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Why Did the Wave Become a Ripple?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Carolyn Kaster

If you woke up this morning wondering why the expected red wave of Republican victories had turned out to be but a ripple, you’re not alone. Many pundits expected that the Biden administration’s liberal overreach had gone too far, and the midterm elections would send a message that the Left had gone too far. At this point, chances are that we will continue to have a closely divided House and Senate. The House most likely will be Republican, with a less than expected majority. The Senate is likely to remain equally divided or with one party having but a 51 to 49 seat advantage. How can we explain these unexpected results? Some evidence is emerging.


Abortion may have been an unexpected factor. An extensive exit poll of over 17,000 voters by Edison Research found that the top two issues for Democrat voters were abortion and gun policy in that order. For Republicans, the top two were inflation and immigration. That means that the single biggest factor in the wave turning into ripple may have been the decision by the US Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade. Even though that decision returned the issue to the states, many voters felt that the decision had outlawed abortions. Abortion gave Democrats a wedge issue to drive for the midterms. Normally, the economy would take precedence, but for some concerned voters, the intrusion of government into a woman’s right to choose was too much to accept. It sent many to the polls who might otherwise have stayed home. They were susceptible to the fear that Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate might outlaw abortion nationally as some states were doing. Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure aimed at denying any constitutional protections for abortion, sending a message to Republican lawmakers who has already eroded access to the procedure in this deeply red state.

Big government pays off for far too many Americans. Far too many Americans either have government jobs or receive extensive government entitlement funds. A vote for Republicans puts their standard of living in jeopardy. We remain deeply divided as a country by party. Those voting for Democrats don’t want smaller government; they receive a lot of money from Democrats. It’s understandable in these challenging times. The pandemic has impacted the confidence of citizens. They’re seeing inflation impact their standard of living, and they look to government for relief. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 57% of U.S. households paid no federal income taxes for 2021, up substantially from the 44% before the pandemic. They have gotten used to free money from government, rent relief in tough times, and the promises of student debt relief. When you get more from government than you put in, you’re not sure you want a party in control that commits to ending the entitlements you depend on. 


It’s clear now that Donald Trump is toxic! His victory and first term as president helped set the stage for needed conservative policy changes; he showed that a president could deliver on his promises. But his abrasive comments and personal attacks clearly contributed to Republican midterm losses in this election. Trump’s 2020 loss to Biden was not because of his conservative positions. His campaign was focused on demeaning Biden. More than half of Americans hated him so much that they gave the presidency to what we now know is an age-impaired president. In this election, not all of the Trump-endorsed candidates won. He may have endorsed them, but he did not take from his large political war chest to help fund their campaigns. His negative comments about Gov. DeSantis did not hurt the governor, but they did hurt the party. Trump made a difference, but his time has passed if the GOP is to win the future.

Many conservatives laughed at the mainstream media’s concern that democracy was in jeopardy with a Republican victory. But unfortunately, most people get no exposure to conservative media. The mainstream media are in the pocket of the left and that limits most Americans from the knowledge they receive from a clearly biased source. Social media is not much better than mainstream media. Most people use Google to search for information. Google and many of the major social media powerhouses maintain a liberal bias in their search results.  


The lack of trust in election results can only grow. Both parties are already prepared to pursue fraud claims. We used to conduct elections in one day with marginal absentee ballots to be counted after that day. Now, we have extended days to vote and are given all the ballots we need to make cheating easier. With many votes are still left uncounted a day after the election, election denying is here to stay for both parties. When you can’t trust election results, America is in trouble no matter what party you support.

In short, we remain deeply divided as a country by party. The election of Senator-elect John Fetterman in Pennsylvania proves that voters don’t care whether their candidate is impaired. Americans clearly vote by party because they fear the other party. In all honesty, in today’s divided America, Republicans would probably do the same. Having power for your side is more important than the effectiveness of any one candidate.  

There is some good news for the GOP. The Republicans will likely have a slim margin of control in the House and winning a small majority in the Senate is still possible. Even if the GOP controls only the House, that will be enough to slow leftist policies and give them the power to bring to light investigations the Democrats have refused to even explore, including the Hunter Biden influence peddling. 


It’s also clear that Republicans can win if they have a strong candidate who can effectively articulate their values. President Trump proved that in 2020, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proved that with his twenty percent victory in Florida on Tuesday. If he desires, DeSantis has positioned himself well to run for the presidency in 2024. But for now, we are in for two more years of heated division.

Terry Paulson is PhD psychologist, author, and professional speaker on Earned Optimism, Making Change Work, Claiming Your American Dream, and Becoming a Conservative Values Voter. Contact him at


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