The Midterms Were A Total Rejection of Bad Faith

The Midterms Were A Total Rejection of Bad Faith
Muh red wave! 

I would like to think the red wave that would have ushered post-democratic authoritarianism failed to swamp the United States because enough people saw through the right wing's bad faith, or, at the very least, finally internalized the irreversible harm the right could do to the republic if their bad faith continued to be mistaken for good faith.

Just let me think that, at least for a while. That's all I ask.

An election slate brimming with insurrectionists, their backers, and their sympathizers brazenly tried to seize the levers of power after spending the end of 2020 probing the republic for soft spots they could slice wide open. The American right learned what they had to control and how they had to control it during what was a carefully planned coup that would have effectively ended the American experiment, whatever that might be. When all else failed – when the bad faith pouring out of the Big Lie like blood from the Shining elevator didn't work – they dispatched their brainwashed, cosplay Punisher foot soldiers to murder their way to power on January 6.

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Republicans were not ashamed of this because they are incapable of experiencing shame. They wrote it off as a failed experiment and recruited candidates who would not recognize election results to run for critically important offices – governor, secretary of state, and of course the House of Representatives. Their coup would come through the states, not by hanging Democratic lawmakers outside the Capitol. Such a coup would be a peaceful one. National Republicans would shrug their shoulders in unison and say the states decided the next president; there was nothing they could do. The plan was well thought out and viable if the right could sweep into power in 2022 like they did in the 2010 midterms, which will one day be seen as the dawn of American fascism, when the Republican Party accepted it could no longer compete on anything resembling a level playing field, and that their regressive policies would never take hold unless states were warped into undemocratic monstrosities, like Wisconsin is today.

Every single secretary of state candidate in these midterms who talked openly about refusing to recognize a Democratic victory in the 2024 election lost to their Democratic opponents. Some of these fascists bragged to supporters that no Democrat would ever win their state again if they won in the midterms. The mask is off and these red-pilled ghouls couldn't be any fucking uglier.

All of these Big Lie candidates were operating in mind-numbing bad faith. Prominent Republicans have admitted no one actually believes the 2020 presidential contest was stolen from Big Daddy Trump. Of course they don't. Republican-controlled states conducted audit after audit of the 2020 results and found the tallies were perfectly accurate or, in some cases, that Joe Biden's votes were undercounted – a self own of monstrous proportions. But in order to follow through with an overthrow of the U.S. government – in order to do the coup – the American right had to pretend they believed Biden and an international cabal – the Jews, Black Lives Matter activists, the late Hugo Chavez, and Italy for some reason – carefully rigged the results and stole a second term from Big Daddy.

One thing to remember about the American right: Everything they say and do is projection. They wanted to steal the 2020 election so they accused Democrats of doing just that. It's a formula that's worked for generations. Many media outlets reported that these are Republicans' sincerely held beliefs, validating the policy prescription the right prefers. In this case, it was an overthrow of the government. Some Americans believe the nation should continue with free and fair elections; others disagree. It's the natural endpoint of bothsidesism and all the venom it has injected into the American political discourse.

It didn't work in 2020. Hence, the sacking of the Capitol and the pleas from right-wing lawmakers and cable pundits for Trump to declare martial law and use the military to put down protests against the Republican coup. They were flailing in the final hours before Trump was unseated, and they made no secret about never again allowing a Democrat to win the White House. It was enough to frighten even those who had pretended to be neutral on a moving train.

Voters Like Basic Human Rights

Democrats' shockingly successful midterm election starts and ends with a radicalized Supreme Court trashing fifty years of precedent by overturning Roe under the bad-faith guise that abortion – also known as healthcare – should be left up to state lawmakers. The bad-faith creation of an alternate reality of abortion care reached its limits, and Americans had had enough. Conservatives pretending abortion is dangerous (it's not), pretending folks regret having abortion (they don't), and pretending to care about babies (they don't) was enough to turn Roe into a husk of a law by the time the stolen Supreme Court ripped it out at the roots.

With a federally protected right to bodily autonomy stripped away by Supreme Court conservatives determined to role back rights for those they hate, voters across the US affirmed their support for abortion rights in referendum after referendum during Tuesday's midterm elections. Voters in Michigan and Kentucky turned out in droves to approve referendums that would keep abortion care legal (despite Kentucky officials' convoluted wording of the referendum designed to confuse voters into enshrining a total abortion ban into the state constitution).

