Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin says the results of last Tuesday’s balloting, in which Democrats such as herself won key races, highlights not just that abortion rights are a priority for many voters, but also the national media’s failure to reflect that in its pre-election coverage.
Slotkin (D-Lansing), who was re-elected to a third term on Nov. 8, was a guest Friday on “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+, as the comedian and political pundit broke down the results of the mid-term election.
Stewart highlighted Michigan as an example of where Democrats upset the prevailing narrative that Republicans were going to sweep races up and down the ballot based on voter discontent with high inflation and crime.
Instead, high turnout among female and younger voters motivated to support Proposal 3, helped propel Democrats to not only retain the offices of Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State, but also flipped the state House and Senate to Democratic control for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Stewart asked Slotkin her take on those results.
“In Michigan, the countervailing winds were inflation and abortion,” she said. “I think inflation really took center stage when gas prices started to go up and people stopped talking as much about abortion. But I think the thing that we’re really seeing now in Michigan, which had a fantastic night, was that while a couple of years ago we were under counting Trump voters, I think this election we were under counting women voters and how strongly they felt about losing the right to have an abortion in this country.”
Slotkin challenged her opponent, state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), on the issue of abortion throughout the campaign, noting his position of opposing all abortions except when the life of the mother is at stake, leaving victims of rape and incest without any options.
While Barrett disputed that characterization, he also removed a section his website that detailed his stance on abortion.
Stewart, calling the media narratives “overblown and hyperbolic,” asked Slotkin how there could be such a disconnect from real voter concerns.
“I think a lot of it starts with the fact that we just don’t have local media the way we used to,” she responded. “So the people who would normally like have their finger on the pulse of real trends on the ground are just not there. And we get a lot of really wonderful journalists who parachute in for 36 hours, talk to like a few people in a coffee shop and then sort of make their assessment, as opposed to really knowing what’s going on. And then it gets amplified tenfold and something that might have been anecdotal becomes this screaming story on cable news.”
Slotkin added that the coverage in turn affects the mood of voters, who end up feeling pessimistic, even though they’re not necessarily feeling those trends in their own lives.
However, she said that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerning trends in politics.
“I want to be be honest. I think the country is going through something,” said Slotkin. “I think we did have a strong election. It was boring, gloriously boring, but I don’t want to undersell the fact that, especially in a place like Michigan where we’re very purple, where in my own family, in my own neighborhood, our coworkers have very different political views from us, where it’s gotten so much more angry and so much more polarized, that people do feel some of that stress.”
Slotkin said while social media has a role in driving that stress, her real concern is with violent rhetoric coming coming from political leaders.
“I want to be super clear, leadership climate is set at the top, and we have leaders, very senior leaders, who have created a climate of literally training people to look at people with opposing views as enemies, a strategy of dividing Americans on purpose in order to win elections, in order to further a cause,” she said. “That combined with social media, I think is creating that instability or this moment, this change that you’re talking about. We have been given permission by leaders with bad behavior to act that way with each other. And it’s freaking people out in Michigan. And I think that combined with social media is a much bigger story for us.”
Slotkin ended the interview on a lighter note after Stewart commented that it was a bad sign if people in Michigan were “freaking out,” as he found them to be so pleasant , he almost thought they were being sarcastic.
“We are not sarcastic,” said Slotkin laughing. “We’re just that awesome.”