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Commentary: reflections on Missouri's election results

When we went on the air Tuesday night on KBIA to cover the election I said the big story is on which end of the continuum will Democrats fall: Democratic Miracle or Democratic Disaster? We have at least partial answers.

Locally, Democrats did quite well. Kip Kendrick led the ticket with a convincing win for Boone Co. presiding commissioner and every other county office was won by a Democrat. After redistricting the 47th and 50th state legislative districts became more Democratic and were indeed won by Democrats Adrian Plank and Doug Mann respectively.

Statewide Democrats continue to struggle. Trudy Busch-Valentine lost the U.S. Senate race by thirteen points. Combined with the Republican win for auditor, that leaves Democrats without a statewide office for the first time in Missouri history. They picked up a few state house seats but remain a super-minority in both chambers of the state legislature.

Perhaps Missouri Democrats should study Kendrick’s textbook campaign for tips on how to compete outside of St. Louis and Kansas City. Or they can take advantage of Missouri’s new recreational marijuana law and just relax. Or both. But I digress.

Nationally Democrats are approaching a miracle. As I record this commentary they have won the tight Senate races in Arizona and Nevada and will control the Senate in 2023 regardless of the outcome of the Georgia runoff. They have held onto all but one of the contested governorships and picked up three. They have clawed back several state legislative chambers and have begun to rebuild the so-called Blue Wall in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that collapsed so disastrously in 2016.

But the most amazing result is the U.S. House. Some predictions had Republicans picking up thirty seats – all they needed was five. As I speak neither party has won enough seats to control the House. If Republicans do get their 218, it will be entirely a result of partisan gerrymandering.

How did this happen? I call it DAQL – pronounced “dackle,” if we must. D is for Democracy. Enough voters were convinced that American democracy was sufficiently imperiled that they voted against Republicans who appeared to represent that threat.

A is for Abortion. The Dobbs decision in the summer had a measurable impact on how women and young people voted.

Q is for Quality, as in quality of candidates. A number of weak Trump-endorsed candidates lost narrowly in several key Senate and governor races. About this Trump said, and I quote: “If they win I should get all the credit. If they lose I should not be blamed at all.”

And L is for Luck. Trump caught lightning in a bottle in 2016. Democrats did in 2022. There’s no accounting for luck.

In the summer of 2016 the documentarian Michael Moore famously predicted that, against all odds, Trump would win. Earlier this year he predicted Democrats, against all odds, would win in 2022. Whatever you think of Michael Moore, you should pay attention to him when you bet on election outcomes. And Missouri Democrats might learn a thing or two from him about blue collar voters.

Dr. Terry Smith is a Political Science Professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.