“When we wake up tomorrow, we will be in majority and Nancy Pelosi would be in minority,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said Wednesday. Thursday’s news bulletins, whatever else they say, are not living up to McCarthy’s promise. The ‘red wave’ that was supposed to swing the American House of Representatives and the Senate to the right hasn’t hit, or at least hasn’t hit as gloriously as promised.

For weeks together, Republicans were forecasting a ‘red wave’ that will carry them to power. The formula for them was simple. The 2022 midterms were happening at a time of record inflation, a burgeoning economic crisis and a rise in crime. Coupled with the issues were the political flashpoints of abortion, school education and guns. Then there’s the historical imperative. Hardly ever has an incumbent party gained seats in the midterms.   

But it’s called history for a reason, as the Associated Press headlined its election wrap. And history is hardly ever a proof-of-concept for the present.

The Fetterman factor

John Fetterman, the 53-year-old Democrat, a former mayor, defeated the first Muslim candidate Republicans had nominated ever – Mehmet Oz, or Dr Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon turned TV personality. Fetterman’s winning of the Pennsylvania Senate seat was the first call made that told Republicans that the ride to the House and Senate won’t be as easy as they thought. Fetterman won 50.1% of the vote while Oz won 47.5% of the vote.

Canonical contestations

In Georgia, where Stacey Abrams, one of the most prominent leaders of the Democratic Party right now, was quick to concede to Republican Brian Kemp, pastor and sitting Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock put up a brave fight against NFL star Herschel Walker. The contest is so close that neither of the two may get over 50% of the vote and the election may be decided by a run-off vote on December 6.

Both Warnock and Walker had pushed their own visions of religiosity in a state where the electorate self-identifies as deeply religious. And the contest of religiosities did not have a clear winner, evidently. Till the time of this article being written, Warnock had 49.42% of the vote while Walker had 48.52%.

Slippery Senate

The Republicans were more than confident that they would take the Senate. But the Democrats fought better than many even within the party anticipated. Latest figures show Democrats in control of 48 Senate seats and Republicans in control of 47. The outcome of two remaining seats that will decide which party will hold Senate majority – Arizona and Nevada – are not likely to come for days because both states conduct elections in part by mail ballots, which take a long time to count.

The historical pattern

That the party that wins the presidential election makes major loses in the midterms has nearly become a convention in the American political landscape. Since 1906, there have only been three midterms in which the party in power gained House seats. Once in 1934, when the United States was going through a Depression, a second time in 1998, when the US was buoyed by a soaring economy, and a third time in 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when President George W. Bush had sky-high approval ratings.