a wider scale. Bolsonaro soon copied his approach in Brazil. But such a deadly, cynical political strategy backfired on the fascists as their voters shunned vaccination. Both lost reelection despite covid helping incumbents. By the 2022 midterms, a study white people and Republicans were more likely to die of Covid-19 than people of color. Given how Democrats have not won the white vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which turned the US into a true multiracial democracy, this is a disastrous development for Republicans.
The victory for democracy and the Democratic Party was even more motivated by negative partisanship against an autocratic Republican Party. The Democratic advantage with Millennials and Zoomers was based overwhelmingly on their support from young women and LGBTQ Americans fearful and enraged by losing the right to abortion in Justice Samuel Alito’s Dobbs decision. In 1994 the Republican Party appealed to sexist and generational backlash against the Clintons, the first Baby Boomers in the White House. Hatred for Hillary Clinton, the first feminist First Lady in particular, remained a major organizing principle of the party from the 1990s through 2016. The party has been on a long march rightwards ever since, with racist anti-Barack Obama backlash following his 2008 election, empowering the GOP recapture of the House and then the Senate in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. By 2016, Nixon’s Southern Strategy was overripe and supercharged by the bipartisan sexist backlash to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. The Republicans nominated a Russian oligarch (Trump) who ran a failed third-party campaign in 2000 once he used fascist propaganda tactics to dominate media coverage. The United States used to have equal time provisions to forestall such propaganda, but the Reagan Administration removed them in the 1980s, allowing the Republican Party to build a partisan propaganda system centered at first on talk radio, then Fox News, and finally Facebook. Trump’s disdain for the democratic process radicalized his Vichy Republicans further down the Fox and Facebook-branded fascist road, until his influence was sharply curtailed following his attempted self-coup attempt against the United States on January 6, 2021.
Trump’s absurdly early launch of his fourth presidential term is largely motivated by his fear of prosecution for his crimes against the United States. The Republican establishment has now openly broadcast their hate of Trump, after quietly seething for most of his political career. Trump is engaged in another hostile takeover of the GOP, and he will likely succeed in gaining his primary nomination before losing to Biden again by a larger margin than before. It is unlikely that his desperate attempt to do the runaround on US Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice will be successful. But as Netanyahu has shown in Israel, Trump’s legal woes do not necessarily spell the end of his political career as long an aspiring strongman can rely on a fascist voter base. Trump may end up running from a prison cell in 2024, as Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party did in 1920. Such convictions may either deflate Trump’s cult of personality or provide it a boost if he can convince enough of his base that he is a political prisoner like Debs was rather than an insurrectionist tool of the genocidaire in the Kremlin.
Trump was able to manipulate the US media landscape to his liking until Trump was banned from mainstream social media websites in the aftermath of the deadly January 6. Post-insurrection, Trump faces a different landscape. Both Fox and CNN cut away from his presidential announcement mid-speech; MSNBC did not air it at all. NPR coolly noted, “Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and inspired a deadly riot at the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep himself in power, has filed to run for president again in 2024.” Trump’s announcement did not mention abortion rights or his election denying attempt at all. In that at least, Trump showed himself able to absorb feedback from his third consecutive shellacking in the US election. But it will not be enough.
Putin’s propaganda outlets openly admitted their retreat from the Ukrainian city of Kherson was timed after the midterms in order to help the Republicans. The only regional capital captured by Russia since Putin began his invasion, its liberation mark Putin’s greatest humiliation so far. The man responded by launching an array of missiles, cutting electricity in Ukraine and Moldova. The day Trump announced his fourth campaign for the presidency, Russia and Ukraine were involved in a deadly border conflict on the Polish side of the Ukraine-Poland border. Former Obama White House Aide Patrick Dillon noted how “Trump declaring for President literally the same day Russian missiles are killing people in a NATO country is some real serendipity and/or culmination of horrible historical forces; definitely one or the other” — Putin’s greatest casualty of his genocidal invasion of Ukraine is likely to be Trump’s fourth run for the presidency in 2024.
Jordan Rosenberg Cobos is a historian, journalist, cartographer, and writer. He/they graduated from the Tsinghua-Johns Hopkins Dual Degree Masters in 2020 and currently lives in California.