As the first nationwide elections since the January 6 Capitol attacks, America’s 2022 midterms were something of a test for the country’s troubled democracy. Americans went to the polls in the shadow of a year of turbulence and rising political violence. With the votes still being counted, journalist Robert Evans joined New Lines’ Lydia Wilson to try to make sense of the results.
“The last time we had a midterm election that went this well for the party in the White House was 2002, in the immediate wake of 9/11,” he explains.
Few expected such a successful showing for the Democrats. Between the nation’s economic woes and Joe Biden’s struggling approval ratings, conventional wisdom predicted a “red wave.” But predictions of Republican revanchism turned out to be greatly exaggerated. High youth turnout meant that progressive candidates like Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman performed much better than had been predicted, while the increasingly extreme rhetoric of many Republican candidates proved alienating. “The thing that we couldn’t have known was the degree to which voters were going to react against the power grabs that the right has made,” says Evans. “And I’m happy to say that it does look like that’s one of the stories from last night.”
“The fact that maybe they’re not going to continue to win elections doesn’t mean that they’re not going to keep getting angrier.”
But what that rejection means for the increasingly violent climate of American politics remains to be seen. A recent YouGov poll found that nearly 40% of Americans believe the country is heading for civil war. “I’m still very worried about how hot the temperature has gotten, and how deeply angry American politics still is,” Evans remarks. “The fact that maybe they’re not going to continue to win elections doesn’t mean that they’re not going to keep getting angrier.”
“Americans do have a pretty long, proud tradition of murdering each other over politics,” he adds. “The worst thing you can do is assume this terrible thing could never happen here because we’re somehow special.”
Produced by Joshua Martin