Red Wave Turns Into Ripple as Voters Repudiate Republican Extremism

An expected “Red Wave” of Republican victories during the Nov. 8 midterm elections instead turned out to be a pale pink political puddle for the Republican Party. 

Voters across the nation rejected the “Big Lie” extremism and “stolen election” pouts of former President Donald Trump, whose hand-picked candidates vying for major GOP wins were disappointed in races ranging from senators to governors to secretaries of state. Against all odds, the Democratic Party managed to hold on to its slim lead in the Senate while holding Republicans to a smaller-than-expected majority in the House of Representatives. 

Here in Georgia, Republicans scored major victories up and down the ballot, and incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp romped to an easy win in a rematch with his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams. The Peach State’s race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Trump-endorsed GOP challenger Herschel Walker attracted national attention even before it went into a runoff election set for Dec. 6. With Democrats narrowly in control of the Senate, a win for Warnock would provide the party with an important extra vote in the narrowly Democratic chamber. Early voting in the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff election begins on Sunday, Nov. 27. 

In our neighboring state of Florida, GOP candidates also won political contests for offices large and small, most notably a re-election victory by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose win fueled speculation that he might be eyeing the White House more than the statehouse. Meanwhile at Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump is thirsting for a return to the powers of the presidency and fuming over his disdain for DeSantis while watching his chosen candidates go down in defeat in political races in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and other states.

Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election did not seem to sit well with millions of midterm voters in 2022. In Arizona, Trump-backed candidate Kari Lake, who ran on conspiratorial claims of rigged elections, lost the governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs. Loser Lake posted a petulant Twitter tweet saying, “Arizonans know BS when they see it.” That would seem to be the case, since they rejected the candidacy of Lake and other “election deniers” in the state and delivered them a drubbing that was both comic and karmic.

The party of a first-term president routinely loses in midterm elections, sometimes badly, as when President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party was given what he called “a shellacking” by GOP voters in the 2010 midterms. This time the situation was different. Voters were, as always, concerned about bread-and-butter issues like the economy, health care and crime, but this time democracy itself was on the ballot. The MAGA mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021 and the overturning of the longstanding right to abortion pushed by GOP-appointed judges on the Supreme Court were wake-up calls for voters across America. By the millions they turned out to repudiate the authoritarian agenda of Trump and his minions. 

The lackluster showing by Republicans during this year’s midterm election should be a lesson for the party and its supporters. For too long the Republican Party has been under the spell of its “crazy wing” of liars and deniers who seem to think that GOP means “Gotterdammerung On Purpose.” Now the fever may be breaking in the nation’s weakened body politic. Just six days before the election, President Joe Biden reminded Americans that, “We, the people, must decide whether we’re going to sustain a republic where reality is accepted, the law is obeyed and your vote is truly sacred.” On Oct. 18, a discouraging front-page headline in The New York Times had said, “Most Voters Say U.S. Democracy Is Under Threat, But Few Feel Urgency.” Voters saw the urgent threat to democracy from Trump and his henchmen on Nov. 8 and democracy won… this time… when American voters remembered the words of George Washington: “Guard against the postures of pretended patriotism.”