In the US, a red wave that wasn’t and a nation under siege from gun violence

Democrats pushed for tougher gun legislation amid near-record levels of mass shootings

President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden paid their respects at the Robb Elementary School memorial. A gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the deadliest US school shooting in almost a decade, in Uvalde, Texas, in May. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

It was supposed to be a big year for the Republican Party.

An unpopular president, soaring inflation and a teetering economy were going to propel a "red wave" of Republican wins in 2022 and give the opposition conservatives momentum in the build-up to the 2024 presidential elections.

But any red wave dried to a trickle in November’s midterm elections.

Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives by a smaller margin than had been predicted, while the Democrats not only held on to the Senate, but added a seat.

President Joe Biden took the results as a big win.

It was a good day, I think, for democracy,” he said at the time.

Less jubilant was former president Donald Trump, who saw many of the high-profile candidates he endorsed fail.

He threw his support behind celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz, and Kari Lake, a former Arizona news presenter, who for a few short months was the darling of the Republican Party.

In seven key races that he weighed in on, six of his candidates lost. The only victory was in Ohio, where JD Vance won a senate seat.

It was another telling show of how Mr Trump's influence among US voters continues to slide.

Just days after the midterms, he declared his intention to run once more for president. While he is by no means a sure thing and faces serious opposition, he remains popular among Republicans.

“As long as his heart is beating, he is going to be there,” Clifford Young, president of US public affairs at Ipsos, told The National.

Many voters are growing weary of Mr Trump, who continues to insist the 2020 election was "stolen" from him and who has offered few fresh ideas in the two years since he lost to Mr Biden by seven million votes.

“I do think there's fatigue … but he's gonna be formidable, and he's going to be there,” Mr Young said.

Gun violence surged in 2022

This year, America once again struggled with mass shootings. Gunmen devastated communities from Uvalde, Texas, to Colorado Springs, to Buffalo, New York.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which has been tracking gun-related incidents since 2013, America has had 635 mass shootings so far this year.

In May, a gunman stormed into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and murdered 21 people, including 19 children, making it the second deadliest school shooting in US history, behind only Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, which this year marked its 10th anniversary of the massacre.

“As a nation, we have to ask: 'When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?'” Mr Biden said after the shooting in Uvalde.

He has made tougher gun restrictions a major part of his domestic agenda.

In July, he signed a gun safety bill giving states incentive to pass "red flag" laws that allows courts to seize weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

While it was the first major gun reform law passed in decades, Mr Biden has made it clear that he hopes for more.

"We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets," Mr Biden said in a statement after the mass shooting at a club in Colorado Springs, which killed five people.

Anti-Semitism on the rise

Hate crimes appeared to be on the rise in major US cities in 2022 including a string of anti-Semitic incidents, according to a report published in August by the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.

In January, a man held congregants of a synagogue near Fort Worth, Texas, hostage for 10 hours. The four captives escaped while members of the FBI's hostage-rescue team stormed the building.

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, unleashed a string of anti-Semitic comments and interviews in 2022, which experts say has helped to fuel more incidents.

He "has been on a tirade of anti-Semitism throughout social media, broadcast, print," said Jeffrey Abrams, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles.

"Wherever he's given an opportunity to defame and attack the Jewish community, he's done so and it normalises the behaviour.

The celebrity, who has a long history of troubling behaviour, told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that he “liked Hitler.”

In the same interview he said: “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

Ye’s erratic behaviour forced Elon Musk to ban him again from Twitter, despite the new owner's efforts to open the platform up to more view points.

“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence,” Mr Musk said in a tweet. “Account will be suspended.”

Mr Biden felt compelled to speak out against Ye’s anti-Semitism.

“I just want to make a few things clear,” he said in a tweet. “The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure.”

Mr Biden said it was time to stop giving figures such as Ye a “platform” and that “silence is complicity.”

They were troubling trends that experts hope do not continue into the new year.

Updated: December 21, 2022, 11:01 AM