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Saturday, November 26, 2022

With votes counted no red wave in Minnesota

Pundits, political scientists, and pollsters expected a red Republican tsunami in the 2022 elections. They now assert that it was a blue Democratic wave.

The wave was neither blue nor red. Perhaps it was more of a purple ripple since neither party received a mandate and the election results indicated a preference for the status quo.

Prior to the 2022 elections, the United States was a deeply divided country. The Democrats had a tenuous majority in Congress. On a variety of topics, public opinion was widely split throughout the country. There were several states with entirely Republican or Democratic administrations. Minnesota was one of just two states at the time with a split administration and legislature.

Nationally, there were less than 30 contested U.S. House and nine competitive U.S. Senate seats, which would decide who gained control of these houses. In the Minnesota legislature, nine House and seven Senate seats would also be significant.

The majority of contested swing seats at the national and state levels were located in the suburbs. This meant that a handful of swing voters in a few of suburban swing districts would determine who would control Congress and the Minnesota legislature.

Histories indicate that in midterm elections, the president’s party loses an average of 26 House and 4 Senate seats. According to political science models, the president’s popularity rating in the second quarter of an election year and the nation’s economic success are predictive of election outcomes. With Biden’s lower popularity rating earlier this year and a struggling economy, the 2022 election was expected to be a crimson wave for the Republicans.

However, the 2022 elections did not go as expected. According to the polls, the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to eliminate abortion rights handed Democrats an apparent boost. This partially mitigated the Republican advantage, leaving Republicans with narrow control of the U.S. House, Democrats with control of the U.S. Senate, and in Minnesota, Democrats with narrow control of both the state House and state Senate as well as all four constitutional offices (governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor, all of which are voted on statewide).

As the Red Wave did not seem to materialize, the Blue Wave was announced. Some members of the Democratic Party believe that it is time to “go big and then go home” as a result of the party’s successful year and its control of the Minnesota legislature and governorship.

The truth is that neither nationally nor in Minnesota was there a wave.

More than 95% of the time, incumbents won re-election. Only one seat in the United States Senate changed parties. Few legislative chambers changed hands around the nation. In many respects, the election was an affirmation of the status quo, with small modifications.

In the meanwhile, Republicans may declare success. Approximately 5 million more people voted for their congressional candidates than for Democrats, resulting in the flipping of the House. Republicans continue to have a majority of governorships and legislative chambers. Democrats regained several governorships and maintained control of the U.S. Senate, although their Senate candidates earned 500,000 fewer votes than those of the Republicans.

The election was more of a ripple than a tsunami. The Democrats were able to excite a few more votes than the Republicans in a few battleground suburban districts. Nationally and in Minnesota, the outcomes may have been different if a few more Republicans had participated in a few crucial elections.

Nationally and in Minnesota, voter participation decreased in comparison to 2018. Although 2018 saw abnormally high voter participation, we may be in the midst of a generational shift.

The 2020 election was the first in thirty years in which Baby Boomers did not constitute the biggest voter group. Boomers and the Silent Generation are leaving the political process and are being replaced by younger, more liberal Millennials and Generation Z voters.

Additionally, it is more difficult to identify whether these younger people will vote and to survey them.

This year, these voters were overlooked by pollsters. In a few crucial suburban contests, younger voters, along with some women, were the deciding factor for the Democrats. In general, the polls accurately predicted that the contests would be close, although they did not always properly identify the winner.

Why is all of this significant? In Minnesota’s Senate District 41, a 321-vote swing gives the GOP a 34-33 majority. The DFL won three seats by a margin of 2,220 votes. The DFL won three House races by a total of 1,251 votes. Changing 1,500 votes would give the Republicans control of the House and Senate.

Why then were the majority of pundits, political scientists, and pollsters incorrect? Each election is unique. Models do not decide elections. Campaigns are vital. Equally important are candidate quality, messaging, and strategy.

Despite their victories, Democrats in Minnesota lack a mandate. To enact their ideal legislation, progressive Democrats will require the support of their moderate colleagues. In these districts, it may be challenging to legalize marijuana for recreational use or codify abortion rights. Also, because Democrats desire a bonding bill requiring a 60% majority, they will need Republican support.

The elections of 2022 were not a tidal wave for either party.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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