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Democracy Wins ... for Now

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Surprise, the Democrats held the Senate and did not lose as many seats in the House of Representatives as projected. Most election followers listening to news reports were expecting a “red wave” of Republican victories in the House and Senate. That did not happen.

The country can no longer count on polling as a predicator of election results. That’s a key takeaway from the 2022 midterms. The polls have proven again, as they did in 2020, that they are not reliable predictors of election outcomes. That’s true for a variety of reasons, including that they rely on people to answer their spam-ridden cell phones and to engage with a pollster. But is prediction really the point? Or should we be placing more focus on the most important issues and demanding that candidates address them?

Given our interminably long campaign cycles, a lot of valuable time and space in the media gets squandered on hand-wringing and polling analysis instead of examining the candidates and the issues and following executive, judicial and legislative action day by day.

Whatever the predictions, here’s hoping voters continue turning out in record numbers to exercise their constitutional privilege of voting for their candidate of choice, despite voter suppression strategies by the Republicans.

Here’s another takeaway from the midterm elections. In North Carolina, residents need to pay close attention to the Supreme Court, as Republicans picked up two seats. This is a game-changer for conservative policies. We should expect to see more action on voter ID and other issues related to voting and elections. The Republican majority in the General Assembly has already signaled that it plans to redraw congressional district lines in 2023 and based on past performance, it’s reasonable to expect the new maps will be gerrymandered to favor Republicans. A Republican majority on the court makes it much more likely that those new maps will stick for longer than one election cycle.

Not surprising in Eastern North Carolina, five African American incumbent legislators lost their elections due to lower turnout and gerrymandering, despite having large African American populations. A cause for concern is NC voter turnout was lower than midterm 2018. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, roughly 53% — 3,755,778 — of eligible voters went to the polls during the 2018 General Election. This year, that percentage was about 51%, or 3,745, 547 North Carolina voters.

Consider this, Americans care about democracy and want to protect it. Yes, we have high inflation, the President has low approval ratings, housing prices have skyrocketed, women lost the right to choose, kids have lost ground with their education, the Nasdaq stock market has lost almost a third of its value.

Despite Republican voter suppression, in North Carolina and other states voters found ways to vote with early voting, voting by mail and simply going to the polls on election day. They did so as we recover from the pandemic that took over a million American lives. Let me repeat that. Covid killed more than a million Americans! Yet Americans turned out and voted.

Voters gave Democrats continued control of the Senate with a majority 50 to 49 as this is written. The Senate election in Georgia is still undecided, with a runoff scheduled for Dec. 6 between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. A win for the Dems is important because it would diminish the power of any single Democrat to hijack the President’s priorities.

Even so, with the Republicans poised to win the House of Representatives, Americans are faced with the potential for more gridlock, unless President Biden can use his influence and gain nonpartisan approval of his Build Back Better for America agenda. North Carolina can benefit from the President’s agenda. It would address the cost of prescription drugs, lower housing costs, and increase funding for Medicaid, delivering health care coverage through Affordable Care Act premium tax credits to up to 4 million uninsured people in states, including North Carolina, that have locked them out of Medicaid. The N.C. General Assembly rejected federal Medicaid dollars, choosing GOP politics over the health of North Carolina residents.

In the often uncivil and sometimes alarming political climate leading up to the 2022 midterms, it hasn’t always been easy to fathom, but maybe the biggest takeaway of the election is that Americans are looking for politicians to work together and get things done, despite their differing views. At the end of the day, notwithstanding the less than noble tactics many use to get elected, the job of the politicians we choose to become lawmakers is to protect democracy and improve the lives of Americans. It’s up to the media to keep tabs on them and make sure we the people know how well they’re doing that job.

Just in, Trump announces his run for President. Buckle Up!

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and writes for Carolina Commentary.

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