As a special House election loomed in an upstate New York swing district, conventional wisdom decreed that Democrat Pat Ryan would surely lose. Ryan’s Republican opponent led in every poll, voters in the district had favored Trump by seven points in 2016, and, as a general rule, the “out” party typically picks up lots of House seats in a midterm year — especially at a time when everyone is supposedly fixatedon inflation.

But earlier this week, Ryan defied the odds and shocked his own advisers by notching an upset victory. Blue turnout was far higher than anticipated. In post-election remarks, he nailed the big reason why: “Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won. We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is. … We centered the concept of freedom. … Patriotism to me means, when your fellow Americans’ rights are being taken away, you stand up and fight, not just for yourself, but for themas well.”

As you probably know, Republicans have long monopolized the flag and branded themselves as the champs of “freedom.” But this year Democrats are endeavoring to reframe “freedom” to their own advantage — to wit, freedom from MAGA proto-fascism, freedom from the Supreme Court theocrats, freedom from Second Amendment gun fetishists, freedom from Republican vote-suppression, freedom from right-wing homophobes who want to end gay marriage, freedom from climate change deniers, and, arguably most timely of all, freedom for women to make their own most intimate health decisions despite the forced-birth diktat that killedRoe v. Wade.

Recommended for you