Waiting for the Electoral Dust to Settle

We’re one full week post-elections, and boy is there a lot to cover!

The biggest outcome from the past week is that Democrats will remain in the U.S. Senate Majority for the next two years, with the official number of Democratic seats to be determined by Georgia’s December 6 runoff election. The results for the House are still up in the air as of this morning with projections leaning toward a Republican House Majority, but likely with just a handful of seats. 

This year’s midterms bucked the historical trend where the serving administration’s party loses tens of seats in the House and Senate during midterm elections. In 2006, Republicans lost 30 House seats and 6 Senate seats; in 2010, Democrats lost 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats; in 2018, Republicans lost 40 House seats and gained 2 Senate seats (if these numbers interest you, check out this resource for data going as far back as FDR). 

Right now, it looks like Democrats will lose give-or-take 10 House seats and gain at least 1 Senate seat (with Georgia TBD). Check the Daily Yonder’s election results page for the most-up-to-date information. 

This nearly 50-50 House and Senate party split is fascinating, especially considering President Biden’s low approval rating and the pre-election polls that predicted a “red wave.” There are several reasons for this, but I’ll name the two I’ve seen referenced repeatedly: the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the January 6 insurrection soured Trump-backed and other far-right candidates in the minds of voters, and (some) Democrats are finally putting in the work to reach rural voters. 

One election outcome that exemplifies the weakening of far-right extremist candidates is the tight race between Lauren Boebert and Adam Frisch in Colorado’s largely rural Congressional District 3, a race that as of this morning is still too close to call. 

Boebert won in 2020 with messaging like “Hell no, you’re not [taking our AR-15s].” Two years later, it looks like some voters have grown tired enough of her rhetoric and Trump-loyalism to turn to Democrat Frisch, who’s fought hard for rural voters this election, according to the Colorado Sun. While it may not be enough to win him the election, the number of rural votes he did receive marks a departure from trends of recent years. 

More rural highlights for Democrats include John Fetterman, who won his Senate bid in Pennsylvania against Trump-backed Mehmet Oz. Fetterman’s strategy from the get-go was to campaign in every single rural county, which clearly paid off. Rural experts say Fetterman’s strategy is one other Democrats need to learn from, especially one key component of it: “embracing a working-class populist agenda.”

By and large, advancing working-class populist messaging in their campaigns is an area where Democrats have often stumbled. This is despite Democrats’ desire to clamp down on monopoly control over marketplaces and corporate greed that has predominantly hurt rural communities, where it’s harder and harder to be a small farmer, rancher, or business owner.

Democrats got lucky this year that more traditionally moderate voters questioned growing far-right extremism, which has led to issues like the deterioration of abortion rights and the dying promise of a peaceful transition after each election. If they want to keep this trend going, understanding how rural voters can be reached will be pivotal for Democrats in future elections. 

This, of course, will mean including diverse rural perspectives at the table – and listening to them – even when it’s not an election year.

Rural Reading List

Analysis: Democrats Have Issues that Rural Voters Love. Maybe They Should Talk About Them.

For additional analysis on the rural takeaways of this year’s midterms, read Bryce Oates and Jake Davis’s article on how Democrats can appeal to rural voters. 

Rural Gun Deaths Exceed Urban Rates by 28%

To understand gun death rates in rural America, take a look at this article from the Daily Yonder’s Sarah Melotte.

Animal Ag Workers Face Many Hazards With Few Protections

This is excellent coverage of how dangerous meat processing is for workers and how little protection they get from OSHA, the agency that’s supposed to protect laborers.

One More Thing: Ag Outlook

The midterm results have a big impact on agriculture policy. Whichever party holds the House and Senate (and, as we already know, Dems retain the latter) has a key role in drafting legislation and running negotiations and hearings related to agriculture. Here’s what we know so far, based on the results we have as of this morning: 

With a Democratic Majority, the Senate Ag Committee remains in the hands of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). This likely means SNAP and farm support programs will be prioritized in next year’s farm bill, issues that Stabenow has said will be a top priority. 

On the other hand, the House Ag Committee’s leadership will likely switch to Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pennsylvania), if the House changes to a Republican majority. If this does happen, SNAP restrictions may move forward, based on priorities Thompson has previously voiced. Climate policy also likely won’t be prioritized by Republicans in the 2023 farm bill.  

Since Democrats did markedly well this year, with Republicans projected to take just a handful of House seats, farm bill decisions will spin out of mixed influence from both parties. This, arguably, is a good thing for rural America, although we can’t know for sure until the ball starts rolling on negotiations. If you’re curious about these developments, make sure to stay tuned to the Daily Yonder, and this newsletter.

All the best, KIR subscribers! Until next week.

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