What should social workers take away from the midterm elections?

The flood of midterm election analysis from the U.S. pundit class will continue for some time, no doubt, shortly to overflow into full-body immersion in the whirlpool of 2024 presidential horserace speculation. Some analysis will surely offer useful insight; much more of it won’t be worth the digital newsprint on which it’s published.

Here are a handful of my own first social work-informed reflections on the third day post-election:

  1. Social workers and other progressives can breathe at least a shallow sigh of relief that the widely predicted “shellacking” of Democrats did not occur. MAGA-pumped, 2020 election-denying Republicans evidently tipped the crazy scale a bit too far to the hateful right, as Biden and the legion of Democratic candidates, aided by the megaphone offered by the “liberal” corporate media, sounded the alarm that “democracy itself” was on the ballot in this election cycle. So, yes, good news! The march toward American-style fascism has been at least temporarily stalled.
  2. Rejoicing over this “victory” should be sharply restrained, however. The immediate threat to what remains of our precious “democracy” may have been abated, but it is surely not eliminated. Republicans are still likely to win a majority in at least one chamber of Congress, if not both. Expecting the hard right wingers now dominating the party to be chastened by their substandard midterm showing is a vain hope. As they’ve promised, they will continue in full, aggressive obstructionist mode, with their focus fixed on winning the White House in 2024. So we can look to literally nothing in the way of progressive legislation emerging from national government over the next two years.
  3. At the same time, it seems clear that the American people are desperate for genuine and effective leadership intent on addressing the growing range of debilitating – if not downright catastrophic – social, economic, health and environmental problems plaguing the nation. To the extent that Republican talking points were rejected by the majority of the electorate, it is because they did not speak substantively to those problems. Yet the Democrats are not much better. If the Republicans offer a phony “populism,” the Democrats advance no genuine form of populism – i.e., a political/economic/social program that features justice and material improvement for the lives of real people, the “99%.”
  4. After one more election cycle, all the worst features of our very undemocratic democracy remain intact – the gerrymandered voting districts, the state-centric voter repression, the Senate filibuster and the gridlocked Congress, the rightwing politicized Supreme Court, the saturation of the electoral and legislative systems by largely unlimited corporate and “dark” money – features which will retain their villainous power in the absence of a sustained popular movement rejecting oligarchic domination and demanding structural reform. Is it really any wonder that the legitimacy of the system is in free fall?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s