Commentary: The red wave did not happen

America still divided

Although some close elections around the country are weeks away from being decided, the general results are clear: National government will be gridlocked, with the Republicans holding a bare majority in the House of Representatives. But the red wave did not happen.

In Illinois, the Democrats remained in firm control.
2022 was the most expensive non-presidential election in American history, with $17 billion being spent. In Illinois, the most contested House of Representative elections cost $6-$9 million each, and statewide races much more.

The turnout in 2022 was greater than in 2018 with more than 50% of the voters casting ballots.

The bad news is that the country remains highly divided and polarization continues to be high. 

Even though the elimination of precincts and changing precinct voting locations created long lines and confusion at the polls here in Chicago, voters voted early in person, by mail, and at their new polling places.

In the 2020 election, Democrats and Republicans divide the Senate 50-50. With Kamala Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote the Democrats have had majority control. Election Day and Election night will turn into Election Week as the votes are counted in key states too close to call in Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Once again Georgia is going to a runoff election which won’t be decided until December. Here, Tammy Duckworth won an overwhelming victory and was reelected Illinois Senator.

It appears that Republicans won enough seats barely to take back control of the House of Representatives, which means there will be divided government in Washington for the next two years and it will be difficult to pass any major new legislation.

Before this election, the Illinois delegation in the House of Representatives was divided: 13 Democrats, 5 Republicans. Illinois lost one seat in the 2020 census and the new balance in the Illinois delegation will probably be 13-4 with the Democrats winning. Sean Casten won in the new 6th, Brad Schneider in the 10th, Bill Foster in the 11th and Lauren Underwood in the 14th. Two seats are still too close to call, but the Democrats continued their control in the suburbs.

In the state legislature in 2020, Democrats won veto-proof majorities of 43-38 in the state Senate and 73-45 in the Illinois House. Those numbers will be little changed. So, the Democrats will continue to control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

The Democrats also won all statewide elective offices handily. The polls showed about a 10-point lead going into the election and that is similar to the final results. The governor’s race was, of course, most important. Darren Bailey painted JB Pritzker as soft on crime and unable to control state spending. Pritzker painted Bailey as an extremist with the support of Donald Trump and against the right of women to choose an abortion.

In past elections, judges were reelected or retained despite unanimous recommendations from the bar association in 2012 that some judges should be defeated. No justices, no matter how incompetent, were voted out in 2022. In the Illinois Supreme Court race, the Democrats won and will hold a 4-3 or a 5-2 majority on the court.

A constitutional amendment for the “Right to Work” won a majority vote but whether it passed by the required 60% is still in doubt. But a referendum for additional funding for the Cook County Forest Preserves did pass.

Overall, these are the main takeaways of the election.

Divided, polarized, gridlocked government will dominate in national government.

The Democrats will continue to control government in Illinois.

More citizens voted than in recent previous midterm elections, but they remain severely divided on issues and candidates. There is not a clear consensus going forward.

The red wave of Republican victories did not occur nationally and the blue line of Democrats held in Illinois.

Here in Chicago, however, elections are just getting underway. The critical mayoral and aldermanic elections are February and April. Petitions to get on the ballot are due Nov. 30. As many as 10 candidates will run for mayor and more than 250 for aldermen in the 50 newly gerrymandered wards.

The future direction of Chicago is still to be determined.

Dick Simpson is professor emeritus and former chairman of the University of Illinois at Chicago Political Science Department. (Illustration: Dall-E.)

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