Interviewed two weeks before the election, “the mob mentality” topped Debbie Dingell’s list of fears: “People being bullied and being threatened. The disregard for democracy, where people are undermining people’s confidence in institutions.”

Debbie Dingell visited students waiting to vote on Election Day. While she’s hopeful about the election results, the congresswoman remains deeply concerned about the state of American politics. | Photo: Alyssa Shea Mulligan / Michigan Daily

She predicted, correctly, that the national Senate and House races would be “razor thin in a lot of seats.” But her party exceeded expectations, at least maintaining its 50-50 split in the Senate and limiting its losses in the House. Democrats took control of both houses of the Michigan legislature (see story above), and governor Gretchen Whitmer, secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, and attorney general Dana Nessel all defeated 2020 election deniers backed by Donald Trump. 

Michigan Democrats also did unexpectedly well, taking the executive and judiciary branches plus the State Senate and State House. Dingell, who won her own election in the redrawn Sixth Congressional District with 66 percent of the vote, thinks that three issues mattered in the election: “inflation, but so did [reproductive] choice, and so did democracy. People are concerned about the direction of the country, but they want us to return to stability.”

Dingell cautions that “we need to be very careful to understand the message that [voters are] saying to us. And I think Michigan is still a purple state, but I think it was values that voted on Election Day.”

While she’s hopeful about the election results, she remains deeply concerned about the state of American politics. “It’s still there,” she says of the anger. “You talked to me before [the attack on] Paul Pelosi happened, and I still think that we are normalizing violence in too many places.”

Going forward, “we’re gonna have divided government,” with Democrats controlling the presidency and Senate and Republicans the House. However, Dingell notes, “the House majority is very thin, and [if Republicans] want to win more elections, they can’t be totally dysfunctional. So we’re gonna have to figure out how we work together on some issues that matter to the American people.”

For her fifth term, Dingell has “a lot of issues that I’m gonna continue to work on. I’ve already been on the phone on long-term care. There are environmental issues that I care about [like] the transition to electric vehicles. Keeping manufacturing strong, bringing our supply chain back to this country, bringing jobs here, how do we make sure we can compete with China? These are the issues I fight for every day.”

In November, Dingell announced that she’s running for vice chair of the House Democratic caucus. In a letter to her colleagues, she positioned herself as “a unifying voice at the leadership table who speaks for the working families who feel left behind, a leader who will fight for all our colleagues, and a worker who delivers results.”

The U.S., she says, remains “a divided country. But I also think that [division] is making people uncomfortable and that community matters. Community is the strength of democracy.”

When the Sixth District was redrawn, Dingell moved to Ann Arbor from her family’s longtime home in Dearborn. “I’m settling into Ann Arbor. Like yesterday I was working on the [Gelman] plume and talking to the EPA. And I’m still doing what I do every day: understanding what the issues are, working, holding people accountable [in the same way] I’m accountable to the people of my district.”

Will she run again in two years? “If I’m doing a good job and I’m getting things done and the people of the district want me to, I will,” she says. “But I’m not making that decision this week.”