Did We Just Fix Democracy?
As we approach the end of 2022, I’ve asked a few people whose words and wisdom I deeply respect to share what’s been on their minds. Here is the electoral reform advocate and former New York City Council candidate David Gold with his thoughts on the meaning of the midterms.
Did a more assertive electorate find itself this year — one capable of making the structural changes our system needs?
Democracy was on the ballot, we’ve been told, and it was. 2022 was the year when most Republican candidates for local, state, and federal office openly supported a plot to subvert a presidential election and the will of the American people — and the American people pushed back. Candidates who claimed Trump was the rightful winner in 2020 lost more than three-quarters of their races in competitive states and districts and underperformed around the nation.
Voters’ push-back came despite scant encouragement from our major political parties. No surprise there as to the Republican Party, whose leaders have spent seven years (at least) abetting authoritarianism. But what was with the Dems? With their party in the White House and inflation at a four-decade high, they were straining against a powerful midterm tide. Brazen Republican treachery offered them a lifeline.
Democratic leaders, though, hesitated to take hold of it, hardly mentioning democracy in ads and speeches. Apparently they thought the American people — even Americans who vote in a midterm election — don’t care about voting or whether votes should determine who governs. Where they got this idea is unclear, since polls showed that people did care. Some polls found the state of our democracy to be the single most important issue to supporters of Democratic candidates, and important to Republicans, too. Yet Democrats were nearly silent about it until, less than a week before Election Day, Biden finally made a prime-time declaration of what was by then long obvious: democracy was “on the ballot.”
The most generous explanation for their reticence might be that, in the long experience of politicians, people vote based on issues that affect their lives directly — money, crime, education, healthcare. Shouldn’t these politicians have…