Significance of U.S. Midterm Election Results
People Take Initiatives and Also Remain Angry and Dissatisfied
Antiwar protest in
Minneapolis, MN, October 15, 2022.
A main result of the midterm elections in the United States is that people across the country remain angry and dissatisfied with where the country is headed. The midterms did nothing to provide hope or unifying solutions or a sense of change that favours the people.
The undemocratic nature of the midterm elections was also evident in the turnout of 47 per cent, less than half the population voting yet said to be a "high" turnout. Those elected commonly received 25-30 per cent of the eligible vote. It is especially evident when the vote count was very close, as many were for the midterms, sometimes with a difference of only one to three percentage points.
A CNN exit poll, for example, showed 73 per cent of voters remain dissatisfied with "the way things are going" in the country, with 34 per cent of those angry. That level of anger and dissatisfaction is also likely representative of the 53 per cent of the voting age population that did not vote. The exit poll is also consistent with other polls showing a large majority dissatisfied with the direction in which the country is headed. They need and want a pro-social direction, not the current pro-war anti-people direction.
Numerous strikes and struggles by the people in this same period also indicate the drive for a new direction. This includes strikes by workers at 111 Starbucks stores on Red Cup Day, one of Starbucks' busiest days. Like health care workers, teachers, and many others, they are striking for improved wages and increased staffing and demanding that Starbucks bargain with their union, Starbucks Workers United. Railway workers are also on the verge of striking December 6, as four of the main unions have rejected contract proposals that do not meet their demands for safe working conditions, including safe scheduling and paid sick days.
Starbucks workers in Kansas
city (top) and New York, two of 111 strikes on Red Cup Day, November 17, 2022.
More than 60 antiwar demonstrations took place in cities across the country in October, including demands to stop funding war and fund the programs which provide for the people. Nurses have also been organizing and striking for safe working conditions, increased staffing, and a federal standard necessary to meet the needs of nurses, staff, patients and their communities.
A further indication of the direction people are striving for is seen in the results of various ballot questions in the states. Getting issues on the ballot requires organization and persistence. Petition requirements are difficult and vary from state to state. The undemocratic nature of the current system means only 26 states allow for ballot questions. Many state legislatures have ensured that their state does not permit ballot questions. Others ensure they are not binding, and only eighteen allow for changes to the state constitution through ballot questions or referenda.
Between 1996 and 2022 there have been 28 minimum wage increase initiatives on state ballots, 26 of which passed. This year, in Illinois, people voted to amend the state constitution to guarantee that workers have a right to organize and bargain collectively, a clear rejection of anti-union organizing, such as by Amazon and other monopolies. Nebraskans voted to raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour by 2026 and to raise it each year based on inflation rates. Many workers fought for the increase, including about 20 per cent of state workers.
Nevadans voted to extend an increase in the minimum wage from $10.50 to $12 an hour to nearly all workers. The existing tiered minimum wage system that penalized workers at companies that offer health insurance will also be eliminated. Voters in Washington, DC overwhelmingly voted to triple the minimum wage for tipped workers from $5.35 to $16.10 an hour by 2027, bringing them on par with other workers. In the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, 82 per cent voted to raise the local minimum wage to $19 an hour by next year, one of the highest in the country.
The federal minimum wage remains at the below poverty-level of $7.25. Current poverty level annual income for a family of four is $27,750. Given increases in rents and utilities, it is estimated that $25 an hour is needed for a family of four just to pay for a modest one to two bedroom apartment. That is the minimum wage being demanded by workers across the country.
The anger with the vicious attack on women by the Supreme Court, with its recent ruling against women's health care and abortion rights, meant people in several states organized to put the issue on the ballot. These efforts follow the defeat of an anti-abortion amendment in Kansas in August.
Exit polls indicated that about 60 per cent of midterm voters stand for having abortion legal. In Kentucky, with some of the most restrictive laws, an anti-abortion amendment was defeated. Doing so clears a path for abortion access to be restored in the state. In Michigan, voters approved a ballot initiative that will put the right to abortion in the state constitution -- preventing a 1931 abortion ban from taking effect. California and Vermont also approved amendments to their state constitutions that will protect abortion rights.
For other states, like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona, the Governors elected are likely to veto potential anti-abortion legislation. Arizona, for example, is trying to bring back a 1901 law to ban abortions. Governors can veto legislation and overriding a veto requires a 2/3 majority vote of the state legislature.
Women across the country have been leading the fight for the recognition of the right to health care for all, including the specific rights of women to be provided with all they need to give birth to and nurture the next generation. Women, their daughters, and granddaughters, given their experience of being considered things to be disposed of, even killed, based on government actions, are rejecting the existing democracy of the rich and looking to and working on building alternatives.
Antiwar protest in Washington, DC, during day of action for climate justice, November 12, 2022.
Voice of Revolution is a publication of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization.
This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 48 - November 23, 2022