blue and red checkmarks, indicating voting. the checkmarks are flanked by donkeys, indicating democrats

State of Disunion

How Voters Got Dems in Array

Despite its big tent and diverse agendas, the Democratic Party coalesced to curb the GOP's red wave of insurrectionist, antisemitic bigots set on obstructionism and destroying the Constitution.

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I am a 34-year-old Black woman, born and raised in New York. I have no college degree, I own a small business, and am currently renting an apartment at a cost that precludes me from owning a house any time in the next century. And from the moment I registered to vote on my 18th birthday, I have been a Democratic voter.

It’s true: We are real! We live in big and small cities, rapidly integrating suburbs, and even in the rural red expanse claimed by the GOP. We have a variety of economic circumstances, come from an array of identities, ethnicities, and religions, and we probably disagree on a lot of the policy details. Some of us are, like me, Democrats from day one; others showed up later in life, and more still aren’t Democrats at all, but Independents willing to hear us out. Despite all of these seemingly irreconcilable differences, we all align in sentiment: Fix the problem.

This is the coalition that curbed the red wave into an ankle-deep crimson tide on the strength of student loan forgiveness and the loss of Roe. We didn’t let ourselves get distracted by toxic gender panic, right-wing hysteria about crime, or the very real and troubling impact of inflation. In vulnerable swing states, voters rebuked extremist candidates and rewarded the party defending democracy—not only at the top of the ticket, but in state houses across the nation, too. Abortion protections ran ahead of almost every Democrat on the ballot, and in states where slavery (!) was up for a vote, it was resoundingly rejected. South Dakota finally expanded Medicaid; Missouri legalized marijuana; Maryland and Massachusetts traded moderate Republicans for historic Democratic successors.

If these results were unexpected, it was because we were overlooked. For six years, every diner-adjacent Republican voter received a media profile while we were relegated to being a presidential-year mirage. Every narrative, every spending gap, every structural factor in the last 80 years of electoral history was stacked against us, added to gerrymandered and density-suppressed maps for the House and the land-over-people power distribution of the Senate. Voters surmounted all of it for the sake of repairing what we now recognize as broken.

So Democrats can’t continue procrastinating on taking decisive action if they expect us to turn out again. After all the dire warnings the party offered about the end of democracy and the progress that only Democrats can make possible, we are waiting for our delivery. Vague promises and mealy-mouthed statements won’t do anymore: quid, meet quo.

We aren’t just making demands for our own benefit or aggrandizement; this is a matter of political survival. Trump has already taken to his platforms to demand another coup, a usurpation of the people’s right to choose our representatives, and the installation of Trump himself as emperor of the United States—because who cares what we want, right? Donald Trump would have us throw away more than two centuries of deeply flawed but undeniably improving self-governance for his ego, because he can’t stand that we had a choice and we didn’t choose him. Our elections, our rights, our guarantee that we are in charge of our government rather than it being in charge of us—all of it is simply an impediment to Trump and his cronies, accomplices who would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

So here we are, with the Constitution threatened, with the laws of the nation under assault, with the already actualized promises of violence being resumed and repeated (with spirit fingers this time), and Republicans, those stalwart defenders of Americana, have chosen … silence. It doesn’t matter if they’re local, state, or federal because the elected GOP, feckless as ever, have chosen to hope that all of this “throwing out the Constitution” and “installing a dictatorship” talk blows over and they can get back to slowly murdering the administrative state in peace. To take a stand might alienate enough people that elections might actually represent the broad spectrum of rational thought rather than the whims of reactionary fanatics, and that’s a risk that Republicans simply can’t take. 

So while we were able to out-vote those reactionaries, the maps, the courts, and all of the suppressive powers of the Constitution’s anti-democratic levers this time, prevailing again is far from guaranteed. The odds get longer with each attempt, and if things aren’t changed, eventually, no coalition will be enough to prevail. Protecting democracy and protecting the new silent majority are now the same task.

If voters hold the seat for Democrats in Georgia tonight, we will have crowned one of the greatest underdog electoral performances in history with an outright Democratic Senate majority. This unexpected shift in power cannot be treated as an accident or an aberration. It must be seen as an obligation for Democrats to be bold, dynamic, and inventive with their thinking and impact. We are ready for a better option, if one is presented to us.

In short: It’s time for the Democrats to play politics.

In the lame duck, that means wielding the temporary unified power of Congress to put big ideas forward and let them run into the buzzsaw of the Senate filibuster—not merely as a demonstration of Democratic values and Republican obstruction, but also to build support for changing or abolishing it. Introduce the bill waiving the time limit on the ERA to the Senate floor; propose January 6th legislation before the committee disbands; promise to abolish the debt limit using the 14th Amendment as grounds. Use the new session to hammer away at the weaknesses in the fragile Republican majority, whether that’s forcing on the record support (or denial) of Trump’s impending 2024 bid, switching the January 6th investigation from the House to the Senate, or simply exposing the widening gap between Kevin McCarthy and his right flank.

Don’t let Republicans breathe for a moment.

Because the flip side of the Democratic wins are Republican losses. Everything was in their favor; everything was going to plan. The red wave was supposed to be an affirmation of years of GOP strategy: Proof that people despise government and are ready to dismantle it; proof that elections are irrelevant with a big enough war chest and an extensive enough propaganda machine; proof that the conservative takeover of the courts would be met with weak subordination and not loud rebellion. After the January 6th Insurrection went unpunished, Republicans thought that they had gotten away with it. They thought they would be swept back into power to finish killing the remnants of popular rule.

Republicans decided they didn’t need to pretend to care about people anymore and their candidates reflected that. From Tudor Dixon in Michigan to Blake Masters and Kari Lake in Arizona to Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia, we have seen the top of the ticket populated by the least credible, most incompetent slate of candidates in recent memory. These people aren’t the offerings of an engaged and thoughtful political apparatus; they are insults to voters wrapped in the decaying remains of what was once a Grand Old Party. They are the nadir of what government can represent: corruption and self-interest, violence and domination, and the selfish disinterest of an aristocracy, unaccountable to anyone but their own whims.

We, the voters, prevented that. We rejected their machinations; we asserted our right to self-government. We are messy and imperfect; we are loud and discordant; we are not of one mind or one culture. But out of many, we are one country, a nation, indivisible. And if we agree on nothing else, it is that history is what we make it.

That’s why we voted for Democrats.


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