by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The 2022 midterms were as much an indictment of bloated national leadership on both sides of the aisle as they were of anything. People didn’t vote overwhelmingly for incumbents because they think the country is headed in a good direction (more than 7 in 10 Americans say it isn’t).
Many Democrats voted for Democrats because they were told Republicans will destroy democracy and practically enslave women. Republicans largely voted for Republicans because they were fed up with the Biden administration’s results, from inflation to transgendering kids. Mainstream Americans have lost faith in Washington — it’s what propelled Trump’s outsider win in 2016 and now what’s materialized in the heels-dug-in results of last week’s election.
The most interesting elements of the midterms weren’t in the fight over control in Congress (no one has much faith in Mitch McConnell, least of all many in his own coalition). They were the elections for state office that saw massive momentum build around longshot Republican challengers from New York to Michigan to even Oregon. Even though GOP gubernatorial candidates in those states didn’t oust their incumbent-party opponents, they tapped into an energy that national Republicans have failed to generate.
In the weeks before the election, Politico observed that gubernatorial candidates were helping to carry their Senate counterparts, from Republican Brian Kemp in Georgia to Democrat Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania. The most momentum anywhere, of course, was behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who has built his brand on proactive state leadership and pitting his state’s successes against the Biden administration and particularly its Covid bureaucracy.
There was no singular reason for the GOP to flail in the midterms, but the election did make at least these two things clear: The national, establishment GOP has failed to rally behind a resonant, positive national agenda that motivates voters, and it failed to fight effectively enough against the Democrat vote-harvesting machinery that’s been put in place in states that were, until recently, swing states.