American democracy surprises us all once again

The author is an FT editor

For many of us, Wednesday November 9th would never bring good news. And that was before KFC in Germany announced they were celebrating the Kristallnacht anniversary with a special offer of extra crispy cheese with chicken. (An apologetic retraction was later offered). But then things started to improve. Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine — huge, beefy, sinister, and apt personification of their entire particular military euphemism — announced a “manoeuvre” backwards across the Dnipro River and out of the city of Kherson that Vladimir Putin had recently proclaimed , would remain Russian forever.

And then, as the 8th transitioned into the 9th, the odd incident unfolded where the Republican dog stopped barking at night and many of us who tenaciously clung to this battered old thing, American democracy, of the one We were totally unprepared for the result we had decided on: the shock of optimism. For weeks, commentators had warned that no incumbent president, let alone one burdened by 8 percent inflation and a consonant challenge, would have escaped the midterms without a caning.

Polls and pollsters backed up the prophecy. But in the early hours of the 9th, the only wave going on was the goodbye to assumptions about a massacre of Democrats, both in Congress and in the state houses. As of this writing, the House of Representatives is going to have a small Republican majority, and that might not even have made it unless four districts in — wait for it new York State – reversed, including the one I live in.

In a 2020 repeat, control of the Senate turns to the same two western states — Nevada and Arizona — whose votes helped steer the election to Biden. This will not be decided until Saturday, when the postal ballot papers have been counted. In Arizona, incumbent ex-astronaut Mark Kelly appears to be beating Trump’s anointed refuser Blake Masters. But in Nevada, where the hospitality industry has been brutally punished by the pandemic, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto may have a harder time prevailing against Adam Laxalt, a son and grandson of previous senators.

Should those states be split between the parties, the Groundhog Day election will continue with a runoff in Georgia between incumbent Raphael Warnock, pastor of Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Heisman Trophy-winning soccer player Herschel Walker . During the 2008 election, I heard Warnock deliver an Easter Sunday sermon that was a feat of social evangelical rhetoric. But in their only televised debate, Walker’s expectations were so low that his completion of the sentences was judged “assertive.” In any case, a silver tongue is not necessarily an advantage in American politics. At the time of its delivery, the Gettysburg Address had mixed reviews.

But if you want to understand the most compelling aspect of this amazing election, look at the state houses and legislatures, where much of the electoral administration resides. Democrats are expected to fall like skittles and end up with a net gain from governors. In Wisconsin, Tony Evers beat Trump-backed Tim Michels; In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro routed Jan. 6, Doug Mastriano, whose campaign went beyond conspiracy theories and sparked anti-Semitic riots against his opponent’s children attending a Jewish school.

The most spectacular victory in the election-decisive Midwest belonged to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who survived an attack by right-wing terrorists in 2020. Whitmer’s victory had tailcoat tails, flipped the state Senate to Democrats, and thereby cut off any avenue for electoral college hoaxes that could allow the legislature to overthrow the popular vote. Elsewhere, in New Mexico and Minnesota, the far-right strategy of electing secretaries of state to control the administration of elections has failed. In Arizona, the choice of Secretary of State is symbolic. Mark Finchem, the mastermind of this campaign, is behind (though not by much) Maricopa County recorder Adrian Fontes. Maricopa is the state’s most populous county and one that’s under relentless scrutiny from deniers of the 2020 result.

Whatever else emerges from this election, two pundits of pundits will have bitten the dust. First, that the Democrats have been foolhardy to stop fighting abortion and the threat to democracy by refusing to accept electoral realities. In fact, both drove voters to the polls. Wherever there have been abortion referendums, including deep red Kentucky, anti-abortionists have lost. Likewise, the most fanatical agitators were almost all defeated via a stolen election. Second, a note to anti-Awakened warriors: beware of the culture wars lest they come back to bite you. In 2023, the first openly lesbian governors will be installed in Oregon and Massachusetts; Maryland will have its first African American governor; The first Generation Z candidate will enter Congress. The first Native Alaskan Representative has taken her seat in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, down in Mar-a Lago, Donald Trump is said to be lathered in anger, bunker-style lashing out at the losers who so unforgivably betrayed him. But if 45 isn’t Thanksgiving turkey, the certainty of reelection triumph is now pumpkin pie in the sky. American democracy surprises us all once again

Adam Bradshaw

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