SAY WHAT? - Whew. For now, the dreaded Red Wave has shrunk into a trickle, a dribble, a malignant puddle that more than one sage suggested had been just angry ketchup on the walls of Mar-A-Lago. "The Red Wave is off," rejoiced one observer, thanks to the steadfast work and hope of primarily women, young people and many others defiantly rejecting our descent into a kakotopia of hate, greed, fear, bigotry and totalitarianism. America to fascist theocracy: No thanks, not today, the best efforts of Mike Flynn et al notwithstanding. With final numbers still emerging, we don't know what the House or Senate will ultimately look like, other than, of course, hopelessly balkanized. We know only that Trump, GOP zealotry and the notion that ever-fickle women had "moved on" from Dobbs lost Tuesday. What won: Abortion rights, activism, equity, truth, the thoughtful prioritizing of real freedoms - to vote, choose, love, organize - over the cost of gas. "We killed the Red Wave," declared Michael Moore, who charged that "we were lied to for months by the pundits and pollsters and media" who claimed the GOP would win 60 more House seats because "simple" Americans cared most about crime and the price of milk. Instead, the people built "a blue wall to stop an ugly wave...It was their Democracy they came to fight for."
En route, voters largely rejected the GOP's increasingly rabid turn to the right, and the guy who shoved and bullied them there while inserting himself into races like a bellicose fat kid asked to the party 'cause otherwise he'd beat up the host. In "an electoral ass-kicking" to the losingest loser of them all, Trump and his manic overreach likely cost the GOP the Senate, several governerships and multiple House seats: Trump-endorsed, election-denying candidates lost races for governor in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin; the Senate in New Hampshire; and Secretary of State in Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico. Candidates he loved to hate - like Georgia's Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger - easily won. One of his most spectacular flameouts was gun-toting, loud-mouthed, staggeringly stupid acolyte Lauren Boebert, once deemed by pundits to have a 97-in-100 chance of winning her seat in Colorado's vast, western 3rd District. "The Red Wave is here!" shrieked Boebert when voting began. "America First is winning!" But the race - and her supporters' spirits - veered as Democrat Adam Frisch unexpectedly started pulling ahead. Late Wednesday, it was still too close to call, and voters weren't shy about why. "I voted for anybody but Boebert," said one lifelong GOPer. Ditto his Dem brother, who called her "a bad joke...It's a sourness in this country that she represents."
Elsewhere, Dems rallied. A new squad of four, young, progressives of color - Frost, Ramirez, Casar, Lee - were elected to House seats. The turnout for young voters was up at least 360%, with many crediting them for helping avert disaster: "Don't underestimate the power of a pissed off generation." Or, clearly, half the electorate. Most strikingly, women came out to reclaim their reproductive freedom after a SCOTUS of extremist hacks stripped them of it. They fought back. Dismissed by pundits and media, and ignoring in turn "the spiraling story about who cared about what," women organized, phone-banked and showed up to vote for their bodily autonomy, now newly written into state laws. In exit polling, 1 in 4 voters said abortion was their key issue; six of ten said they were angry about Dobbs. And abortion rights won in each of five state initiatives in California, Michigan, Vermont, deep-red Kentucky; a vile "born alive" law in Montana is evidently headed to defeat. "You can suppress and gerrymander and intimidate voters, and still they will come for you if the ideas you stand for are anathema to any meaningful definition of liberty," writes Dahlia Lithwick. "The midterms (show) you can be an afterthought to Samuel Alito, and an afterthought to the pollsters and pundits, and still be a force of nature." "When everyone decided women were 'over it,'" she adds, "they forgot Dobbs is barely in its second trimester, and this is often when we're just beginning to feel the kicking."
There was, of course, bad news - wins for Abbott, DeSantis, J.D. Vance in Ohio; his opponent Tim Ryan declared "good-hearted people" must fight extremism for "our country to move forward." Pennsylvania did well on that score: Dems took the Senate, governorship, all three swing House seats, control of the state House. John Fetterman celebrated a campaign about "fighting for anybody who's gotten knocked down who ever got back up." Josh Shapiro, who defeated Trumper Doug Mastriano though he allegedly had God on his side, told the crowd, "It was your futures on the line...It was a test whether we valued our rights and freedoms, and you met this moment." Listing the wins - a woman's right to choose, the right to organize, the right to vote - he said, "Because of you, our democracy endures." Despite all the bad, it even felt that way in Portland, where the lines were long and peaceable, and the mini-me-Trump lost again. For the occasion, historian Heather Cox Richardson summoned a fraught election in 1884 marked by the rise of extremist GOPers dubbed "Mugwumps." "In that tense election," she writes, "the main point was that there was voting at all" - a marvel of civility likewise celebrated by Walt Whitman. Called to name, "O Western World, your powerfulest scene," he wrote, it would be "the still small voice vibrating - America's choosing day, a swordless conflict, the peaceful choice of all." For now.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])