This year’s United States midterm elections were met with warnings of an impending “red wave” with Republicans seizing control of the House, and possibly the Senate. Midterm elections are rarely good for the party in power with first-term presidents typically doing particularly poorly, so a blowout seemed reasonable in the weeks and months leading up to the elections. But as the returns came in on election night, it became apparent that the democrats were holding the line.
Democratic voters, especially young ones, showed up at the polls and were crucial in staving off several key races while helping hold the Senate and minimize losses in the house. The fate of the Senate was determined by a crucial Democratic victory in Nevada, which followed the re-election of the Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona. Although that takes Democrats to 50 seats, a loss in the Georgia runoff in December would result in a 50-50 split, Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tie-breaker so Democrats will maintain control.
While the Democratic win in the Senate is worth celebrating, the Democrats did not maintain control of the House of Representatives. President Biden announced during the G20 Summit that regardless of a Republican majority in the House the Democratic Party will uphold its stance on abortion preventing a ban from being codified.
Issues including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, gun control, student debt, and climate change appeal to younger voters resulting in the favor of Democratic candidates by a 28-point margin, according to CIRCLE. Some younger voters, 25 and below, came to the polls for the first time following Parkland, a shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The events that followed and the creation of March for Our Lives brought people into politics before they were 18, both as a defense against gun violence and against Trumpism.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of the CIRCLE project observed that the youngest voters of the 18-29 range were eager to embrace politics differently than their elders, so much so the turnout gap between those under 25 and those under 30 shrank rapidly.
While young voters are motivated to drive political change, preliminary figures from CIRCLE project that youth voter turnout during this year’s midterms makes up a smaller percentage of the electorate than in 2018, only 12 percent. Not to mention, Blue Rose Research’s early polls indicate that young voters were actually not crucial to the Democrat’s success. Instead, Democrats simply managed to win crucial swing states by convincing Republican moderates and independent voters to choose the Democratic nominees.
In the wake of their lackluster performance, Republicans chose not to equate it with policy issues. Rather they claim the voting age is too low proving that the right would rather hold power over Gen Z than appeal to that portion of the electorate through legislation that supports their values.
Also it’s worth noting the role that claims of the illegitimacy of the 2020 election played. Candidates who are skeptical of Biden’s victory are polarizing. For some, it did help drum up favor among their Republican base, but for independents and moderates who don’t question the results it may have come across as juvenile or unprofessional. In competitive or statewide races Republicans claiming voter fraud during the 2020 election were not favored to win. Regardless, more than 180 skeptics were elected or re-elected to the House and over a dozen in the Senate.
Trump announced his 2024 presidential bid on Wednesday, November 16, and many candidates who support him and his values captured seats in the races. Although the midterms are a small and slightly reassuring step in the right direction, it needs to be made clear that Trump could still win in 2024. The dangers of a second Trump presidency can not be overstated.
These midterms followed a slew of voter-suppression bills signed into law and we are still dealing with the consequences. The Democratic Party must do more to appeal to Black voters, creating a multi-racial, pro-democratic landscape differentiating from the one we have now.
If we want any chance against Trump in 2024 it’s also essential that we continue to encourage younger voters to stay active and to know that their vote matters. It may be cliche but we are the change we want to see and it starts in the voting booth.