Two Washington state Republican Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump over his part in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
One of those representatives was Jamie Herrera Beutler in the 3rd district (located in southwestern Washington near Portland). She was primaried by Trump-endorsed Republican Joe Kent who in turn was beaten by his Democratic challenger, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, in the general election by about 6% more votes.
Dan Newhouse from the 4th Congressional District (central Washington including Yakima and the Tri-cities) also voted to impeach Trump. He beat his Democratic opponent, Doug White, with over 67% of the vote on Nov. 8.
GOP Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington’s 5th Congressional District (located in the Spokane area) beat her Democratic opponent, Natasha Hill, by a 59.1% margin. This will be the 10th term for Rodgers.
Senator Patty Murray beat her Republican opponent, Tiffany Smiley, by 14%, allowing Murray to return for her sixth term.
Two-term U.S. Representative Kim Schrier won a third term against Matt Larkin by about six percent more votes.
What were the issues that decided these races? There are at least five generalizations we can make:
Usually, incumbents win reelection. The only exception in Washington was Jamie Herrera Beutler. The 3rd Congressional District is purple, and the axiom that a Trump MAGA candidate can win the primaries, which Kent did, but lose the general election, was clearly demonstrated in his loss. This generalization played itself out in major races, both state and national.
President Joe Biden’s emphasis on “save our democracy” played a big part in allowing the Democrats to continue control of the U.S. Senate. This too played out in Washington state.
It’s likely that Trump’s opposition to mask wearing, COVID-19 vaccinations for state employees, and social distancing killed off a large number of Republican supporters, those mainly over 55, who rebelled against Governor Inslee’s COVID mandates. They simply did not live to cast their votes on Nov. 8.
Biden’s $10,000-20,000 college-loan-debt-forgiveness executive order for those earning $125,000 per year or less played a large part in getting Generation Z voters out (those aged 18-29). Eight GOP states sued and successfully got a court injunction in Texas by a Trump-appointed judge to stop the order. This likely made Gen Z voters that much more likely to vote against Republicans. Consider this, a president offers to cut your debt by $10,000 to $20,000. Once the offer was made and then taken away, you would only resent the loss and blame Republicans. Biden and his team probably calculated that debt forgiveness would play well with Gen Z voters. Either way, blocked or not, it would be a win for Democratic candidates, and it proved to be.
The overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court had an enormous impact in bringing women out to vote nationwide. Since long-time Democratically-controlled Washington state already has a law protecting the woman’s right to an abortion, it was less of an issue here, but it undoubtedly played a big part in Kim Schrier’s House win and Patty Murray’s large Senate vote margin.
The overturn of Roe v. Wade was originally thought to be a major Republican victory, but for many conservative women, losing the ability to choose what you can do with your body overrode conservative women’s moral outrage at the murder of a fetus. Voting to maintain the amendment protecting abortions in conservative Kansas proves this assertion.
In June, I made a prediction based on a quote from author Bruce Bueno de Mesquita in his book, “The Dictator’s Handbook” :
“In democracies, politics is an arms race of ideas. Just as the democrat has to be responsive to the people when governing, when seeking office, it helps to propose policies that the voters like and it pays to do more (as opposed to less)—even if the economic consequences are damaging down the road.”
Democrats won the arms race of ideas. Biden instituted executive orders and Congressional Democrats passed legislation that provided money for parents with children, lowered drug costs, supported unions and passed a bi-partisan infrastructure bill. These acts split the MAGA vote. Biden worked to cut inflation on gas prices by selling U.S. oil reserves on the open market.
Autocratic and arrogant Republicans offered nothing that benefitted the average voter. No wonder Democrats fared much better than expected in the midterms. Republicans will either have to change their strategy or they will die. Generation Z is watching.