Legacies of the 2022 Election

Alan Zendell, November 11, 2022

When historians look back on the 2022 election, four things will stand out most prominently: America’s defense of its democracy, clear evidence that Donald Trump’s influence has diminished, the impact of young voters and women turning out in unprecedented numbers, and who stands tallest in the aftermath of the failed Red Wave.

As they always have in the past, when it most mattered, Americans got the message. Slow to awaken to the threats we faced in many cases, Americans all over the country demonstrated that the values we were raised with are still alive and well. We went out and voted in spite of implied, and in some instances, very real attempts to intimidate voters by right-wing fringe elements. Despite severe gerrymandering in many states that created disparities of as much as twenty percent between the votes each party received and how power is divided between them, the voices of reason and decency prevailed.

As in 2016, the whole world is watching. Unlike 2016, however, when most of us had to deal with the aftermath of a shameful betrayal of our values, we can stand proud today. We not only set our country back on the path to healing and re-unification, we sent a clear message to both our allies and adversaries. America is back to stay, there will be no more sabotaging of our traditional allies or sucking up to autocrats, and we can go back to working toward common goals, like saving the planet and ending Trump’s insane trade wars.

With that segue, let’s take a good look at Donald Trump. The day he came down that escalator in 2015, I told my friends and family that he was a man who was capable of destroying our country single-handed. Trump is completely lacking in ethics, grace and class, his only redeeming value in the end, being to have forced us to face up to the divisions in our country that had lain dormant for decades. We knew groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers existed, but never accepted that they were an existential threat to our democracy or to the survival of our republic until Trump empowered them and turned them loose to wreak havoc.

Never one to admit defeat and walk away, the Donald will hang on as long he can, continually blaming others for his mistakes and failures. He will continue to stoke the worst elements of our society, spouting hate, bigotry, and greed. The most rabid parts of his base will be with us for years, and perhaps that’s a good thing. This generation will never again be allowed to pretend they don’t exist.

Not since the anti-war protests of 1960s have young voters expressed themselves as they did a few days ago. The 19-30 age group made itself heard, loud and clear. They won’t accept inaction on environmental issues, they won’t be dictated to about who they can love or marry, and they won’t be told when they can become parents. It took years of Trump’s clownish behavior and the recidivist actions of his packed Supreme Court to make them put aside their toys and take notice, but they did.

Women, after years of being relegated to second class status by the entire MAGA movement showed that no amount of gerrymanding or intimidation tactics will keep them from defending their rights. I never understood why any woman would vote for Trump, and now, many who either did or simply stood by and watched him rise to power are wondering the same thing. No one in the MAGA movement will ever doubt the political power of women again.

Finally, who came out of this election standing tallest? My vote goes to President Joe Biden, who never let unrelenting attacks from right-wing extremists and people who put politics ahead of duty phase or deter him. Always reacting with class and decency, he ignored his low approval ratings, achieved truly historic legislative victories, and persisted with his basic message that Americans needed to remember what we stand for. We’ll never know exactly how many people heard him and were motivated to come out and vote, but hardly anyone is mocking Biden today.

Yesterday, Princeton Professor and historian Julian Zelizer penned an OpEd entitled, “The Most Underestimated President in Recent History.” I’ll close by reproducing the final paragraph of what he wrote.

… [T]he midterms make clear that Biden is a much stronger president than he is often given credit for. He has been underestimated and criticized despite having a formidable first two years. The midterms should make Republicans nervous as they think about 2024. After two years of speculation about whether Biden should run for a second term, the outcome should also give Democrats reason to believe that a two-term, transformative presidency is already underway.

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1 Response to Legacies of the 2022 Election

  1. Andrew says:

    Still breathing a sigh of relief.

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