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Make America Florida
So, about that Red wave. . .
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Disappointed would be an understatement. That’s my take on the midterms, which really have been nothing less than disheartening.
There was no “Red wave.” Indeed, there was nary a ripple. Although it must be said it’s pathetic Democrats are acting as though the fact that they didn’t lose as badly as expected equates to a historic victory, the bottom line is that Tuesday was an absolute dumpster fire for Republicans, and it feels like a tremendous opportunity has been wasted.
Facing historically favorable “fundamentals,” most everyone thought that the Right had an ideal issue environment for a midterm election, and exit polls certainly suggested as much. A full seven in ten voters said they were “dissatisfied” or “angry” with the state of the country, while nearly 75% characterized the state of the economy as “poor” or “not good,” and the same amount said that inflation has caused them severe or moderate hardship. The Democrat-led pandemic fiasco has left people livid, especially parents who’ve watched helplessly as their kids have been forced to shoulder negative consequences thanks to idiotic politicians, to say nothing of the curriculum changes that have taken place in our public schools system as Leftists seek to indoctrinate students in trans ideology and critical race theory. The three horsemen of the liberal apocalypse — gender, race, and climate — have inspired some of the most toxic policies imaginable, which have deeply alienated ordinary Americans and all but normalized lunacy in many parts of the country. Turnstiles have been erected at the border, the porousness of which reflects the Left’s shrinking appreciation of the definition of American citizenry. Crime is plaguing communities. Woke unanimity from the media-university complex is spilling into American culture, where DSM-grade V spazzes and purebred coastal elites who genuinely believe Hillary Clinton is the second coming of Christ are determining the direction of society. Democrats believe Zelenskyy should be given a blank check. The white working class is disappearing before our very eyes. The President is a blundering dunce who’s more dead than alive at this point, and it’s been revealed that the Biden administration colluded with Big Tech to impose a censorship campaign that it’s no exaggeration to say has been the greatest assault on the First Amendment in American history.
I could go on and on and on. The confluence of all these factors led many to believe, me included, that Republicans would emerge with several new governors’ houses in addition to flipping dozens of House seats and giving the GOP a Senate majority. Democrats deserved comeuppance for the way they’ve run the country for the past two years, and by and large, they didn’t get it. Despite being deeply dissatisfied with the way Democrats are running things, the nation took a gander at what the GOP had to offer instead and was like, “Nah, you’re good.”
Absurdly, this appears to have been something of a status quo election in more ways than not. Voters collectively assessed the state of the country, with which they’re overwhelmingly dissatisfied according to exit polls, and basically opted to run it back. As of Wednesday evening, not a single statewide incumbent has been defeated, from either party, anywhere in the country. Few seats in the House were flipped, and it tentatively looks like Republicans will manage a slim majority when all is said and done. Which is great, but when you start the cycle with 212 Republican House seats and a vacancy in a GOP-leaning district, you should win the House. Best case scenario, Republicans will control a Senate majority, but unfortunately we won’t know for certain until vote tabulation is finished in Arizona and Nevada, since those states seem incapable of the most rudimentary arithmetic, and we must also wait on a tiresome Georgia run-off.
Considering the opportunity before them, Election Day ‘22 was a drubbing for Republicans. If I had told you that DeSantis would win reelection by the largest margin achieved by any Republican gubernatorial nominee in Florida’s 177-year-history, that Georgia’s Brian Kemp would win by nearly ten points, that Greg Abbott would coast to a double-digit victory in Texas, and that Lee Zeldin would put up an impressive fight against Kathy Hochul in New York, you’d have likely concluded that a Red wave would materialize to some extent. But it was not so.
People will point to the abortion issue as helping Democrats, which it definitely did in some races, but it’s also the case that numerous Republican governors who’ve signed significant abortion restrictions into law were resoundingly re-elected, including in states that aren’t exactly known for being crimson Red. According to the Fox News voter analysis — a modernized version of exit polling — 47% of voters said the economy was their top concern, with a majority of voters blaming the Biden administration’s policies for inflation. Abortion, on the other hand, was a distant second, at 10%.
Moreover, Biden’s disapproval rating among the electorate was 57%, and as mentioned earlier, three-quarters of respondents said they were unhappy with the direction of the country. It’s for this reason that I think the Grand Old Party’s underwhelming performance is less about people embracing the Left than it is a repudiation of the Right, which is obviously concerning. If Republicans can’t win people over in this environment, when can they? That they didn’t is a serious indictment, and it would behoove party leaders to think long and hard about this.
