Like many of you, I am waiting with bated breath for today’s election results. These results will likely not be completely tallied (and some will surely, in this post-2020 era, be contested) for days, if not weeks. For Democrats—and anyone on the side of women’s reproductive rights, children’s education, Black and Latino rights, LGBTQ rights, Medicare, Social Security and, you know, basic democracy—things aren’t looking great. This election is a suspense-thriller and horror movie all at once; candidates in crucial races remain neck and neck in the polls where all logic and common sense indicate they really shouldn’t be. So why, I keep wondering, are these contests so close?

I keep coming back to a message that has been touted again and again by Democrats since the 2016 election. From candidates’ stump speeches to media appearances to the (innumerous) fundraising emails that I’m sent each and every day: “Our democracy is in peril” this election, and the “stakes have never been higher.” It is absolutely, completely true. Every election cycle since the era of Donald Trump’s America began has been led with a bat signal from the Dems: America as we know it is at stake, and the only way it can be saved is by reasonable Americans donning their capes, heading to the polls, and voting blue.

But here’s the issue, and my worry. Although this approach may have been enough to eke out a Biden presidency to help hold down the fort for a while—despite the conservative Supreme Court’s dismantlement our country as we know it, and despite all the evidence that a near coup unfolded at our Capitol on January 6 of last year—this message doesn’t seem to be connecting.

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