Discover more from Letters from an American
November 7, 2022
Not sure if you’ve heard, but the U.S. midterm elections are tomorrow.
Just kidding, of course. Not sure anyone can think of much else.
Remember, though, this election is full of wild cards. Traditionally—but not always—the party of the president does poorly in the first midterm election. But we are in uncharted territory: never before in our history have more than half of Americans lost the recognition of a constitutional right, as the Supreme Court took from us with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision in June, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to an abortion.
Never, too, have we had to vote in an election where more than half the candidates of one of the parties deny that the president was fairly elected. Those candidates have suggested that, had they been in power in 2020, they would have put former president Donald Trump in power even though he lost the popular vote by more than 7 million and lost in the Electoral College. Their position is a profound attack on our democracy.
For all the polls showing that Democrats are going to win in huge numbers or Republicans are, no one knows how it will turn out. The polls are deeply problematic this time around, and at least some of them are attempts by Republicans to boost the hopes of their donors and to keep Democrats from voting. Perhaps even more than most elections, this one will come down to turnout.
There are, though, some stories worth following:
There has been a crazy amount of money invested in this year’s contests, much of it by a very few people. Ronald Lauder, for example, the 78-year-old heir to the cosmetics fortune, has dumped at least $11 million into getting a Trump Republican, Representative Lee Zeldin, elected governor of New York. Billionaire Peter Thiel put $30 million into super PACs backing Republican senate candidates J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona.
Today, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and the leader of the private military company the Wagner Group, who is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, boasted that Russians had interfered in U.S. elections and continue to do so. “We have interfered, we are interfering and we will continue to interfere. Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.” He added: “During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once.”
Prigozhin is apparently behind the Russia-based “troll farms” that try to affect U.S. elections. Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times writes that Russians have indeed targeted the 2022 elections to make right-wing voters angry and undermine trust in U.S. elections. Their hope is to erode support for Ukraine’s struggle to repel Russian invasion by electing Republicans who side with Putin.
Republicans are not acting as if they expect big wins tomorrow. Many of the Republican candidates have refused to say they would accept the election results, and Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson is already saying that Democrats will steal the election.
Others are fighting to get Democratic mail-in ballots thrown out, especially in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Still others are trying to game the vote count already, claiming that results that are not announced by the end of the day on Tuesday are suspicious. But votes postmarked on Election Day can take days to arrive. In addition, a number of Republican-dominated states have made it illegal to count mail-in votes before Election Day, creating backlogs that take time to work through. It sounds as if they, like Trump in 2020, are expecting to lose the actual vote and to fight to steal it.
The Department of Justice will be monitoring the polls in 64 jurisdictions in 24 states to make sure those jurisdictions comply with federal voting rights laws. Officials remind voters that any disruptions at polling places should be reported to officials. Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson expressed thanks to the Department of Justice for “real support for protecting voters,” which she said was missing in 2020 under the former president.
Aside from tomorrow’s election, there is an epic fight brewing in the Republican Party. Former president Donald Trump threatened to announce tonight at a rally in Ohio that he is running for president in 2024, likely because he believes such an announcement will make it harder for the Department of Justice to indict him for his theft of classified documents when he left the White House. He is also concerned that Florida governor Ron DeSantis will steal his thunder and capture the 2024 nomination, but because they are competing for the same voters, an announcement from Trump will undercut DeSantis.
Republican Party leaders urged Trump to hold off on the announcement, worrying it would energize Democratic voters before Election Day. In the end, Trump’s announcement tonight was: “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida…. We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow.”
Finally, for all the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow's election, there is one thing of which I am 100% certain. Far more Americans today are concerned about our democracy, and determined to reclaim it, than were even paying attention to it in 2016. There are new organizations, new connections, new voters, new efforts to remake the country better than it has ever been, and the frantic efforts of the Republicans to suppress voting, gerrymander the country, and now to take away our right to choose our leaders indicates we are far more powerful than we believe we are. No matter what happens tomorrow, that will continue to be true, and I am ever so proud to be one of you.