OPINION: The midterm elections were a red flag for the GOP, not a red wave

Voting stations like these were used to take ballots in the midterm elections. Photo by Adam Kaz on Unsplash.

Adam Kaz

Voting stations like these were used to take ballots in the midterm elections. Photo by Adam Kaz on Unsplash.

Grace Fridy

A red wave of Republican victories were expected to sweep the nation’s midterm elections on November 8th. However, the House and Senate races remained extremely tight, resulting in more of a red ripple. 

The Senate, which was Republican-led from 2015 to 2021, is now under Democratic control. Democrats hold 50 seats, while Republicans hold 49 seats, with one seat still up for grabs. In Georgia, incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and the controversial Herschel Walker (R) are competing in a runoff on Dec. 6. No matter the victor, the Senate will be held by the Democrats, as the Vice President will be the tie-breaker for split decisions. 

The House of Representatives is a different story, as it will be majority Republican. After the midterms, Democrats have 212 seats, while Republicans have 218. Midterm elections usually favor the party not in control of the Presidency, but considering how small the Republican majority is, this doesn’t seem to be the case. 

A Republican-led House will likely put an end to the January 6th Committee’s investigations into former President Donald Trump. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the future Speaker of the House, indicated that the House should investigate the telecom companies that have handed over phone records to the House committee, potentially derailing the judicial process. According to the Washington Post, these companies are allowed to provide Congress with phone records, making McCarthy’s declaration invalid. On top of that, McCarthy’s disregard towards the Jan. 6 Committee’s subpoena for him to testify demonstrates that investigations into former President Trump’s incitement of violence could be disregarded in the coming years. 

Despite this, the House will likely investigate President Biden and his son’s financial engagements as payback for the Jan. 6 investigations. The Jan. 6 Committee’s findings and reports, however, will be complete and convincing of former President Trump’s involvement in the January 6th insurrection. Whatever vendetta the House has planned will not change the extremist actions of the last presidential administration. 

Voters were acutely aware of these issues when they cast their ballots on Nov. 8. The Democrats may have lost some seats in the House, but they didn’t lose as many as expected due to the more extremist nature of the current Republican political landscape.

According to the PEW Research Center, 60% of Americans think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Republican candidates continue to advocate against abortion rights, which is likely causing voters to rethink their priorities. More extreme Republican views, such as those purported by former President Trump, could be a driving factor in the red ripple. These midterms can be taken as a warning sign that these extreme conservative values are not in the best interest of the GOP if they want to remain in power. 

In terms of local elections, similar points can be made on behalf of Kentucky. The failure of Amendment 2, which if passed would have cleared the way for anti-abortion legislation, is a sign that even red states like Kentucky are shifting away from letting conservative politicians control women’s bodily autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare. The landmark Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, set off a sweeping chain of abortion bans throughout the country, revitalizing the debate on whether or not women should be allowed to choose what to do with their potential children. 

Kentucky isn’t going to have a blue wave anytime soon, but the state has shown that it is not entirely sympathetic towards conservative values. 

For example, multiple judicial elections in Republican counties went to Democratic-leaning candidates, although judicial races are technically nonpartisan. In Franklin County, Judge Phillip Shepherd was challenged by a Republican-sponsored candidate due to his nonpartisan rulings, but withstood the challenge to retain his seat. Cases regarding the constitutionality of state legislation often end up in the Franklin County Circuit Court, and Shepherd has not always ruled in favor of the legislature. This has led to record-breaking fundraising raised against him by local conservatives. 

“I don’t view that as a partisan matter. We have a system of checks and balances. So, when the courts have to step in to correct an overreach of the legislature, or the executive branch, there’s going to be pushback,” Shepherd said. 

In the Kentucky State Senate, Democrats won one more seat, and in the House they lost six, mirroring nationwide election trends. The midterms did not dramatically lean towards the Democratic party in Kentucky, but the failure of Amendment 2 did reflect towards the nation leaning away from the far-right views of the Republican party. 

The Presidential election is looming ahead of the nation in 2024, and many voters are at a crossroads. The GOP has endorsed many pro-Trump candidates that support his oftentimes radical views, but voters have leaned more centrally since the former president’s ousting from the White House. The lack of a red wave in the midterms should be a wake-up call to the party, that voters are straying away from candidates like Donald Trump.