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Actually, Democrats Put Plenty of Focus on “Pocketbook Issues”

A new analysis shows how the party might have done so well on election night, and what it should keep in mind.

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Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and Governor Gretchen Whitmer celebrate big wins for Michigan Democrats on election night.

Apparently, Democrats actually focused more on so-called pocketbook issues than Republicans in the final months of campaign.

Analysis from the Winning Jobs Narrative Project shows that, across nine “pocketbook” topics—including health care, prescription drugs, and Social Security—Democrats aired 200,000 more advertisement spots than Republicans.

These figures contradict a media narrative that arose during the lead-up to election night, which held that Democrats’ messaging was substantially out of touch with voters’ economic concerns. This conventional wisdom contributed to the premature consensus that Democrats were set to drown in a red wave. The thinking went like this: Republicans were hitting the Democrats on inflation; Democrats were focused too much on democracy or “social issues;” the energy around abortion peaked too soon; student debt cancellation was a mistake.

And then the red wave fizzled into a red ripple.

Democrats held seats they were defending and won elections on which they’d pinned their hopes—from Pennsylvania’s Senate seat and governorship to Michigan’s governorship and state legislature—all while staving off a number of Republican challengers who were thought to be in the ascendance. While some elections, like Arizona’s Senate and governor’s races, are still undeclared, Democrats overperformed expectations in sum.

The analysis did show Republicans having an advantage over Democrats in focusing on taxes, the economy, and energy. But that might have been for naught: As the researchers behind the study reported, “The data suggest that Republicans’ generalized criticisms of the economy may have fallen short against Democrats’ communication advantage on key, specific pocketbook concerns.”

In other words, Republicans amorphously blithering about inflation (let alone about some nondescript necessity to cut taxes for the rich) may not have been enough to overcome Democratic messaging on items such as health care or drug prices or manufacturing—issues that tend to localize the “economy” to voters. This becomes all the more powerful when Democrats counter Republicans’ indiscriminate gripes about inflation with explanations that offer price gouging as an alternative.

This dynamic surely may not be universal, and is not the only factor that contributed to the election results. Massive turnout spurred by benefactors of student debt cancellation, as well as those concerned about losing the right to an abortion or the impending threat of climate change also factored into the exit polling—especially among young people and women. If Democrats want to replicate such success in the future, they ought to reflect on how speaking to “social issues” and “pocketbook issues” are not mutually exclusive—and that attention given to both issue categories is a winning combination.

Period-Havers Have the Last Laugh Over the “Red Wave”

As one jokester put it, “More like light spotting.”

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Turns out there was a “red wave” on Election Day after all, just not the ones that Republicans hoped for. Women, particularly women of color, voted overwhelmingly Democratic during the 2022 midterms, exit polls found. Inevitably, some found the joke that was … just sitting there.

The midterm elections saw record-high voter turnout, both early and in person, and according to the exit polls, access to abortion was one of the top issues at the ballot box. Additionally, five states had abortion rights issues on the ballot, and all five states voted to either increase or maintain access to the procedure.

Republicans had been promising a tsunami-like sweep in the midterms but ended up stunned to see major losses across the board. Although many of the marquee national races remain tight, Democrats pulled off upset wins and flipped state legislatures. In Michigan, the state government went Democratic, and abortion was the primary driver.

Right-wing media outlets and commentators have freaked out, trying to explain why their red wave slowed to a trickle. They have tried to blame everything from Donald Trump to voters being too young. They can’t seem to grasp—or won’t admit—that people vote for issues that matter to them.

But Washington Post writer Monica Hesse explained, “Buddy, it was right in front of you. The red wave rolled in with Aunt Flo on a longboard.”

Many others have been quick to mock the so-called red wave, noting it both sounds like a euphemism for a period and symbolizes how period-havers turned out in droves to vote against the Republicans.

“So, contrary to all these major media outlets, the red wave coming is my period on Friday,” tweeted professor Uju Anya.

Podcaster Allison Gill joked that “the ‘red wave’ is more like light spotting.”

