In A Post-Roe World, Midterm Elections Matter Even More


Biden’s approval rate is less than 40% as fears of inflation and gas prices rise. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Democrats are beginning to feel like there is a chance for an upcoming victory in the 2022 midterm elections. The past few months have been full of challenges for Democrats and uncertainty that they will be able to win over voters. The approval rating for President Joe Biden is below 40% with fears of inflation and rising gas prices. 

With new district maps in place, Republican candidates are currently in a strong position to win seven of the nine districts created since the 2020 election. Because Republicans only need a mere five victories to win the House majority, Democrats have been losing faith. Midterm wins for Republicans would be incredibly significant and give them the ability to stop Biden’s agenda from advancing. After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and identified the right to abortion as a state choice in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, Democrats have changed their midterm election strategy to reflect concerns over women’s reproductive rights. In the wake of these major shifts in policy and strategy, we must wonder: Do the Democrats have enough momentum to cinch a victory? It is possible. 

After the special House elections and primaries, Democrats have gained some momentous victories, often based on their pro-choice messaging during a controversial time in America surrounding reproductive rights. A keystone example was New York’s 19th district election, where underdog Pat Ryan was able to squeak out a victory against his opponent, republican Marc Molinaro. While Molinaro focused on the economy and inflation, Ryan’s messaging spoke on abortion rights. Ryan’s victory speaks to the shift in public opinion in the post-Roe world and shows the potential impact that the Dobbs decision could have on the upcoming election. 

This isn’t just happening in New York. Kansas voters, in a typically conservative state, strongly rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have allowed lawmakers to pass abortion bans. Americans are worried about their reproductive rights and want people in office that represent that same concern, both on the state and federal level. 

In Alaska, another Republican-leaning state that hasn’t voted blue since Lyndon B. Johnson more than 50 years ago, Mary Peltola beat Sarah Palin in their special election for a congressional seat by 3%. These flips are shocks for Republicans, who are leaning into extremism rather than real policy in their strategies for winning their midterms.

Many Republican candidates, such as Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor in Pennsylvania, were present at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and continue to say that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump.

Another troubling shift in the Republican Party and their candidates is the ties many of them have to white supremacy and other extremist groups. Carl Paladino, running for the House in New York, praised Hitler as “the kind of leader we need today” just last year. He has since apologized for this comment. Joe Kent, who beat the current Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has relationships with members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, both far-right organizations that have engaged in political violence. These associations with right-wing extremism are incredibly troubling for the direction of the party.

These election results show that there’s a clear disparity between the people in office and the public opinion surrounding abortion. While a majority of lawmakers have passed “trigger bans,” or created legislation for bans after Roe v. Wade was overturned, a majority of the American people believe that abortion should be legal. 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases according to the Pew Research Center. Yet, lawmakers continue to create legislation that has banned abortion for almost 50% of American women. These numbers don’t add up. 

Americans are growing continually frustrated with the Court and its decisions. 57% of adults disapproved or strongly disapproved of the Court’s sweeping decision in Dobbs, and plummeted the public opinion of the Court to its lowest percentage since polling began. 

Americans’ representatives are no longer representing their interests. That frustration was made clear as hundreds of people protested for their bodily rights and autonomy in front of the Supreme Court and in state capitals across America. People are going to take this frustration with America to the voting booth. 56% of registered voters in August said that the issue of abortion would be very important to their midterm vote — as opposed to the 43% of voters who said so in March. 

Democrats have already shown that some races can be won with an emphasis on abortion rights and bodily autonomy. But will revitalizing Democrat and Independent voters over this Court decision be enough? 

There is some reason to doubt the democratic path to success. Special elections and primaries have not always been reliable indicators of success in the midterm elections. More than 60% of Americans are disappointed in Biden’s presidential performance and they are fearful of inflation and a poor economy. Even with the Democrats’ recent victories in student debt forgiveness and the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, whether they will sway an effective majority of voters is up in the air.

Republicans have their own unique energy going into the midterms and are angered by perceived partisanship against Trump, who continues to have influence over the party. Voters kicked out many moderate Republicans in the primary elections in favor of a more extreme, Trump-backed candidate. Eight of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks have been voted out. Republicans continue to back Trump and the narrative of a “Democratic witch hunt” against him. 

The recent Mar-a-Lago raid by the FBI did little to change Republican voters’ minds about Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate and a leader in the Republican party. Rather than a drop in trust in the Republican party or Trump, polls showed a drop in trust for the FBI. 

Midterm elections tend to have lower voter turnout than their general election counterpoints, but this year, that has to change. With such slim margins, Democratic victory is possible. Abortion measures on the ballot in Vermont, California, Kentucky and Michigan. These votes are consequential. These votes are deciding people’s rights and autonomy.

This election is important. Vote.

Samantha Scott, FCRH ’24, is an international political economy and political science major from Columbus, Ohio.