Americans voted for democracy, and the kitchen table

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Nicholas Goldberg is an associate editor and opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

As the nation holds its breath and the votes keep pouring in, I keep coming back to the campaign-ending words of Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a two-term Democrat who ran for re-election in a run tight in southeast Michigan.

“I believe our democracy is the ultimate kitchen table problem,” she told the crowd during a stop in East Lansing during the final week of the race. “Actually, it’s not the kitchen table. Our democracy is the foundation of the house in which the kitchen table sits.

The metaphor was slightly tortured, but I got his point.

For months, Americans have waited anxiously to hear (among other things) whether the election would address the big, fundamental issues facing the country — the fragility of our democracy and institutions, bitter partisanship turning into vitriol , the heart-pounding violence just below the surface. Or would voters make their choices based on so-called kitchen table issues: everyday issues like Social Security, jobs, inflation, the economy, crime, health care and schools.

Experts have warned, with years of data to back it up, that most people care more about kitchen table issues and don’t have time in their crowded, scruffy lives for abstract newsworthy topics. a seminar like “where is democracy going?” as they struggle to make ends meet.

Slotkin’s point, however (or my reading, anyway) was that the two are inextricable, and you can’t count on the daily benefits of American prosperity, jobs, and stability if you allow the pillars under underpinnings of democracy and the rule of law on which society relies to collapse.

This is also my point of view.

So what was the result? Well, it’s too early, I’m afraid, to take full measure of this chaotic election. But it should be noted that Slotkin, a moderate Democrat and former CIA officer who made the preservation of democracy and the dangers of electoral conspiracies her central themes at the end of her run, won her election by a hair’s breadth. .

And the giant “red wave” of Republican victories has not materialized, though which party will control the House and Senate remains unclear.

Slotkin ran in a swing district against a Republican Holocaust denier named Tom Barrett. In the final run-up to Election Day, she won the endorsement of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who spoke at a campaign event on “ensuring the survival of the republic.”

And Michigan voters seem to have taken that warning to heart.

Nationally, an Associated Press survey of 94,000 voters found that, as Republicans had hoped, inflation was voters’ top concern. But nearly half of voters also said the future of democracy weighed heavily on them. In preliminary results from an ABC News exit poll, two-thirds of voters said democracy in the United States was “under threat.”

All I can say is I’m glad they noticed.

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