In the run up to the 2022 midterm elections, a dominant narrative in mainstream media spaces was that Americans were about to throw away democracy. to save a few bucks on gas. If the Republicans lose, they would refuse to admit defeat. The legitimacy of the electoral results would be undermined by widespread conspiracy theories. Elections and their aftermath could be marred by violence, intimidation, and other forms of voter suppression.
None of these dystopian predictions worked. Instead, as NPR noted, the election was “largely uneventful.” Instead of widespread voter suppression, turnout was exceptionally high. Instead of expected “red wave”, Republicans do worse than the opposition party when a new party comes to power. The Republican Party won the House by a narrow margin (a result that was probably unavoidable). He failed to capture the Senate. Election deniers overwhelmingly went down in flames.
The reality of the midterms had almost nothing in common with the narratives that accompanied them. This shouldn’t have been surprising.
There were no major demonstrations contesting the results. There was no violence. Although Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has yet to concede defeat, she is a huge outlier even among election deniers this cycle (who overwhelmingly conceded their careers no drama). Polls suggest that most rank-and-file Republicans view the election as free and fair despite his party’s anemic performance.
In short, the reality of the midterms had almost nothing in common with the narratives that surrounded them. This shouldn’t have been surprising.
as i explained elsewherePopular narratives about how Republicans overwhelmingly support the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and is dragging the US to the precipice of civil war or a fascist coup are obviously overblown. They are the result of gullible reactions to polls and polls and insufficient attention to how people actually behave.
Sociologists Colin Jerolmack and Shamus Khan call this the “attitudinal fallacy.” People portray themselves in all kinds of ways for all kinds of reasons in the data they provide to social scientists and the media. As a result, these data may not be a reliable guide to how people in the world actually behave. If you want to know which people Really believe or worry Prioritize your actions over your words.
So let’s see how voters fared: Although Americans overall became less likely to endorse candidates from different parties, contests with election deniers were a notable exception. Many who endorsed the Republican Party in other races voted democrat when the Republican was an electoral denier. In other words, Voters sympathetic to the Republican Party It was the Americans who bucked the trend against splitting the nominations, precisely to avoid choosing candidates who could foster another January 6th.
What’s more, the Democratic Party clearly knew that the narratives they espoused about the authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies of GOP-aligned voters were hyperbolic at best. As political analyst Matt Yglesias observed, the Democrats spent the 2022 election cycle claiming that America was a heartbeat away from autocracy while behave as if they believed otherwise.
Democrats even spent tens of millions of dollars Help Election Deniers Win Republicans primary contests, something that would obviously be inconceivable if they literally believed that American democracy was about to be dismantled. The Cynical Bid Pays Off: Literally Every Extreme Republican Candidate The Democrats Pushed it has failed in the general elections. Again, this shouldn’t have been a shock.
Contrary to popular rhetoric describing the contemporary Republican Party like a cult blindly accepting anything the orange man says or does, Donald Trump and Trumpian extremism have never been very popular with right-wing voters. Trump actually clinched the 2016 Republican nomination with the the smallest part of the primary vote of any winning Republican candidate since 1968. He decisively lost the popular vote when large numbers of right-wing voters decided to stay home instead of voting for any of the major party candidates.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans endorsed by Trump Tends to underto carry out compared to other Republican candidates. He was similar in 2022: Trump-backed Republican candidates did it worse than those without their support. And those who embraced Trump’s election-denying nonsense made even worse. Many people who would otherwise happily vote Republican were unwilling to vote for Trump or those he supported.
Another narrative that refuses to die is that Trump owes his electoral success to his racialized rhetoric. However, as he previously illustrated on THINK, Trump failed to encourage more whites to vote in 2016 and secured a minor share of the white vote than Mitt Romney in 2012. In addition, the Republican Party has seen ongoing losses among white voters in the years since Trump took office, even as the party has enjoyed steady gains among voters of color over the same period. There are there is no good way to explain these realities within the standard narrative.
Popular gender talking points don’t work any better. Contrary to the narratives attribute Trump’s victory Due to its gendered language and policies, the Republican Party did not enjoy extraordinary support from men in 2016. And Trump’s sexist and misogynistic rhetoric alienated Republican voters, men and women equally.
Actually, the reason why trump won in 2016 it was because women He didn’t like Hillary Clinton. voting for her in fewer numbers than several Democratic predecessors. In 2020, Joe Biden won largely due to changes between mens towards the Democratic Party. The women, for their part, moved to the Republican Partywith women of color changing more than white women.
In 2022, a similar pattern emerged. Although all racial and ethnic groups shifted toward the Republican Party, whites, and white men in particular, moved less than any other group other than black women (whose movement was roughly identical to that of white men).
Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Trump himself seems to have bought ill-substantiated caricatures of their own voters and what motivates them. Despite repeatedly branding the media and academia as biased and unreliable, Trump seems to have bought into our narratives that people support him because he is election denier, he is racist, and he is misogynistic.
Trump continues to give “the people” more than they think they want. Reflected, for example, at the dinner he hosted last week with the white supremacist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, who has come under fire for anti-Semitic comments. But instead of increasing Trump’s appeal, these behaviors are steadily leading more people to recoil in horror and vote Democratic, particularly among his supposed white, male base.
Trump’s 2024 campaign ad was a perfect summary of this dynamic. Over the course of a gloomy, lethargic, and wandering speechstruck all the usual notes, with the apparent effect of boring and alienating faithful Republicans while empowering his political rivals. Presumably acknowledging how poorly the speech was received, how poorly calibrated the comments were for the audience and the timing. even Fox News walked away from the ad midway. They probably did Trump a favor.