Two Takeaways from the Recent Midterm Elections that Every American Should Understand

The very good news from the recent midterm elections is that our democracy survived to fight another day. There were no significant interruptions to voting around the country and no loud cries of voter fraud. However, 70% of the people in this country believe our democracy is broken, and they are right.

The authoritarian anti-democracy movement, led by the previous president, is still alive and eager to strike back with stronger candidates for office. They currently have sufficient power to block the reforms we so drastically need around the environment, the economy, gun violence, escalating inequality, immigration, women’s rights, and voting rights. We must have a functioning democracy to address these very serious and difficult issues, and we won’t get it if we keep electing people who oppose democracy and have no desire to solve these problems.

The second very important takeaway is the negative impact the media has on our democracy. Most evident is the effect that negative political TV advertisements have on us, on those running for office, and on the very lifeblood of our democracy. These negative ads brainwash us into thinking all the candidates are corrupt and bad, so why should we vote. The ads lie and provide inaccurate portrayals of those running for office. They try to convince us why not to vote for someone, rather than help us learn why we should vote for someone. We need good information to decide who to vote for and we don’t get it, particularly from negative political ads.

And it’s not just political ads that are a problem. Our news media is very quick to jump at problems — inflation, mass shootings, dramatic weather events — but does not take the extra minute or two to explain what’s behind these events, what’s causing them, and what needs to be done to address them. Instead we are fed a barrage of very short snippets that zip from the war in Ukraine, to the latest snowstorm, to the lack of availability of Taylor Swift concert tickets. It’s ridiculous. We are left feeling numb and helpless. We lose hope and any motivation to make things better.

To have a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people, we need to know what is happening in the country and why. We need to be able to put multiple similar events into a useful context that can be readily understood. We need to know that people are working on these issues and how we can help if we wish. We need to understand where our candidates for office stand on the important issues we care about, and we need to be encouraged to vote. Is that too much to ask?

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Fred Van Deusen

Computer Scientist, Researcher, Systems Thinker and Leader of Reclaim Our Democracy group: reclaimourdemocracy.org