But the “red tsunami” did not materialize, nor did any meaningful backlash against LGBTQ candidates and allies. Voters cited access to abortion and preservation of democracy among their main problems, as well as inflation. The lack of domestic Republican inroads marked a historic defeat in relative terms — not since the 2002 midterm elections, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, has an opposition party fared so badly. Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire called it’s “a trash night for Republicans”.
For LGBTQ political candidates, it was a night of firsts. Massachusetts and Oregon simultaneously elected the first openly lesbian governors in the United States, Maura Healey and Tina Kotek respectively. In New Hampshire, where the legislature considered bills to repeal the ban on conversion therapy and enact a ban on trans participation in sports earlier this year, James Roesener became the first trans man win any election to a state legislature in the history of the United States. In Montana, the state that for months this year defied a court order allowing trans people to change the gender listed on their birth certificate, Zooey Zephyr became the first trans woman elected to the legislature in the history of the state. In Oklahoma, where just a month ago the governor signed a bill hijacking hospital funding to shut down life-saving gender-affirming care, Mauree Turner was re-elected to the state legislature as the nation’s first non-binary legislator. Leigh Finke has become the first openly trans person elected to the Minnesota state legislature, pledging to protect reproductive freedom, push for climate action and address Minnesota’s housing shortage.
It wasn’t a trash night for LGBTQ allies either. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who had been attacked in right-wing media for speaking out against anti-trans conspiracy theories propagated by fellow Republican Rep. Bob Good, sailed to re-election in Virginia despite Cook’s political report, which called the race a “coup of luck” earlier this year. Just like the state of Michigan Senator Mallory McMorrow, known for a viral speech earlier this year in which she defended herself from the vile ‘groomer’ smear for supporting LGBTQ equality, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, falsely attacked by right-wing media on the eve of the election for an old video in which she used gender-neutral language to describe menstruating people. Nevada Voters added an equal rights amendment to their state constitution which prohibits discrimination for traits such as sexual orientation, gender, and gender expression.
In response to the election results for the American Principles Project, Schilling urged the GOP to double down and refocus on the anti-trans campaign despite their midterm losses, saying, “When Republicans flouted that message and, for the most part, gave up on it…that’s when- there they started to lose.” But the actual election results tell a different story.
As the votes are still being counted, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is the favorite to win in Arizona despite the attacks of Schilling and the APP that he would have supported “sex changes for minors”. In Nevada too, election experts predict thatbased on the remaining vote, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto will retain her seat despite the same attacks, which featured graphic topless photos of transgender minors. APP also sued Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers for legislation intended to support “It would destroy the sport of girls.” He won.
Overall, APP bragged about its spending $15 million money from their donors in 13 states to Craft “the transgender problem” a “litmus test problem” – with little to show for it. That should be a familiar sentiment for donors to the American Principles Project given that the group has bragged about putting trans issues at the heart of Kentucky’s 2019 gubernatorial race and run for president. 2020 presidential election, failing both times.
While all of this may suggest that the promised national backlash against trans equality is unlikely to materialize in time for the 2024 election, anti-trans media figures have responded to the red wave that was not in s hanging on a thread of hope in Florida, which demographic shifts during the pandemic appear to have put in the column of deep red states. Walsh protested that “there were only a few races where the Republican made the trans agenda a campaign issue and those were all wins for the GOP” before quoting Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won re-election by double digits . “Substance is ultimately more important than style” echoed Rufo.
With a radicalized segment of the right-wing media continuing to push anti-LGBTQ hysteria, the danger has not passed. The votes had not yet all been counted when Tennessee lawmakers pre-submitted an invoice ban “male or female impersonators” in public. And with the homicide rate against trans people doubling in the past four years, the danger of stochastic terror fueled by hate is growing. In Florida, discriminatory rule changes by the DeSantis administration cut off about 9,000 trans adults from lifesaving drugs, and the board of medicine just voted to ban treatment for trans youth.
But the 2022 midterms provide an important piece of evidence moving forward: The anti-LGBTQ panic isn’t a silver bullet to gaining much more than additional subscribers to the Daily Wire.