Writer Akilah Hughes sympathized: “I get it, sometimes I think it’s a red wave but then my period hasn’t actually shown up.” But, she hastened to add, “It’s just that I’m not on TV affecting anyone’s life with that miscalculation.”

Republicans Are So Mad at the Huge Youth Turnout They Want to Increase the Voting Age

Gen Z came out in huge numbers this election. Now Republicans are trying to decide what the new voting age should be.

Thomas Simonetti/Washington Post/Getty Images
A view inside the campaign headquarters of Maxwell Frost, who was recently elected to the House of Representative from Florida’s 10th congressional district.

Young voters turned out in record numbers for Election Day and overwhelmingly voted Democratic—sending Republicans into a moralistic panic over the voting age.

About a third of voters under age 30 participated in the midterm elections, according to a study by Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement.

There was 27 percent turnout overall, and 31 percent turnout in battleground states. In fact, young voters—who favored Democrats by about a 2-to-1 margin—helped tip the scale left in several crucial races, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

As a result, not only was there no much-promised “red wave” on election night, but many states swung in the opposite direction, although the national races remain tight. Democrats took control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota.

By Thursday morning, conservatives were clamoring to raise the voting age, although they couldn’t seem to agree on what the new age should be: There were arguments for 21, 25, 30, or simply until voters had gotten “a lil life experience.”

The demand is, of course, as ridiculous as it is hypocritical. There is no talk of also raising the age for military enlistment or, say, consent. Instead, it shows that the right is rushing to preserve its power over Gen Z rather than appealing to them through legislation.

But while it’s easy to poke fun at Republicans, a call to raise the voting age is still a call to violate voter rights.

“The fact that there are republicans calling to raise the voting age to 21 because Gen-Z showed up in HEAVY Democratic numbers last night is both laughable and terrifying,” tweeted Olivia Julianna, from the nonprofit Gen-Z for Change.

Fox News Is Having a Meltdown Over the Election Results

Right-wing media simply cannot understand the election results.

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In the wake of Republicans falling short of their foretold “red wave,” right-wing media reactions have run the whole gamut.

But no other outlet has had a meltdown like Fox News:

These hosts are so unable to fathom the results that they have gone to great length introducing other convoluted theories for why Republicans lost. Fox News host Jesse Watters, for example, claimed that the Democrats are working to keep women single, and if single women just get married, things would look way different:

It’s not just Fox News, of course. On The Charlie Kirk Show, Benny Johnson yearned for a Republican who “utilizes and wields power over his enemies, and then destroys his enemies and makes them grovel, makes molten salty tears flow from their faces.” (Yes, this is an exact quote.) On Pray Vote Stand, Michelle Bachmann said the results simply don’t make sense given how much praying and repenting the right did.

These nonsensical right-wing media reactions substantiate one case for why Republicans lost. The Republican project to win majorities off of disinformation, or by desperately trying to frame Democrats as “out of touch,” can only go so far when your own project has nothing to offer.

Republicans and the media, and Fox News specifically, have for months framed Democrats as too focused on “social issues” instead of “kitchen table issues.” But voters just showed how these issues are one and the same—and that Democrats are the ones speaking to them.

Marijuana legalization, abortion access, a free and fair democracy are all ideas that have won this week, and all things—alongside items like student debt cancellation and climate and Medicaid expansion—that have buoyed Democratic success. Republicans simply do not have a plan to recoup young voters, or women voters (beyond begging for them to get married).

If Republicans remain saddled in their aimless meltdown, pointing fingers left and right and everywhere in between, we’ll keep seeing moments like these:

Can Democrats Still Win Congress? Here’s Where We Stand.

There wasn't a “red wave,” like expected.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Although there was no feared “Red Wave” on Election Day, it’s still a tight race for Democrats to maintain control of Congress.

As of Thursday morning, The New York Times showed Democrats holding 189 seats in the House of Representatives, while Republicans had 207.

The Senate is still a tossup, with Arizona and Nevada not yet called and Georgia heading to a runoff in December. Arizona election officials said they may not finish counting until Friday, but since that is the Veterans’ Day holiday, it’s unclear if they’ll announce results then. We won’t know Nevada results until next week.