Time To Dump Donald
We’ve reached an era of American politics in which our two parties are both unpopular. The Democrats’ greatest strength is that they’re not the GOP; the GOP’s greatest strength is that they’re not the Democrats. Neither party is doing much to expand its appeal, with the result being the sense that we’re stuck in a 50-50 politics. The last two presidential elections, for example, have been decided by thin shares of votes in each of a few states that could have gone either way, while the last two years have featured the narrowest congressional majority in American history. And although the dust won’t settle for some time, it certainly appears that yesterday’s elections will produce similarly razor-thin majorities. Sure, it’s likely that Republicans will nominally control one of the two chambers, but there’s no getting around the fact that the outcome was really just a preservation of the status quo. The electorate basically declined what both parties offered; nobody really emerged with new power.
I’ve written before about the decline in split-ticket voting, and it’s easy to conclude that this is the reason for our polarized impasse. I’m not so sure, though. It might be naïve of me, but I still think either party is capable of winning a sizeable majority if they simply stop going out of their way to alienate wide swaths of the public. Such majorities have become less common because Democrats and Republicans alike seem to relish repulsing median voters. I’m inclined to believe this is a bigger problem for the former, who’ve become the party of profoundly unpopular and smug elites during a populist era. Swing voters are increasingly declining to sup on the liberal Kool-aid, and I imagine this will remain the case for the foreseeable future, as party culture takes years to evolve.
But if the GOP is ever to capitalize on this trend, it starts with Republican voters responding to the disappointing ‘22 midterms by telling the party’s current establishment that enough is enough. It’s evident that potentially winnable swing voters will remain out of reach so long as the GOP remains a Trump-era incarnation. There was a pattern to Republican wins and losses on Tuesday, and you needn’t be fatidic to connect the dots: Trump is the problem.
Gubernatorial candidates in Georgia, Ohio, and Florida who weren’t closely associated with the Bad Orange Man w/Mean Tweets dramatically outperformed candidates for Senate who were, and it’s painfully obvious that Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, and especially Pennsylvania could have, and should have, been won, if only primary voters had withheld support for Trump-endorsed candidates.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) about the midterms. “I think a huge factor in all of this was the disastrous role of Donald Trump in this whole process.”
As the American Enterprise Institute’s Yuval Levin has noted, it’s high time that Republicans drop the notion that Trump is some kind of electoral juggernaut. If anything, he’s become an albatross. Believing otherwise requires holding the implausible view that Trump’s narrow win over Hillary Clinton in 2016 was the only way any Republican could have triumphed over arguably one of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time; that the Blue wave in 2018 was due to Mitch McConnell not being pro-MAGA enough; and that Trump would have walloped Biden, a stupendously mediocre candidate on the best of days, if it weren’t for widespread voter fraud and Democrats gaming the mail-in vote.
There’s a reason the Democrats’ cynical strategy of spending millions to boost fringe Trumpist “election denier” candidates in GOP primaries proved extremely successful.
But it’ll be easier said than done to dump His Orangeness. He is, after all, widely considered the front-runner for the party’s nomination in 2024 (though I’d
say hope DeSantis supplanted him yesterday), his support is still treated like official party endorsement, and his association to all GOP nominees is endlessly harped on by the media.
In other words, Trump remains the face of the party during a time when his brand increasingly seems like terrible civics and terrible politics. I think part of the reason that the midterms have been so surprising is because there’s been a tendency to overestimate the popularity of Trump and his agenda. The truth is that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election more than Trump won it. Since he became president, Republicans have lost the House, the White House, and the Senate, and my gut tells me that if the GOP wins these institutions back in 2024, it won’t be because of Trump but despite him.
In addition to distancing from the more extreme fringe candidates, Republicans need to reconnect with independents and moderates and come up with an effective and transparent message about abortion and how they plan to fix things like inflation. Beating the negativity drum can only get you so far; you need to have actionable solutions.
And frankly, they should look to DeSantis, who just won reelection by a whopping 20 points without bending the knee to Trump, for a blueprint to follow.1 He courted key independent and Democratic voters on issues like education and the environment and supported a moderate position on abortion. So successful has he been that Florida has essentially become the go-to destination for Americans fed up with incompetent governance.
A few pieces of data for context: Hillary Clinton carried Miami-Dade County by 30 points in 2016. Two years later, DeSantis lost it by 20 points, while winning statewide by less than half a percentage point; this year, DeSantis won Miami-Dade by 11 points. Joe Biden won heavily-Hispanic Osceola County in Central Florida by double digits in 2020. DeSantis flipped it yesterday, winning by seven points there. He even won Palm Beach County, which has long been a Blue bastion, by three points.
As DeSantis said in his victory speech, his win margin indicates that he’s earned the trust and confidence of many voters who had previously cast ballots for his Democrat opponent. Republicans would do well to elevate him, emulate his unapologetic conservatism, and capitalize on his excellent leadership.
If you call a dude “Ron DeSanctimonious” and the next day he wins reelection by 20 points, you might want to reexamine your self-conception as a “kingmaker.”