Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Biggest Upset of 2022

According to 538's model, the biggest upset in this year's election was the win by Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in Washington's Third Congressional District. This is a strong Republican district, largely rural, with a history of logging and mining. There were very few polls, none after Labor Day, because everyone considered this a safe Republican seat; 538 gave Gluesenkamp Perez only a 2% chance of winning.

But the old Congressman from the Third was one of those who voted to impeach Trump, which led to his being ousted in the primary by Stop the Steal champion Joe Kent. Kent turned out to be a terrible candidate who had spent too much time in right-wing chat rooms; for example he mocked football fans for watching sports instead of getting up and doing something, not exactly the best way to connect with the average Republican voter. Gluesenkamp Perez won by only a single percentage point. So, maybe one shouldn't generalize too much from this race. But for what it's worth, here are some gleanings from her campaign web site:

Marie’s great great grandpa Bert Gilmore helped build the Washington State Capitol building as the quarry foreman and her grandmother Carol Gilmore was born in a logging camp in Sappho, Washington. Her own parents met at Western Washington University after her father immigrated from Mexico.

Marie graduated from Reed College and owns an independent auto-repair shop with her husband Dean that has grown to 6-bays wide. They were able to purchase their building with the support of a loan from the SBA in 2018 and are proud to provide living wage jobs to their employees. . . . like so many families today, they struggle with finding quality affordable childcare – so their son goes to the auto shop with them everyday.

In short, Marie is exactly the kind of working class Washingtonian that has been left behind in this economy and frankly ignored by the political extremes in our Nation’s Capital – and that’s exactly why she’s running for Congress in Washington State’s Third Congressional District. 

So, a candidate who lives in a small town, has both long-resident and recent immigrant ancestors, who owns a small business, who isn't rich or out of touch. The bullet point list of her positions:

  • Support small businesses and worker’s rights
  • Lower the costs of healthcare, childcare and prescription drugs
  • Address climate change by investing in clean energy
  • Get big money out of politics by overturning Citizens United
  • Invest and expand apprenticeship and skills training programs
  • Protect women’s access to health and rights
  • Tackle the rising costs of food, gas and housing

The NY Times story where I learned about Gluesenkamp Perez notes that she talks about being "pro freedom" because she supports both abortion rights and gun rights.

I don't know much about Gluesenkamp Perez, and maybe she will turn out to be a terrible legislator. Maybe the Republican will get their act together, nominate a good candidate and crush her next time. But she embodies in some ways the Democratic party I would feel better about supporting. I believe in freedom, and I want to see abortion rights and gay rights defended as part of a broad, pro-freedom agenda that also fights the bureaucratization of the world, the dominance of our economy by a few giant companies who make far too many decisions for us, and so on. I don't think there is much the government can do about inflation in the short run, but in the long run the rising cost of housing is absolutely about the difficulty of building houses and apartments. I support civil rights, but I believe the best way to help poor, minority Americans is with programs that help everyone, without any mention of race. Instead of fighting rear-guard actions to defend Affirmative Action, which voters hate, Democrats should be coming up with creative ways to help disadvantaged students, like the Texas program that admits the top graduates of every high school. Personally I hate guns, but if limiting gun ownership is a political loser, I am willing to jettison it. Abortion rights, health care, and wealth redistribution are more important to me.

The main thing I believe in is democracy. I believe that the voters should decide. Obviously in a complex political sytem, in a huge country, that process will be messy, and political parties can survive while opposing popular things. But a party that loses touch with who the voters are is just doomed.

1 comment:

David said...

It seems to me a problem is that the "voters" are not a single mass. The voting public is deeply divided. So it seems that, while someone like Joe Kent was very much in touch with A LOT of Republican voters, he was too crazy to get a majority, and some moderate Republicans decided they'd rather have the Democrat--who made things easier for them by not being an elite type, or a progressive.

Thus I would argue that the overall results show that, at least right now, there's a limit to what crazy can do in an election, as many have said. But the results also show that both parties need their loonies. Somehow a candidate needs to get a good deal of the loony vote, and still appear normal enough to get the moderates. In this, it certainly helps if your opponent is an obvious extremist.

I'm skeptical of the overhyping of the DeSantis bandwagon, but he does have some of the makings of a strong national candidate. He's genuinely hard right, but he has enough of the affect of a nice suburban husband-and-father to seem okay to moderate Republicans.

Clearly, Trump has been wounded, but he's still got plenty of strength left. If he were to run in 2024, he of course could still win. I'm comfortable judging him and saying that would be an absolutely disaster for the Republic, not least because it would signal that crazy has more life in it than it appears to at the moment.

Meantime, no matter what happens, there will still be roughly 100 Freedom Caucus types in the House, and 100 Progressive Caucus types. Neither party can afford to definitively reject their own extremists.

In the last month, both Brazil and the United States have mercifully dodged the worst possibilities, which nevertheless had a non-trivial chance of happening. (I would note that Zeynep Tufecki made a name for herself by declaring in early Feb 2020 that there was a "non-trivial" chance Covid would become a pandemic. One should not dismiss bad things that have that chance of happening, only feel relieved when they do not. Humility is a virtue.)