Ballots are still being counted in many races, but the overall national gestalt of midterm ’22 is clear: this is the weakest performance by the out party in the past two generations.
There are a few main reasons, IMO, for the GOP’s historic misfire:
- They attacked women’s fundamental constitutional right to autonomy and full equality.
- They embraced and/or denied the reality of a violent insurrection plot aimed at keeping the loser in the Presidency.
- They alienated young voters with their reactionary attacks on sexual minorities.
- They allowed a failed and defeated ex-President to dictate their choice of candidates based on the Big Lie.
Never has a political party done so much to worsen the very political mistakes that led it to electoral defeat in the prior cycle. Instead of rejecting the Big Lie, putting Trump out to pasture, and modifying their mostly negative agenda after 2020’s defeat, the GOP went all in on those mistakes assuming that a bit of inflation and historical trends alone would hand them the Congress, no matter what crazy and offensive things they did or said. One might say that they drank their own spiked, red-flavored Kool-aide.
As I write this, we are still not entirely sure about who will hold majorities in the federal House and Senate, and that issue may not be resolved until a Dec. 6th run-off in Georgia – again.
What we do know, is that the AZGOP utterly failed to capture any sort of mandate in Arizona, and they have now decisively lost both US Senate seats to Democrats – and very likely most of the state-wide offices. The obvious result should be that they would re-evaluate, fire the toxic and MAGA gaga Kelli Ward and chairperson of the party, purge the temple of her entire leadership team, and do their best to reconcile with AZ moderate Republicans, whom they seem to hate more than Democrats.
But I strongly suspect they won’t.
They will instead double down on conspiracy delusions, disinformation, and election denial, leaving in place the leadership team that led them to a complete electoral collapse in Arizona and continue destroying one of America’s great political parties with bigotry, open racism, and rejection of democracy.
The AZGOP will point to their very likely to be expanded majorities in the State Lege and in AZ’s Congressional delegation as justification for their claims of partial victory. But those gains are entirely down to gerrymandering during redistricting, not an any gain in popular support. The made those gains despite their poor political strategy, not because of it. They have one man to thank for their face-saving gains: Doug Ducey, who engineered the corruption of the Independent Redistricting Commission process by placing a GOP ringer in the “independent” chairperson position, but whom the base of the party vilifies at every opportunity
There has been a lot of analysis and speculation about the federal and state wide offices here in AZ, but little word regarding the AZ Lege. It has been certain that the Dems would not be able to take a majority in either chamber of the AZ Lege since the consultant-led decision was made to single shot several competitive districts, putting a House majority out of reach by dearth of contested seats. Unofficial results indicate that Dems are going to lose ground in both chambers, probably with 12 or 13 Dems to 17 or 18 GOP in the State Senate, and either 28 or 29 Dems to 31 or 32 GOP in the House.
It is important to recognize that in two of those competitive districts, in which we single-shotted candidates, the Dem candidates won by 3 or more points. This could indicate that the single shot strategy worked; or it could signal that there was an enough support for Dems in those districts to have run two candidates, and both could have won. Much more analysis would be needed to pick that apart. But the point is this: is a powerless minority of 26 or 27 Dems any worse than a powerless minority of 28 or 29 Dems? Marginally, perhaps. But would you accept a powerless minority of 26 or 27 Dems for a very real chance a tie at 30 or a majority of 31 to work with Governor Hobbs to move AZ forward? I would take that trade, and I suspect the citizens of AZ might have too, if the AZDems had given them the option. But leadership was arrogant and blinkered with past performance in the midterms; they did not recognize nor exploit the historic weakness of the opposition due to the reasons laid out in the list above.
We could have done even better this cycle. We could have had a real chance to pass much needed state legislation to ensure we can deliver substantive results for Arizona. Instead, we may be stuck just swatting down the worst harms for the next 4 years, which is not a great place from which to ask Arizonans for true political mandate by giving Dems total control of Arizona government.