Vermont voters, meanwhile, enshrined reproductive autonomy into its constitution in Tuesday's midterms. In Montana, voters roundly rejected an anti-abortion measure based on the well-worn, far-right myth that abortion is infanticide. California voters easily passed a proposition protecting a right to abortion care and contraception. Tennessee voters ended slavery in the state! Basic human rights, it turns out, is pretty popular among American voters.

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The radicalization of the American right finally, at long last, became clear to voters in the aftermath of Clarence Thomas and company overturning Roe. It had been terribly difficult over the past decade to explain the undemocratic nature of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression laws. Regressive policies via technocratic means is tough to translate for the electorate. But the swift destruction of a five-decade-old right to abortion was easy to see and easier to explain. Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most radical figure in U.S. history, was practically giddy about the prospect of a 6-3 right-wing majority also overturning marriage equality, a right to birth control, affirmative action, and a range of other basic rights marginalized groups have fought like hell to secure over the past century.

If there was ever a way to light a fire under the collective ass of young voters, it was precisely this: An out-of-control Supreme Court begging their political allies to push controversial cases before them so they could eviscerate any and all laws that made the US slightly more fair for folks of color, LGBTQ people, the poor, and anyone else they hate. Six far-right judges making policy from the bench and serving as a backstop against good public policy scared the shit out of young people, and rightfully so.

The Kids Are A Threat To Fascism

Shoutout to the zoomers, who continued blunting the right's advances for the third straight election cycle. Though the 2022 youth vote turnout wasn't quite as high as the 2018 numbers – which were the highest in three decades – the kids did not back down from the nation's ascendant fascist movement. In Pennsylvania, 70 percent of young folks voted for John Fetterman over his insane TV doctor opponent. Seven out of ten young voters backed Tony Evers in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. Without such a massive edge, Fetterman may have fallen to crazy Dr. Oz and Evers certainly would have lost to his insurrectionist opponent.

Overall, voters between 18-21 years old supported Democrats in these midterms by a 65-38 margin, a far cry from the near 50-50 split among young people in the 1990s and early 2000s. I don't think the zoomers have flocked to the Democratic Party because Democratic lawmakers are suddenly left wing or they enjoyed the Dark Brandon memes, but because Republicans have become an existential threat – a party that should not exist in a functional democratic republic. In other words, Republicans are finally scary enough to consistently push young people to the polls (although 40 percent of white voters between 18-21 are still, of course, voting Republican).

Being chronically online has helped me formulate a theory about young voters: Americans in their late teens and early 20s might be immune to the right wing's bad faith. They are not cursed with the learned helplessness of liberals who came of age in the 90s with Aaron Sorkin whispering sweet nothings about the glory of bipartisanship and an eternal compromise with evil. And the kids today are nothing like my generation of smug, detached pseudo-intellectuals who saw Barack Obama's election as the end of politics, the death knell of conservatism.

These kids are – dare I say – woke to the bad faith-good faith dichotomy of American politics, and they have rejected it completely.

Young voters aren't going to fall into the well-placed trap of bipartisanship. They are not going to engage the right wing in policy discussions because there is no point. Young people, by and large, are countering bad faith with no faith. There is no point in going back and forth with a political movement that does not believe what it claims to believe. No one really thinks tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy are going to magically benefit working class families. No one actually thinks climate change is a left-wing hoax. No one believes there is systemic voter fraud in the US. Yet the left, for years and years and years, has had to acknowledge this bad faith as good faith. Otherwise the game would not work. Young Americans, living through the dystopia of late capitalism and being left up to their necks in it, see through the right's games.

It's enough to give me a shred of hope for the future – a brand new sentiment at the Bad Faith Times. But don't think the power of the youth vote is going to be ignored by the radicalized right, which has made a sport of denying the vote to anyone who won't reliably support Republican candidates. There will be a concerted Republican effort – maybe next year, maybe in a few years, but soon – to make the voting age 21, if not older. Perhaps they'll strip young people of their voting rights state by state with the help of the Supreme Court charging it is a state's rights issue. Or they might wait to have control of both chambers of Congress, blow up the filibuster, and wipe millions of Democratic votes off the map. Whatever happens, Republicans will try to deny young voters a say in their future.

The kids, after all, are an existential threat to the fascist movement. For that I say thanks.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.