I’m trying not to get too giddy. We have a lot of hard work ahead to pull off democracy-saving Democratic wins in November—just a little over two months from now.
When I wrote my post “Abortion Is Actually Going to Save Democracy,” I cited the work of FiveThirtyEight, often described as the most reliable polling prognosticators. They interpreted the results of the House special elections trending toward the Democrats since the overturn of Roe as possible evidence of a shifting national mood.
Here’s a critical parenthetical from that August 24th article:
“(There is one data point missing from this analysis, however: the ranked-choice special election in Alaska’s at-large district. Currently, Republicans have 21 percentage points more first-place votes than Democrats in that race, despite Alaska’s R+15 partisan lean. But it’s not clear how meaningful that is, given the unusual dynamics at play in a ranked-choice election.
“In fact, when the ranked-choice votes are tabulated on Aug. 31, it’s quite possible that the Democratic candidate will receive more votes than the last Republican standing — which would be an even bigger upset than Ryan’s win. We’ll just have to wait and see.)”
We waited, and now we’ve seen. Mary Peltola beat both Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich. She’ll serve the remainder of the term of Republican Don Young, who died in March. Then she’ll have to redo what she’s just done to win a full two-year term. The odds were clearly against her.
When the Alaska results came in, FiveThirtyEight posted a new piece that throws a bit of a wet blanket on Peltola’s win, saying it may be more due to local circumstances, such as Palin’s being a poor candidate, than national trends.
Surprise! Alaskans weren’t thrilled that Palin resigned as governor to become a right-wing media darling. Republicans did seem to be thrilled with ranked-choice voting (which is actually a way to prevent the kinds of extremists who’ve run in many of their primaries)–until the Democrat won.
Now they’re against it, reinforcing President Biden’s contention in his Philadelphia speech that “MAGA” Republicans think only two things are possible in elections: “they win–or they were cheated.”
Quoth Palin, after her loss: Ranked choice voting is “new, crazy, convoluted, confusing,” and it “disenfranchised 60% of Alaska voters.”
Notably, about half of Begich voters either supported Pertola when he was knocked off the ballot or didn’t vote in the second round.
According to FiveThirtyEight, it seems likely that Begich would have defeated Peltola if Palin hadn’t been in the ranked-choice voting.
Still, they observe:
We already knew that something–probably Dobbs–had shifted the national environment in Democrats’ favor since midsummer. The Alaska result is, at best, consistent with that and, at worst, doesn’t contradict it.”
Regardless, it’s great that Alaska has elected a pro-choice woman who’s also the first Native Alaskan to reach Congress in the state’s one at-large seat. Peltola seems to have a lot going for her, including widespread agreement that she’s kind. How very refreshing!
She’s reputed to be a friend of Palin’s. But that didn’t stop her from campaigning as “Alaska’s best shot at keeping an extremist from winning.”
I’m thrilled that Palin’s wacky radicalism, including her extreme views on abortion, were smacked down—and hope it happens again in November. I’m equally thrilled that we’ll be spared her “chalk on the blackboard” voice. (That expression may date me, but I’m sure everyone understands it.)
And who knows? Maybe Peltola will win over more Alaska voters between now and November. I heard an interview in which she stressed that Native Americans like her–who were forcibly sterilized in the past–view abortion as inseparable from privacy and personal autonomy. Both her Republican rivals oppose it.
Rumor has it that Peltola’s win has shaken some Palinesque House candidates. It’s certainly encouraged every Democrat fighting a Big Liar.
Army veteran Marcus Flowers, the Democrat hoping to unseat Marjorie Taylor Greene, tweeted: “Sarah Palin was defeated. Marjorie Taylor Greene will be next.”
As the horror stories about abortion continue to mount, that former guy digs himself into a deeper hole with each court filing, the Democrats talk about their successful legislative efforts while the deficit falls—and President Biden appeals to Democrats, Independents, and non-MAGA Republicans to join in opposing the fascism that’s now engulfed the Republicans, people on Twitter urge us to:
“Roe, Roe, Roe the vote–to Democracy.”
And it seems that younger voters, who could be significant for Democratic victories, are fired up by the loss of reproductive rights.
“Younger voters are notoriously hard to turn out, especially in midterms. But motivation to vote among registered voters aged 18-35 in key battleground states has shot up since the Dobbs decision, according to a polling memo shared first with POLITICO by the liberal group NextGen America.”
From a March poll to one in July/August, there was a nine percent jump in the respondents who said they were “very motivated” to vote in November.
These voters were in key states with important races for governor and/or Senator: Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Two out of three voters polled said the Dobbs decision “has made them care more about what happens in November.”
Young women voters were strongly opposed to the Dobbs ruling, and even fifty-seven percent of Republican women were opposed. NextGen called the decision a huge stumbling block for the Republicans to overcome with younger voters.
FiveThirtyEight cautions that trends turn against the President’s party as the midterms near, but we’re in strange territory for any number of reasons now.
Speaking of trends, Tom Bonier, a strategist for Democrats who runs a data and polling company, wrote an essay in The New York Times headlined: “Women Are So Fired Up to Vote, I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It.”
“In my 28 years analyzing elections, I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I’ve never witnessed. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how different this moment is, especially in light of the cycles of tragedy and eventual resignation of recent years...
“With over two months until Election Day, uncertainty abounds. Election prognostication relies heavily on past precedent. Yet there is no precedent for an election centered around the removal of a constitutional right affirmed a half-century before. Every poll we consume over the closing weeks of this election will rely on a likely voter model for which we have no benchmark.”
So I’m thinking that there’s a confluence of factors helping, with the Democrats moving toward November 8th with “Roementum.” (I think I made that one up.)
How are you all feeling about the national picture?