This Election Proved You Can Win on “Social Issues”
A series of Democratic wins and passed ballot initiatives show that people will show up to vote on abortion, LGBTQ rights, and criminal justice.
In the lead up to the election, pundits strained themselves bending over backwards to claim that Democrats’ focus on so-called “social issues” leaves them out of touch from the everyday concerns “ordinary” people deal with.
But surprise: The results of the 2022 midterms prove otherwise.
Voters in Maryland and Missouri elected to legalize recreational use of marijuana, opening pathways to expunge convictions for people punished for conduct now legal under the new law. While Maryland is a reliably blue state, Missouri is not. Former President Donald Trump won Missouri by 15 points in 2020.
Even in states where marijuana legalization initiatives did not pass, the measures overperformed relative to Democratic results. In North Dakota, the measure failed by just under 10 points, while in South Dakota it fell short by about six. In Arkansas the measure failed by about 13 points. Trump had won by over 25 points in all three of those states in 2020.
Candidates who were unafraid to embrace “social issues” also fared well.
Los Angeles city controller candidate Kenneth Mejia won after a campaign where he explicitly called for cuts to the police budget—placing giant billboards displaying how outsized the city’s police budget was, and asking voters to reconsider where their tax dollars were going.
The 32-year-old beat Paul Koretz—who had been on the city council since 2009—by over 20 points.
In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman bested Mehmet Oz, flipping a seat formerly held by a Republican. Fetterman has been just as outspoken on trans rights as on eliminating price gouging and enacting a more fair tax code.
Alongside Fetterman was Josh Shapiro, who handily won Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race. Just days before the midterms, Shapiro went viral for remarks he made at a rally explaining what exactly freedom is. He connected same-sex marriage, book bans, and abortion access alongside public education investment, union membership, and a secure democracy.
His ideas—and the public’s overwhelmingly positive response to them—shows how “social issues” are not in contention with “kitchen table issues.” They never were. It’s offensive to pretend otherwise.