Being a political junkie -- someone who has loved to follow politics since my childhood -- I feel like my immersion in the United States midterm election that happened last Tuesday, and whose votes are still being counted, should enable me to draw some philosophical conclusions from what happened.
Well, at least I'll give that a try.
The gist of what happened, for those who don't live in the United States and/or don't follow American politics closely, is that the widely predicted Republican "Red Wave" turned out to be a Red Ripple, if even that.
Both the mainstream media and Republican leaders thought that Biden's unpopularity, combined with the historic losses that have afflicted the party of power in a midterm election (meaning, two years after a presidential election, which happens every four years), likely would propel Republicans into a clear majority in both the House and Senate.
But currently, three days after the election, Democrats are poised to maintain control of the Senate (results from Nevada should confirm that tomorrow) and control of the House is still up for grabs. At best, Republicans now are predicted to only have a 5-10 seat majority in the House, not dozens of seats as was widely thought before last Tuesday.
So why did the election turn out so differently from what was forecasted? The polls turned out to be fairly accurate in most cases. And Democrats had done well in some special elections prior to the midterms.
Thus data and facts were available that should have enabled the media and Republicans to be more realistic about the election. Indeed, some Democratic analysts correctly surmised that the election would turn out quite well for their party, which proved to be the case.
One reason that predictions didn't mesh well with the eventual reality is the same reason religious belief doesn't mesh well with reality: a longing for a pleasing narrative is prioritized over understanding how things really are.
Jesus saves. God has a plan for you. Notions like those provide a foundation for religions to construct stories that make their believers say Amen! when they hear them. The religious believers are destined to have wonderful things happen to them because that's what the narrative they embrace says.
Pretty much the same thing happened prior to the election.
Both the mainstream media and Republican leaders embraced a narrative that Biden was unpopular, inflation was high, voters didn't really care about abortion restrictions all that much, history was on the side of the party not in power during a midterm election, so Democrats were going to have a horrible election as Republicans triumphed.
Facts that didn't support that narrative were ignored or downplayed. So now the blame game has started as to why Republicans did much worse than expected and Democrats did much better.
The simple answer is that voters rejected the crazy conspiracy theories and right-wing extremism being pushed by many Republican candidates who won their primaries by spouting crazy conspiracy theories and right-wing extremism.
Along the way the Republican Party forgot that almost always an election can't be won just by appealing to the Republican base, their core supporters. A candidate has to reach out to independent voters and Democrats also. But Republicans had so much faith in their crazy ideas, they assumed that other voters would also.
Which turned out, not surprisingly, to be an incorrect assumption. Faith only works when someone accepts the tenets that accompany that faith. Otherwise faith just seems like crazy talk. Not being a Christian, I have no interest in Jesus saves or God has a plan for you.
Likewise, lots of American voters had no interest in the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, which became an article of faith for any Republican candidate who wanted Trump's endorsement -- as many did. So Trump became a sort of religious leader at the head of the Republican party. To disagree with Trump was to be an apostate, an infidel, an unbeliever, a skeptic.
And that meant political suicide in a Republican primary.
So many Republican candidates lost in the midterm election because they cozied up to Trump, their Dear Leader, instead of tuning in to what voters actually cared about: not that Trump lost the 202o election, but that American democracy was in danger by people who went along with the Big Lie that Biden won that election in a fraudulent fashion.
Moderate Republican candidates did quite well in the election. This is reassuring. Most voters in the United States want democracy strengthened, extreme political positions weakened, and elected officials to be caring, compassionate, and competent.
Three words that definitely don't describe Donald Trump. So Republicans paid the price of putting Trump into an exalted position as the head of the Republican Party who can't be questioned, and of embracing a political narrative that felt good, yet wasn't founded in reality.
Meaning, they acted like religious believers.