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President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden arrive at a rally on November 10th, 2022 in Washington, DC after the midterm elections. (Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Going on Offense After a Defensive Victory

This was not a change election. It was a stability election.

Robert Reich



Democrats will retain control of the Senate, and maybe even the House.

There was no red wave. But there was no blue wave, either.

Americans chose not to make any more waves.

This was not a change election. It was a stability election.

As the dust now settles, it appears there was only one clear loser last week: Trumpism.

Even though President Joe Biden's approval rating on Tuesday averaged 41 percent, and 72 percent of Americans said the country was headed in the wrong direction, at least for now Americans have chosen steadiness over tumult.  

The past few years have been too hair-raising: Four wild years of Trump, two horrible years of pandemic, a deep recession followed by steep inflation, climate catastrophes, a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, a rogue Supreme Court untethered from precedent and eager to take away reproductive rights assumed sacrosanct for almost fifty years, a war in Ukraine where the Russian president speaks of using nuclear weapons.

Americans want to keep politics pretty much as is because everything else is so unpredictable.

This is bad news for Trump and Trumpism—the quasi-religious personal cult of authoritarianism, political violence, and QAnon conspiracy theories that Trump has fostered, whose fundamental goal is to upend American politics with Trump at its head.

There will be no upending.

In fact, as the dust now settles, it appears there was only one clear loser last week: Trumpism.

As a result, the next two years leading up to the 2024 election are less likely to pose a terrifying threat to American democracy. (They may still be terrifying, though.)

Notably, not a single election-denying candidate at the state level for secretary of state—the people who would have overseen the 2024 elections—was elected.  

In Pennsylvania, an election denier who would have had the power to appoint the secretary of state lost his bid for governor. In Wisconsin, an election denier's loss in the governor's race blocked a move to put election administration under partisan control.

Nor were two of the most notable Trump-endorsed election-denying senate candidates elected, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Blake Masters in Arizona.

Trump himself did not help the Republican cause. His conspicuous stream of invective, bigotry, and election denialism reminded many voters of what the Republican Party threatened if it regained power.

Given all this, Trump's expected announcement on Tuesday that he's once again running for the presidency is hardly good news for the Republican Party—although, presumably, Trump couldn't care less.

The next two years won't be as dangerous as they might have been had Trump's picks been elected, but they will still be filled with his divisive belligerence.

At least some political stability will prevail.

Biden will continue to fill the federal courts with judges likely to protect the Democrats' major legislative accomplishments (including previous achievements such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Social Security), as well as voting rights and reproductive rights (as far as the Supreme Court leaves them room).

If any of the current Supreme Court justices dies, Biden will have a clear shot at filling the vacancy with someone more amenable to Democratic (and democratic) values.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans won't be able to do what House Republicans are almost certain to do if they gain a majority—launch a series of hearings and investigations to embarrass Biden and his administration over everything from the withdrawal from Afghanistan to Hunter Biden's laptop.

Thanks to Americans' preference for stability over tumult, Georgia's December 6 runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker will no longer determine control of the Senateand therefore no longer invite a media circus and cesspool of campaign money.

If Warnock prevails, the real loser will be West Virginia's Joe Manchin—who will lose effective control over the Democrats' senate agenda because Democrats will gain a 51-49 majority that shifts the balance of power to Manchin's left.

The other change if Warnock wins is that Senate committees will no longer be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats will gain majorities on them, with the result that Biden's nominees and Democrats' bills won't be deadlocked in committee, requiring time-consuming floor votes to resolve.

But if Republicans prevail in the House, even by one or two votes, Democrats' senate bills won't go anywhere, anyway.

Perhaps that's what Americans have opted for. After years of tempest and tumult, it may be that most of us want nothing more dramatic than a competent government that acts reasonably and carefully—and doesn't make any waves.

© 2021
Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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