Looking for the Bright Side
Published November 13, 2022 / Updated November 17, 2022

Looking for the Bright Side

While the red wave came for my home state of Florida, it mostly stopped there, and we saw wins across the country of which we can all be proud.

by Susan E. Stutz

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Animation of a bill progressing through Congress

POLITICO Illustration by Matt Wuerker

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best
- Monty Python

I live in Florida and when election day 2022 came to a close, I worried about finding a way forward as a political activist in the red peninsula that is my home state. My goal became finding the little nuggets of victory from across the country that I could hold on to so that the results here would not feel quite so tragic and overwhelming.

As a rule, there are two things that do not happen here in Florida: democracy and winter. Or, so it seems at times. We have a Governor whose campaign slogan was “keep Florida free” as he actively took away a woman’s right to abortion and a family’s right to make medical decisions with their transgender children who want their outside to match their inside. The Sunshine State is also where Mom’s for Liberty, with the full support of the governor, is working to ban more than 250 books including those that would engender a discussion regarding race and its impact on our everyday lives and that have LGBTQ themes. Adding insult to injury, November 8, 2022, brought to an end Florida’s time as a swing state as we became what feels like an insurmountably deeper shade of red.

I will not say good things come to those that wait. Or, that democracy is a marathon, not a sprint. We have been waiting and running full out for more than 6 years–many of us have been fighting the good fight for many decades. I will, however, say this: the anticipated national red tide was a spotting, a trickle, a pink drip at best. And, while my own home state of Florida remained red, and may have become an even deeper shade of red than before, there were wins across the country of which we can all be proud.

Dr. Oz lost. Nuff’ said.

In 30 of our 50 states, election-denying candidates ran for various offices including Secretary of State with most having found rejection at the polls. Had they won, they would have had the ability to manipulate future election results. With election deniers at the helm, we could be looking at another Trump administration with little if any regard for the actual winner and no hope of fair elections in the future. And, there is little doubt that was their aim. For those individuals who do not share our values, gone are the days in which candidates ran and won on merit or because they were qualified to serve. For many, merit, ethics, and experience are of no concern as those lacking any of the necessary traits of leadership challenged incumbents and other more qualified candidates. Some of those races also had an ill effect on those down the ballot as voters of both parties made clear that conspiracy theorists are not welcome.

January 6th insurrectionists—57 individuals who played some role in the attack on the capitol—also ran for office, including those who face criminal charges for their actions. Thankfully, they too received a resounding “No thank you!” from voters. Intimidation efforts like those in Arizona were met with a rebuke by law enforcement and the federal courts. Candidates like Kristina Karamo from Michigan claimed election fraud and tried in vain to have the court stop absentee ballot counting in the days ahead of the election. Her lawsuit, however, went the way of the 65+ lawsuits filed by Trump lawyers in 2020 as it was rebuffed by a court that made swift work of her baseless allegations.

And, significantly, anti-abortion efforts were soundly rejected in several states that proposed to put even greater barriers before their constituents' right to the governance of their own bodies. CA, VT, and MI successfully proposed to amend their constitutions to insure a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. KY and MT met with failure as they tried to remove the right to abortion altogether and to criminalize physicians and others involved in the process. From NV came one of the biggest wins of all: the passage of "the most comprehensive state version of the Equal Rights Amendment in the nation."

Four days after the election, the best news of all came out. Despite the House still being up for grabs, the battle for the Senate came to an end. With the final call in NV for Catherine Cortez Masto as the winner, a Democratic Senate was confirmed and VP Harris will continue her role as tie-breaker. Even better, should Georgia’s Warnock prevail in next month’s run-off election, a tiebreaker will not be necessary. How is this a win for democracy, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

Remember SchoolHouse Rock? Sing it with me now - “I’m just a bill...and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill!” Although the process is a bit more complicated than the cartoon of our youth suggests, the fundamentals remain. In order for any piece of legislation to make it to the Executive’s desk, it must get approval from both the House and the Senate. Without both arms of the legislative branch, nothing can prevail. And, while that scenario has its own inherent challenges, the positive takeaway is that legislation that furthers the far right's attack on democracy does not become law. And, for some who are looking for a positive nugget, it is enough. We take our wins where we can, and this is one of those moments.

Equally important–at least from this writer's perspective–is that federal judicial vacancies, of which there are 87 currently, will be filled by an executive and congress that is more in keeping with democratic values. Holding the Senate also means that if we lose a SCOTUS member before 2024, Biden will have the nomination. SCOTUS and federal bench appointments last a lifetime–literally–and have the potential to be the most impactful legacy of an administration. There are millions of cases filed each year in the state court system and upwards of 400,000 in the federal system. Each of those cases addresses a federal law or a constitutional provision. And, given that our rights are based upon the Constitution, those cases are of paramount importance to the American people as they can make new laws and break long-standing precedents. The Dobbs decision that overturned Roe is the poster child for how important these appointments can be.

So, while it feels as though some of our states have turned their back on democracy and genuine representation of their constituents, there was a lot of good news to be had from election day 2022. And, we will take those wins where we can and continue to work towards a more perfect union. There will be new faces and old alike in Congress this coming term, and new opportunities to lobby our legislators on a wide breadth of issues.

If you have something to say, whether that is lobbying for a particular outcome or just saying thank you, Resistbot is here to bridge the gap between you and the Hill. Check out our petitions page and see what members of the Resistbot community have to say.

Thank you Elena!

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