As the two sides try to make sense of Tuesday’s surprises, Americans can agree on one thing: There were plenty of successes and disappointments to go around.

Republicans and Democrats will both walk away discouraged about certain assumptions they carried into this week—and they are equal parts proud and reassured by other obstacles they overcame. By the end of the night, the GOP’s sky-high expectations were the drag on what should have been a triumphant moment—stopping President Joe Biden’s unchecked radicalism in its tracks.

For all that the GOP accomplished—retaking at least one chamber of Congress—the overwhelming expectations robbed Republicans of the celebration they should have enjoyed for finally holding the president accountable for two years of abysmal, policy-driven failures. 

Scott Rasmussen, one of the many pollsters stunned by Tuesday’s results, told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins that the first surprise was the youth turnout. It was, as he said, “much stronger than we would have expected.”

And overall, he went on, “the turnout was just a couple of points more favorable to Democrats than we might have expected.” In a country as divided as ours, Rasmussen insisted, “a one- or two-point difference in turnout can be the difference between a 10- or 12-seat pickup and a 40-seat pickup. A lot of close races, almost all of the toss-ups, went to Democrats.”

In Rasmussen’s mind, one of the last-ditch efforts that paid off for Biden was his over-promising on student loan forgiveness. The whole point, he said, was to drive up the youth vote. And it worked. But, he warned, “Let’s be clear—youth turnout still isn’t very good. It’s just a little bit higher than expected. But again, one- or two-point differences make a lot of difference in a nation that is so divided.”

To conservatives, who were licking their chops at the chance to punish Democrats for their extreme agenda, the fact that there wasn’t a red wave stung. Why on Earth did the majority of voters stick with the president and his party? “It’s not clear that a majority of voters did,” Rasmussen countered. “I think the slight majority of voters actually voted for a Republican … but not nearly in the levels we would have expected.” 

That “slight majority,” Cook Political Report announced today, equaled out to at least 6 million more votes for Republicans than Democrats in the House. As of Thursday morning, Republicans had won 50,113,534 votes (52.3%), compared to Democrats’ 44,251,768 votes (46.2%).

That’s a lead of 6.1%, Cook points out—even better than their average in the generic congressional ballot polls heading into the midterms.

In a lot of ways, Rasmussen said, it all points to “the disconnect that’s going on in American politics between the president and legislative races. We noticed it in 2020. Joe Biden won the White House, but Republicans gained in the House. This time, with Biden and his job approval rating in the low 40s—we would have expected a bigger wave.”

Why didn’t it happen? “My sense,” Rasmussen replied, “is partisanship [is] still very alive.” To illustrate the point, he said, “We’ve had nine consecutive presidential elections where nobody’s won more than 53% of the vote. So yes, we are very, very closely divided. … We desperately need a landslide [like when] Ronald Reagan won 49 states … ” 

But who will do it? Who’s capable of rallying both sides behind one cohesive message? “I don’t know,” Rasmussen answered. “But it’s going to happen sometime. … We’ve been through this before—remember the late ’60s and early ’70s. We never thought we would be where we are today. But shortly after that, Ronald Reagan came and brought us morning in America. So we’ll go through that again. It may get worse before it gets better, but our best days are still to come.”

In a country where there’s less middle ground, Perkins said, it really speaks to the importance of everyone “participating in the process.” Rasmussen agreed. “We’re in a situation right now where turnout determines the results. You know, we can talk all we want about campaign strategies. Campaigns are about fundamentals. … But the Democrats had a good Senate map that set up automatically a number of close races. And in those close races, every single ballot counts.”

For Christians who might be tempted to despair over the results, Cornerstone Chapel Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick told Perkins, “One of the things I want to remind us is that God used righteous kings and unrighteous kings—in other words, good leaders and bad leaders—to accomplish his purposes. We can’t forget that, for a season, God sent the Israelites to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was a very unrighteous king. But the people were purified of idolatry during that 70-year process of being exiled there. There are things that God accomplishes with us, even when we are not happy with who might be in leadership.”

And again, Hamrick urged, conservatives “did squeak by with some positive things.” “One thing that stood out to me in all of this,” he said, “ … despite the fact that we have one of the worst seasons right now in terms of crime, one of the worst seasons of illegal immigration, one of the worst seasons of our interest rates … [There are just a] variety of bad things on the horizon. … But people [turned] out because they didn’t like the fact that Roe v. Wade was overturned. And you know what? … I woke up knowing that, OK, that’s the backlash to Roe v. Wade being overturned. But thousands of babies are going to be protected because—in a previous election—people came out. They voted for a conservative president who put three justices on the court.”

At the end of the day, “There are going to be ebbs and flows with the political system,” Hamrick said. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that Jesus is still on the throne. I don’t care who occupies the White House or Capitol Hill. Jesus is still on the throne. We can’t give up the fight, because from one political season to the next, it can tip the scale in terms of righteousness or unrighteousness. So we have to be very vigilant still in what we’re called to do.”

Will the world become more evil as we get closer to Christ’s return? Yes. “But I need to do my part. I can’t check out. I can’t get discouraged,” Hamrick urged. “It’s going to get worse before Jesus comes again. So I have to accept that this isn’t heaven yet. One day, when we’re there, all this won’t matter anymore. But until then, I’ve got to fight the good fight of the faith and stay the salt and light that we’re talking about.”

Originally Published by The Washington Stand

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