Smile Politely

Takeaways from the 2022 midterm elections

In the weeks leading up to the election, several pundits and media outlets speculated that the midterm elections could be a “red tsunami” in the wake of inflation and bleak approval numbers for President Biden. While Illinois is a reliably blue state, we are not immune to the political divisions experienced across the country. For reference, Champaign-Urbana is surrounded by small towns chock full of Trump flags and anti-semitic signage imploring voters to “Blitz Pritzker.”

Thankfully, the “red tsunami” was more like a “red trickle.” On the federal-level Democrats will retain control of the Senate and only lose a little ground in the House. Frankly, in the historical context of midterm elections, this is practically an endorsement of Biden’s performance. Or at least a mild rebuke of Trumpism. Locally, it seems that Democrats are going to hold on to key county positions and even increase their presence on the Champaign County Board.

While it’s still too early to call all the races, some key takeaways are worth our attention. For race-by-race results, please follow our 2022 election results page or, even better, track the results on the Champaign County Clerk page

Young people came out to vote

According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, it is estimated that 27% of young voters (18-29) cast a ballot in this election. In key battleground states, the percentage was even higher at 31%. In our own community, though the final demographic data has not been released, the lines for voting on the University of Illinois campus were especially long this cycle. This is the highest turnout by young voters in three decades, and a good thing for the Democrats since young voters overwhelmingly vote blue. Imagine what could happen if we got the other approximately 70% to participate in elections. 

There is some speculation that one reason the media got their election predictions so wrong is that much of the pre-election polling doesn’t take into account the communication preferences of younger generations. Of course, it might also just be a case of Fox News’ delusional blowhards hoping that if they repeat a lie often enough, it will become the truth. Most media outlets could stand to do a little bit of soul-searching about how damaging their incessant quest for outrage, clickbait, and ratings is to democracy and truth. 

No runaway victories

Apart from JB Pritzker being announced as the winner of the gubernatorial election just nine minutes after the polls closed, there were no real runaway Democratic victories in this election cycle. This is troubling given that new districting maps in Illinois were created by a Democratic majority last year. As happy as we were to finally toss aside our “Unseat Rodney Davis” car magnets when he got moved to District 15, we are dismayed that Mary “Hitler Was Right on One Thing” Miller was elected to the House of Representatives this cycle. It’s worse because she won 71.4% of the votes in her district. Meanwhile, Nikki Budzinski won against election denier Regan Deering with just 55.9% of the votes. This should not have been such a close contest.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, it is so easy to vote in Champaign County that you really have no excuse not to. While it would be great if progressives would stop trying to appeal to a moderate base as a strategy, we can’t let the quest for perfection stand in the way of voting against problematic candidates. These candidates want to restrict the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community, impede access to voting, and ignore common sense solutions to gun violence, for example.

Democrats will maintain county leadership

Hand wringing about lack of civic participation and close calls aside, if the results hold, Democrats will have a 16-6 majority over Republicans on the County Board. As much as everyone focuses on federal elections, local governance bodies like the County Board have a far more immediate impact on citizens’ daily lives in a given community. County boards enact ordinances and resolutions, and administer the activities of county departments and offices. 

The county board is also responsible for the county budget. It will be making decisions on how to best use funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The Democratic majority has indicated their intentions to fund gun violence prevention initiatives as well as water projects throughout the county.

Champaign County Clerk and Recorder Aaron Ammons won re-election, despite Republican attempts to discredit his staff in the eleventh hour. This was an important win, as the Republican challenger was an election denier.

Democrats held onto the Illinois Supreme Court

Judge Elizabeth Rochford handily defeated Mark Curran, and Justice Mary K. O’Brien defeated Justice Michael Burke giving Democrats a 5-2 majority in the Illinois Supreme Court. With issues like abortion rights, book challenges, and LGTBQ+ rights, among others, hanging in the balance, maintaining control of the Supreme Court is extremely important.

We’re relieved the red wave was underwhelming and glad that we saw more engagement among young voters. But we still have a long way to go if we want to see more progressive politicians elected to office on all levels. And so, we end with our semi-annual entreaty to get involved in local politics by voting, by advocating with your representatives, and maybe even by running for office yourself. 

We can’t make our community a better place if we don’t fight for what we believe in. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Trude Namara, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker. 

Top image by Daisy  Alvarez.

More Articles