Nov 14, 2022 - Podcasts

The rise of the independent voter

Almost a week after the election, a clearer picture of the 2022 midterm elections has emerged. We now now that Democrats not only have retained control of the Senate, but might pick up another seat. We’re still waiting on the House, but we’ve got a lot more information on historic Democrat wins in state and local races, including with state legislatures and governors' races. But - it's not a blue wave - more one of swing voters.

  • Plus, what recent layoffs mean for Big Tech.
  • And, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" smashes a box office record.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev and Ina Fried.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, November 14th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: what recent layoffs mean for Big Tech. Plus, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” smashes a box office record. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the rise of the Independent voter.

NIALA: We spent a lot of time last week talking about what these midterm elections mean. Almost a week after the election, we clearly know that Democrats have not only retained control of the Senate, but might pick up another seat. We're still waiting on the House, but we've got a lot more information on statehouses and other local elections. That's why I asked Axios’ Margaret Talev to join me again. Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET TALEV: Good morning, Niala.

NIALA: First, let's talk about control of the Senate. We don't have to wait until the runoff in Georgia next month to know the outcome there?

MARGARET: No. If you happen to decide you wanted to tune out politics for the weekend, which would be completely understandable, you might have missed that over the weekend, Nevada’s Senate race was decided in favor of the incumbent who is a Democrat, and that seals it for the Democrats.They will hold the Senate, the only question now is whether they can up it by one.

Control of the Senate matters for a couple reasons, and one is confirmation of judges. Democrats realize how far behind they were when Donald Trump was president, and they are furiously trying to make up for it. The second is that it does stave off Republican senators' ability to just launch political investigation after investigation, and make President Biden's life miserable. So those are two big things right off the bat that holding control would do. But if Warnock keeps his seat, and if Democrats majority goes to 51, it's very interesting. A big thing that it does is it weakens Joe Manchin’s potential power, or Kyrsten Sinema’s power. You know, we spent a lot of time over the course of 2022, watching these two centrists, Sinema and Manchin, really kind of command the Senate. They were the shadow leaders because they could make or break a vote. If you have one more vote, it slightly dilutes those one or two people from having absolute power.

NIALA: We also saw statehouses turn blue, including in Michigan. Democrats flipped control of the Michigan State Senate and House for the first time since the 1980s. Is that a trend when we think about how governors and statehouses fared across the country?

MARGARET: So Niala, it's really interesting to see what happened at the statehouse level because for years now, Democrats have watched Republicans run circles around them building the bench at the statehouse level. And that matters in terms of legislation, you see it in terms of, abortion legislation that came up this year. Now what you have is Democrats really running the tables. Collectively, the Democratic Party has managed to hold control of all those legislatures that they control leading up to the election, which is really unusual when that party's president is in office. I think this is the first time in like 85 or 90 years, when something like that has happened - and that could make a difference in battleground states heading into the 2024 elections.

NIALA: So Margaret, before we were talking about a red wave, obviously that didn't happen. Is it fair to call this a blue wave?

MARGARET: I think it's better to call it an Independent wave because we're not gonna be looking at massive Democratic gains in either chamber. Democrats in the end may not be able to hold the House. But what it was, was swing voters, the true swing voters who wait until the end to make up their mind, or who go from one party to another, weighing in and saying enough.

And if you look at the polling, it's not that these voters were deeply enamored with base Democratic policies for the most part, setting abortion aside, or with President Biden, his favorability remains in the 40s. It's that they didn't like the alternative. And when you look around the country at those Secretary of States races, where there were Trump-backed candidates that were still trying to contest the 2020 election, they did not win. They did not prevail. And those were voters turning out to say, ‘oh, we do not support the idea of bans on abortion, and we do not support election denialism.’

NIALA: Axios’ Managing Editor for Politics, Margaret Talev. Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: In a moment, Silicon Valley gets used to layoffs again.


What recent layoffs mean for Big Tech

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

This month, around 22,000 tech workers have been laid off - mostly from Twitter and Meta. That’s according to the site

Twitter alone has laid off about half of its full-time staff since Elon Musk took charge. Over the weekend, contract workers started getting cut.

Axios’ Chief Technology Correspondent Ina Fried has been covering Silicon Valley’s layoffs and is here with the big picture. Hey, Ina!

INA FRIED: Hey Niala.

NIALA: Ina, we are used to hearing about how successful and how many resources tech companies have. How does this series of layoffs change that picture?

INA: It changes it a lot, especially for a company like Facebook's parent Meta because they've never really had large scale layoffs. And I have to say another round of layoffs at a company that's had a bunch is really different than when a company undergoes widespread layoffs for the first time. It just fundamentally changes the culture of the people that remain. It's just a different attitude, you sort of are very aligned with the company, you know, you'll use terms like family, and after that first round of layoffs it's a realization that however good an employer might be, they're your employer. It's a business relationship.

NIALA: And I will say I have been laid off in the past. It truly is something that can scar you, and I think what I learned is the way you lay someone off can make a huge difference. How have we seen that done in a variety of ways over the past week?

INA: We've really seen the full gamut from a company like Stripe, which got a lot of plaudits for also laying off a significant chunk of its staff, but doing so with humanity with some humility. I would say Facebook was somewhere in between, I think it wasn't quite as personal perhaps as Stripes was at the same time they provided generous severance. Mark Zuckerberg did take personal responsibility for some of the failings that got them there, and then of course we saw Twitter, which was actually a case study in how to do this with as little humanity as possible. If you remember, the first thing they did was they were planning to do it by email then they actually cut off computer access. Then they said, oh wait we laid off too many people, we need some of you. Will you come back? All of that sends a terrible message, obviously, to the people being laid off. But the important thing is how you do the layoffs sends a huge message to the people you don't layoff. The people you need to avoid another round of layoffs.

NIALA: And to your point about how much this fundamentally changes the culture, how do we think this will change Silicon Valley as an industry?

INA: I think Silicon Valley as an industry probably changes less. There are enough oldies like myself that remember we went through .com crash. It's new for this generation of workers that came in after the .com crash, but I think Silicon Valley, by its nature, is gonna be a culture that has to anticipate some amount of layoffs. I mean, startups fold all the time that we're certainly gonna see a lot more of it. But I would say as a culture, this is an industry that's built on that, and tech skills can be very transferable. I think It's certainly not the same kind of devastation that would say happen if you'd worked at an auto plant for 20 years. That's more devastating because there's probably not another auto plant to hire you. If you have coding skills, even in a tightening job market, it's probably still far more transferable than in other industries.

NIALA: Axios’ Chief Technology correspondent Ina Fried. Thanks, Ina.

INA: Thanks Niala.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" smashes a box office record

NIALA: I thoroughly enjoyed seeing "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" this weekend. I wasn’t the only one - judging by ticket sales. Disney says the sequel smashed November box office records with an $180 million opening weekend.

Our visuals team put together a great, comic -book style data analysis about how long it’s taken for the Marvel universe’s TV and films to reflect gender and racial diversity. We’ve got links to this very cool journalism in our show notes.

That’s it for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

For The Economist's analysis of the results of the midterms and where America is headed -- listen to the "Checks and Balance" podcast -- where John Prideaux and his colleagues provide their perspectives on democracy in America. Join them today and start listening to "Checks and Balance" wherever you get your podcasts.

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