5 Takeaways from the November Election

By: Debbie Cox Bultan, CEO of NewDEAL

Now that the midterm elections are in the rear-view mirror, it’s clear that Democrats at every level of government outperformed expectations and defied historical trends. As the political environment turns toward 2024, and rising state and local leaders gather in Washington, DC this week to chart a path for the future, we must ask a central question — what are the lessons that can be drawn from this election? I see five clear takeaways:

Most importantly, voters rejected extremism and are looking for pragmatic leaders offering solutions to their very real challenges. Voters don’t want chaos candidates who reject democratic institutions. Instead, they want leaders who have a vision for the future and will work to build an economy that is fairer, more resilient, and that works for more people. Looking forward, Democrats have to do even more to demonstrate that we get it — wages must go up, the cost of living must come down, and we all need investments in safer communities. This is the path for the Democratic party to become America’s majority party.

Second, Democrats have to continue to build a record of accomplishment over the next two years. Given that we are returning to a divided government at the federal level, the opportunity to make a meaningful change will be at the state and local level. Here, there’s a chance to continue making progress –on broadband access, education, healthcare, climate, economic development, public safety, and so much more. This work is being led by mayors and city council members, state legislators, and county supervisors. The national party must lift up and highlight their impact, from the Texans who can newly access high-speed internet because of the investments by Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez to the impact of opening 1,000 new child care centers in Michigan and a new small business credit initiative spearheaded by Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine.

Third, voters in red states and blue states alike voted in favor of the freedom to choose and rejected extreme bans on abortion. In California, Vermont, and Michigan, people voted to enshrine the freedom to choose in their constitutions, and in Kentucky and Montana, they voted to reject extreme and harmful ballot measures. The Dobbs decision is not going away. The Democratic Party should continue to stand up for what’s right and make the case that as a moral and economic imperative, states must ensure the freedom to choose.

Fourth, we have to continue to fight for ways to defend democracy from extremists who would seek to dismantle our democratic institutions. The good news is that voters clearly rejected election deniers running for Secretary of State across the country. In Michigan, for instance, voters reelected Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and rejected election denier Kristina Karamo — and the same held true in Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont. But more work needs to be done, particularly when you consider that at least 80 Republicans who questioned the 2020 election results won seats in the U.S. House — cementing a sizable MAGA caucus. That’s why we have formed a Democracy Working Group of state and local leaders led by Secretary Benson, Ken Lawrence of Pennsylvania, and Sandra Juaregi of Nevada to deliver recommendations in early 2023 about what our nation needs to do to protect the integrity of our elections, make it easier to vote, and avoid permanent damage to our democracy.

And finally, we need to lift up a new generation of leaders. The Democratic party has a deep bench of incredibly talented elected officials. Some of these people have emerged on the national stage like Josh Shapiro and Mallory McMorrow. Others you will learn more about soon — such as Mayor Zeb Smathers of Canton, North Carolina, Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Virginia, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, and Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell. Up-and-coming leaders who are changing the face of our party must be featured in new and innovative ways.

Taken together, these are meaningful and achievable steps we can take to build on the success of this election and create momentum heading into 2024. We must internalize the lessons of this midterm and build an even stronger party capable of meeting the moment and delivering in 2024 and beyond.

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The NewDEAL

Network of 150 rising state and local officials — pro-growth progressives leading on solutions for the new economy & making government work. newdealleaders.org