Some people are still optimistic that the Democrats can still pull off keeping the House, albeit by the thinnest of margins.

David Beard, who specializes in election coverage, said Wednesday night that it looked like the Democrats would win a House majority, when examining both races that had already been called and races that were not yet called but strongly favored Democrats.

Daniel Nichanian noted that Republicans were leading in the vote count for 220 seats, but only 207 had been called at the time, still leaving a lot of uncertainty.

Dozens of races still have yet to be called, as not all votes have been counted. A record-high number of people voted early, at least 44 million, and more record numbers turned out to vote in person.

It might take weeks before we know who won each state, so until then, it’s still anybody’s game.

This piece was updated to better reflect Beard and Nichanian’s tweets.

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.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Guests cheer at a campaign rally for now Pennsylvania Governor-elect Josh Shapiro.

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.

All five states with abortion on the ballot—California, Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana—voted to increase access. These are not all blue states. The results also come after voters in typically conservative Kansas voted in August to keep abortion protections in the state constitution.

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.

Kenneth Mejia Called to Cut the Police Budget in Los Angeles—and He Won

The new Los Angeles city controller highlighted the outsize police budget in a series of giant billboards across the city.

Christina House/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Kenneth Mejia was elected Los Angeles city controller by putting the city’s police budget on blast—and on a billboard for all to see.

Mejia was elected Los Angeles’ top financial officer with 60.8 percent of the vote, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. His opponent, Paul Koretz, trailed far behind with 39.2 percent.

The 32-year-old Mejia ran on issues including affordable housing, decreasing the police budget, and financial transparency from the city government. His campaign outreach included engaging with younger voters on social media platforms such as TikTok.

But his biggest coup was paying for a series of billboards throughout the city displaying a breakdown of the L.A. budget. The police budget was by far the largest.

Mejia, who is Filipino American, grew up in the Los Angeles area. He worked as a certified public accountant and as a community activist, particularly on issues of affordable housing. The Los Angeles Times endorsed him for city controller both during the primaries in June and in early October, ahead of Election Day.

“WE DID IT!” Mejia tweeted Tuesday night, listing off the number of ways his win is historic, including being the first Filipino elected official in L.A. and the first person of color elected to the city controller’s office in more than a century.

Read more about Mejia at the Los Angeles Times.

Wisconsin Democrats Save Governor Evers’s Veto Power

Evers has vetoed Republican bills nearly 150 times in the past. Republicans weren’t able to get a supermajority in the legislature to override him.

Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has been reelected—and thanks to Democratic victories in the state legislature, he’ll have some power against Republicans’ agenda.

Evers beat Republican Trump-backed challenger Tim Michels 51.2 percent to 47.8 percent, with 99 percent reporting. Michels, a millionaire construction executive backed by former President Donald Trump, supported a state-level abortion ban only with exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Opposed to same-sex marriage, Michels also questioned the integrity of the 2020 election.

At the same time, state Democrats were able to stave off Republican supermajorities in the state legislature. Republicans are still projected to win control of the legislature, but the news means that they won’t have a veto-proof majority.

Since coming into office, Evers has vetoed a whopping 146 bills sent to his desk by the Republican-controlled state legislature. A majority of these, 126 vetoes to be precise, took place since January 2021. These included bills that sought to restrict voting access, ban vaccine mandates, limit schools’ ability to teach students about racism and sexism, cut unemployment and Medicaid benefits, and much more.

Had state Republicans secured two-thirds supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, Evers would have had far less power to stop such bills, many of which may resurface in the coming year. As it stands, state Republicans, who benefit from one of the nation’s most heavily gerrymandered maps, will fall short.

The state GOP had drawn these gerrymandered maps in 2011—once they regained trifecta control in the state. And Republicans have never looked back, holding their grip on a state that just re-elected a Democratic governor, and elected Biden in 2020 and Obama in 2012.

For now, Democrats still have an able defender in Evers, who can stave off Republican attacks on the government’s ability to do anything for its people.

More on the Election

Four States Vote to Ban Prison Labor and the “Slavery Loophole”

Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont will all change their state constitution.

