As 2022 turns to 2024—in election terms—the Democrats are still busy congratulating themselves over not being mauled on Nov. 8. But if they continue winning like this, it’ll be a Republican sitting behind the big desk in the Oval Office.

Considering that they lost the House of Representatives and failed to capitalize on the Republicans’ suicidal war on abortion, all this celebrating shows is how low were the Democrats’ expectations for themselves. Without being realistic about the myriad missed opportunities, Democrats will again fail in the next go around.

The election took place on Nov 8, but as of Nov. 23, we’re still counting the ballots—hardly what you would expect in the world’s foremost democracy. The Democrats did manage to flip a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, where they faced a weak candidate in the interloping Turkish citizen and authoritarian apologist Dr. Mehmet Oz. But overall, they were outvoted for the Senate by 39,598,916 to 39,798,099. They were just lucky in the specific one-third of the Senate that was up for grabs this time.

In the House, which is far more representative and majoritarian, and where every seat was up for election, Democrats were outvoted by 54 million to 51 million = a three percent margin. Soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has lost her job and the Republicans are preparing to obstruct President Biden, investigate his son, and shut down the government whenever they can.

Anything near this failure will get former President Donald Trump—or Florida’s Republican Gov.  Ron DeSantis—elected president in 2024. To justify celebrating such a dismal outcome, the Democrats tell themselves that the sitting president’s party tends to do poorly in U.S. midterms. And it’s true; judged purely by such a standard the 2022 midterms were one of the less lackluster performances—nothing like the Dems’ wipeouts in 1994 and 2010.

Yet sometimes, the president’s party does quite well. This tends to occur after seminal events—for example, the 2002 midterms when the country was rallying around former President George Bush in the wake of 9/11. This year should have been such a seminal election, at such an unusual juncture, for a number of reasons that don’t normally apply.

First, there is the Republicans’ astounding overreach in bringing about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It would have been inconceivable only a few years ago, and violated assurances conservative justices had previously provided. More than six in 10 Americans opposed the court’s decision,  and the opposition was generally more vehement than the support. The Republicans made enemies of American women in a way that deserved far greater punishment. This should have driven Democratic turnout.

Second, Trump is still around, mobilizing his base but annoying everyone else, which amounts to two-thirds of the public. Ex-presidents are expected to gracefully fade into the background, trotted out perhaps for big party events and public service announcements, but not so Trump. Trump’s machinations and 2024 run effectively put him on the ticket this year and should also have driven Democratic turnout.

Third, there was a brazen effort by the Trump wing to elect state officials to specific positions—governors, attorneys-general, secretaries of state—that would be well-placed to overturn future elections that don’t go the Republicans’ way. They hardly even bothered to hide this plan, and it was an attack on democracy. Mercifully, most such candidates lost but the phenomenon—unprecedented in U.S. history—should have had far wider implications on Democratic turnout.

This article was originally published in Newsweek.


Dan Perry is managing partner on the US-based global communications advisory Thunder11. He served as the Middle East chief of the Associated Press news agency, based in Cairo, and previously led AP in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. During the Second Intifada Dan was AP’s bureau chief in Jerusalem and also served as the chairman of the Foreign Press Association. He has been a regular delegate at the World Economic Forum in Davos and other leadership conferences.
He hails from a Jewish Romanian family that moved to the United States and was Romania correspondent for AP in the years after the 1989 revolution. Follow him on Twitter @perry_dan.


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