MSD students prepare for the crucial 2022 midterm elections

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Tribune News Service

Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis both campaigned for votes in Broward in the past week. Crist was at Kings Point in Tamarac and DeSantis was at a Broward Republican dinner in Weston.

Brynn Schwartz, Senior Politics Editor

Called “[possibly] the most important elections of our lifetime” by MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid, the 2022 midterm elections are quickly approaching and will likely define the next two years of the Biden presidency, as well as shape state laws that could last for decades. The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8 nationwide.

The midterm elections come at a time of increased political activity, partisanship and crises. In 2022 alone, Americans have witnessed and dealt with the ongoing war in Ukraine, over 500 mass shootings in the U.S., an inflation rate of 8.3% in August and the contentious issue of abortion, following the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, placing power to determine abortion laws back in states’ hands.

Along with the “[President Joe] Biden v. [former President Donald] Trump rematch,” as a Bloomberg article described it, all of those issues are expected to shape the 2022 midterm elections.

“It has almost been two years into Joe Biden’s presidency and the victory that the Democrats gained in 2020,” junior Saed Murad said. “With their chances of a strong political victory waning, Republicans are now preparing for a counterattack, which they may very well win once the result of the 2022 midterm elections is decided. I believe that this midterm election will act as a turning point in the political struggle that is occurring right now.”

Historically, the party that loses the presidency two years prior wins big in that term’s midterm election. In 2018, two years after Trump won the 2016 presidential elections, Democrats made big wins in the U.S. House of Representatives after rallying their party against actions made by the Republican-led executive and legislative branches.

Republicans were expected to gain House and Senate seats this midterm election, proving this phenomenon again. Following the off-year elections in which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin was elected as governor of Virginia and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly defeated his Republican opponent, the future seemed bleak for Democrats.

The predicted “red wave” followed a largely unproductive two years for Congress, with several of Biden’s proposals getting “stuck” in the split Senate, drawing Republican criticism and cries for flipping Congress to Republican control.

“[I] hate the president, he’s a robot and is being controlled. He hasn’t done anything good for our country,” freshman Maci Norkunas said. “All he has done is make it go downhill and nothing is improving. He doesn’t even know what he is saying half the time, he’ll say one thing and then the next day, disagree with that.”

However, Biden’s agenda recently had several successes. Gas prices lowered after its peak in July of over $5 a gallon and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin reversed his vote on Biden’s tax and climate bill, allowing for its passage.

“Our current administration is much better than our last administration. President Biden has gotten most of our country vaccinations against Covid,” freshman Sydney Davidson said. “The market is hot. The child poverty levels are lower than ever… Infrastructure like no other is sweeping our country into a new frontier.”

The increased spirits and optimism are enough for people to wonder if Democrats are gaining enough ground in the midterms to possibly hold onto their Senate and House majority. However, some experts are cautioning Democrats to not be overly hopeful, as Republicans still have a lot of momentum with the economy and inflation being an important issue to the majority of voters. In a survey of 347 MSD students, 61% of students said the economy was an important issue to them.

Though these recent successes likely contribute to Democrats’ increased momentum, who currently control the White House, House of Representatives and the Senate, the most important issues by far to MSD students are gun violence and abortion, at 77% and 70% respectively.

Abortion is especially contentious in Florida, where the state legislature passed a 15-week abortion ban in April that took effect in July. The law has been a target of several lawsuits, most regarding a violation of religious freedom or Florida’s unique privacy amendment that states people have the right to be “free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life.”

“I don’t agree with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and how it may affect certain state bills and laws,” freshman Samantha Dinnis said.

However, junior Matteo Messina approves of current Florida laws. Current Florida laws are a contentious issue on both sides, as Republicans largely champion recent actions by the state government, including the abortion ban, the “Stop WOKE Act,” or the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Democrats are largely critical of Florida’s actions and demand a change in Florida leadership.

“I definitely think that on the state level there is a huge increase and, honestly, [there] has always been a conservative-dominated way of thinking when it comes to specific political issues,” senior Noldine Belizaire said. “Obviously Florida is a red state, but this definitely makes the everyday lifestyle extremely difficult for minorities and marginalized groups.”

In particular, Democrats hope to replace Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. Rubio is seeking re-election, but is challenged by Rep. Val Demings, as well as two independent candidates and one Libertarian candidate.

Rubio’s term has also been controversial, who was slammed at the Parkland March for Our Lives Rally in June 2022 for alleged “inaction” on gun violence following both the shooting at MSD and the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Rubio is in the top ten list of senators who have received the most money from the NRA, with a total of $3,303,355.

“Gun violence [is the most important issue to me] because it has destroyed many lives and is still not being handled properly,” sophomore Melanie Anaya said.

DeSantis’ candidacy is a fierce race that even people outside of Florida are watching closely, with DeSantis breaking records in gubernatorial candidate fundraising. His term has been shaped by contention. DeSantis is a favorite in the Republican party and is often spoken as the potential Republican presidential nominee for 2024, though Democrats are often enraged at his actions.

That same contention echoes in surveys of MSD students, which show 17.6% support DeSantis, while 18.2% support his Democratic opponent, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. 59% of students do not know enough about the race or have no opinion. Several MSD students did not care who became governor as long as it was not DeSantis, saying “not DeSantis” or “anyone but DeSantis.” Others disliked all candidates.

“I generally don’t agree with the statements that DeSantis makes, but have not done research on his opponents to see if I agree with them,” sophomore Charlotte James said. “I don’t want to just choose the Democrats and back them no matter what they say, I want to know on a candidate-by-candidate basis.”

James’ feelings that she lacks enough research is a common experience among MSD students. The same survey found consistently that MSD students report not knowing enough about political races. 59% do not know enough about the gubernatorial race, 62% do not know enough about the Florida senate race and 69% do not know enough about the U.S. House race.

A common sentiment among students was that they were reasonably informed on national politics, but did not feel very aware in regards to state and local politics.

It is unclear how the 2022 midterm elections will play out, though it is certain that it will determine local and state laws for years to come and how the rest of the Biden administration will play out.

This story was originally published in the October 2022 Eagle Eye print edition.