Carole Levine November 15, 2022
Like many, especially many women, I approached this election season with both anticipation and trepidation. As an activist and an organizer, the build-up had already been exhausting. We had watched as the Supreme Court for the first time ever, took away the right to bodily autonomy and the ability for more than half of this nation’s population to make their own health care decisions when it overturned Roe v. Wade taking away the Constitutional right to abortion. We saw campaigns that pitted “election deniers” against moderate, long-term office holders for local positions that would manage and control election processes. We knew that many voters might skip over parts of their ballots that they did not understand (like ballot initiatives) or that they just felt were overwhelming or even unimportant (like the 65 judges on the Cook County Illinois ballot!). This was not going to be a simple election, no matter where you lived or voted. All of the angst, fears, anger, questions, and complications of our lives and our politics were entangled in these races and appeared on these ballots. This was the kind of election where it might be easier to pull the blanket over one’s head and stay home. Thank goodness people opted to go to the polls and participate in record numbers for a Midterm election.
And then there were the ads… They came in your mailbox, in your inbox, on your radio and especially on your television. And there were relentless written messages and op eds (depending on the news media) of dread and terror about what electing the wrong person would bring down on our nation. Many of these ads were nonpartisan. Each side had its role to play in pointing fingers and pushing messages that were designed to drive your fear of the other party.
All of this came at a cost. A November 3, 2022 Open Secrets story on the 2022 Midterm Elections spending estimates the totals spent on state and federal elections to exceed $16.7 billion. It almost takes one’s breath away when you put that amount into what it could do for education, housing, medical care, climate issues or other pressing needs in this nation. But many would say it was money well-spent if it got the results that were desired. And we can now anticipate even greater spending in 2024 when we will add a Presidential race to the mix.
When election season began (and I would be loath to try to pinpoint an exact date for this “season” since I am still being solicited for campaign donations and the election is now past tense), many of us, myself included, were anticipating a lot of loss on the progressive/liberal side of the aisle. While we knew that many of us were not letting go of our anger over the loss of our reproductive rights, we were being told that others were. We were being told by pundit after pundit that inflation and gas prices were the top voting issues, even for women, and that young voters would not be an influence. Remember… this was the Midterm, not the Presidential election. It’s not that important. Or so we were told.
I used to teach middle school social studies. And I learned from a master (my high school government teacher, one of the few Black teachers in my mostly white Dayton, Ohio high school) about elections and governance. I learned that one should never assume that any one election is less important than any other, nor than any group of voters has less impact than another, especially when their wellbeing is being threatened by various power groups. And this election seemed to prove both of those points. This was a most important election. And younger voters, women and people of color made a huge difference in the outcomes in a number of places.
To the surprise of many on both sides of the aisle, the Democrats held the Senate, and might (after the Georgia run-off on December 6th) even hold a true majority. Just think what might have happened if they had put more of that $16 billion into the campaigns of Val Demings (whom they neglected) or a few other Democratic candidates (mostly female) to boost their electability. And while we still are awaiting the outcome of a number of House of Representative races, it looks likely that it will go Republican. But the margin will be quite narrow and chances are, plans are already underway for 2024! I am not sure that this new House will have the enthusiasm for Impeachment and Commissions to study Hunter Biden that they talked about before this election. But then again, they will have different leadership and who knows what they will do?
I have, for many years, called myself a “political junky.” I am not so sure that at this time in my life, I relish that title. It is often more frustrating than interesting to follow politics (of any party). But to sit back and watch from the sidelines has never been my style. So, I will have to find my own “sweet spot” for engagement and I encourage others to do the same. There is always a lot at stake. It’s called democracy and democracy is always worth the effort.