J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday/Getty Images

Four states voted to ban slavery on Election Day, closing a loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment that allows for draconian prison labor practices.

The Thirteenth Amendment bans slavery or involuntary servitude, except when used as punishment for a crime. About 800,000 prisoners across the United States are forced to work, often in cruel conditions and for little or no pay.

Tennessee, Vermont, and Oregon all passed amendments to their state constitutions Tuesday eliminating language that allows slavery as punishment in prisons, by 79.7 percent, 89.2 percent, and 54.3 percent of the vote in each state, respectively, according to The New York Times.

In Alabama, 76.6 percent of residents voted to recompile the state constitution, which will remove racist language and legally irrelevant provisions, including prison labor. The referendums do not automatically change the state of prison labor, but they do make it easier for legal challenges over the treatment of prisoners.

Unfortunately, in Louisiana, 60.9 percent of state residents voted to keep the language allowing slavery as punishment for inmates.

The U.S. prison system has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Black people are disproportionately imprisoned, according to the ACLU.

Prison workers produce about $2 billion worth of goods per year, and more than $9 billion in services annually, the ACLU found in a report. California has long used inmates as firefighters, some of whom are sent out with insufficient equipment.

These workers are paid an average of 52 cents per hour nationally—seven states pay them nothing at all—but they don’t get to keep all of the money they do make.

They end up pocketing less than half of what they earn after deductions are made for taxes, room and board fees for the prison where they are locked up, and other costs.

Any inmates who refuse to work are often punished, University of California, Los Angeles law professor Sharon Dolovitch and Stony Brook University associate history professor Robert Chase told The Washington Post, such as with solitary confinement or the removal of sentence reductions for good behavior.

Colorado was the first state to close the loophole in 2018, followed by Nebraska and Utah in 2020.

More Ballot Initiatives This Election:

A Running List of Every Major Trump-Endorsed Candidate Who Lost The Election

Former President Donald Trump supported a lot of candidates who lost, often in races Republicans were expected to win.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hours before the midterm election polls were set to close, former President Donald Trump said that if Republicans do well, he should “get all the credit”—but if they lose, he “should not be blamed at all.”

Maybe Trump knew what was coming. Because what some saw as a forthcoming red wave turned out to be a ripple, at best. And many of the candidates Trump personally endorsed lost the election, a lot of them in races Republicans were expecting to win.

Here is a running list of every major Trump-endorsed candidate who lost the election:


  • Kelly Tshibaka, Alaska
  • Blake Masters, Arizona
  • Leora Levy, Connecticut
  • Herschel Walker, Georgia
  • Adam Laxalt, Nevada
  • Don Bolduc, New Hampshire
  • Mehmet Oz, Pennsylvania
  • Gerald Malloy, Vermont


  • Sarah Palin, Alaska’s At-large District
  • Kelly Cooper, Arizona’s 4th district
  • John Gibbs, Michigan’s 3rd district
  • Karoline Leavitt, New Hampshire’s 1st district
  • Robert Burns, New Hampshire’s 2nd district
  • Sandy Smith, North Carolina’s 1st district
  • Bo Hines, North Carolina’s 13th district
  • Jim Bognet, Pennsylvania’s 8th district
  • Steve Chabot, Ohio’s 1st district
  • J.R. Majewski, Ohio’s 9th district
  • Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, Ohio’s 13th district
  • Yesli Vega, Virginia’s 7th district
  • Joe Kent, Washington’s 3rd District


  • Kari Lake, Arizona
  • Darren Bailey, Illinois
  • Derek Schmidt, Kansas
  • Dan Cox, Maryland
  • Geoff Diehl, Massachusetts
  • Tudor Dixon, Michigan
  • Scott Jensen, Minnesota
  • Mark Ronchetti, New Mexico
  • Lee Zeldin, New York
  • Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania
  • Tim Michels, Wisconsin

Secretary of State

  • Mark Finchem, Arizona
  • Kristina Karamo, Michigan
  • Kim Crockett, Minnesota
  • Jim Marchant, Nevada

Attorney General

  • Matthew DePerno, Michigan

This piece was last updated on December 7.