By: David L. Bahnsen – nationalreview.com – November 10, 2022
The midterm-election results are full of inconvenient truths and, as is often the case, just ambiguous enough to allow for ample spin depending on one’s partisan leaning.
The Republicans are probably taking back the House majority, but it will be by much less of a margin than the GOP hype machine was insinuating before the election. There are pockets of positive surprise in this (New York congressional races, in particular) and pockets of disappointment (if nothing else, the net number will be less than anticipated). I am mostly interested in my own California district, where one of the most progressive members of Congress, Katie Porter, could be traded for one of the most stalwart conservatives running this cycle, Scott Baugh (the two are 900 votes apart with hundreds of thousands of votes uncounted). But both things are true at once — it is a victory for the Right to take a majority in the House, and it is a disappointment to not have it feel like such. As was the case in 2018, though, where the “morning after” results did not feel as robust for the Democrats as they proved to be in the end, I don’t think I am out on a ledge to predict that the House pickups for the GOP in the end will outperform the morning-after reporting.
There is still a chance the GOP will take the Senate, but even if it does not, Nevada looks to have flipped both its governor and U.S. senator from blue to red, and Republicans held in Ohio and Wisconsin. On the other hand, a very recent stroke victim who once pulled a gun on an unarmed black man just won as a Democrat in Pennsylvania. If Herschel Walker loses in his runoff (something I am quite willing to predict for a variety of reasons), it will be almost inarguable that the Pennsylvania, Georgia, and New Hampshire races were lost at the moment of the primary. If all Senate seats stay as they were besides the Democrats taking Pennsylvania and the Republicans taking Nevada, one has to consider that a disappointment for the Republicans. A majority of 54 or 55 seats was really never going to happen, but 52 or 53 were completely obtainable. The Republicans will have to fight for 50 or 51 now, and that seems entirely absurd given the expectations and backdrop of this election.
But these losses will feel like a walk in the park if the real lesson of this election is not taken to heart by voters, immediately. I did not say donors. I did not say party leaders. I did not say insiders. I said “voters.” This is no longer up to what appears to be hopelessly naïve and ignorant members of Conservatism Inc. and Conservatism Alt-Media Inc. to read the tea leaves. Whether it is grift (that is an underrated factor) or pure incompetence (another underrated factor) or basic cowardice (Occam’s razor), donors, insiders, and think-tank/media leaders have not gotten the clue now for three elections in a row, and that means this falls to the voters: Republicans have to pick between Donald Trump and winning. Period.
There is no narrative that leads to any conclusion other than this out of Tuesday night’s results. Did Dobbs cause Herschel Walker to tie while Brian Kemp won by 8 percent in the same state? Did Dobbs hurt Republican congressional candidates in Ohio but not New York and New Jersey? I am open to the idea that Dobbs had marginal impact in some races (yet also unfazed by such, because of my fondness for human life and the U.S. Constitution), but to ignore the obvious takeaway from 2018, 2020, and now 2022 requires a willful refusal to see something in front of you punching you in the face.
Much of Trumpism remains popular. Donald Trump is not. Not with women. Not with independents. Not with moderates. Not with young people. Not with college graduates. Not with a statistically meaningful enough part of the electorate that his presence, aura, and input will do anything other than cost us elections.
“But he fights.” Well, he loses.
“He did a lot of good.” Yes, he did. But he also cost us the House, Senate, and White House.
“He is the best we have to fight the Left.” Oh. Wait. Did someone say “best we have”?
This is where the whole game has changed. It was never a persuasive argument to me that narcissism, egocentrism, general incompetence of technique, and coalitional destruction were all things we had to put up with in Trump because we had no other alternative. But if that was at one point a legitimate thought, it was nullified in Florida on Election Night. Governor Ron DeSantis won by 20 points because he alone harmonized the two competing needs for right-wing voters: the persona of a fighter, with a track record of effectiveness. He is not defined by his grievances but by his achievements and his commitments. He is not marred by questions of character but rather a constant frustration to his enemies that he actually has some. He is all at once the superior candidate by principle, and pragmatics. And this is painfully obvious.
Candidates matter. Voters need more than people who kiss the ring of a megalomaniac, scream on cable news, and tweet outlandish things. They need more than celebrity and more than wannabe celebrity. They need technique. And maybe you think “technique” is a word of the “establishment” — though that is lazy analysis, at best. Being competent and prepared and electable and well-read are not “sellout” characteristics; they are the sine qua non of candidate eligibility for any party that wants to be taken seriously. DeSantis is not just the overwhelming victor this week, more than Donald Trump and more than Joe Biden; he is now the standard-bearer of the conservative movement.
The midterm results will take on a slightly different form with more numerical clarity in the days (or weeks?) to come, and the general narrative will hold — a decent night for Republicans that could have and should have been much better.
But it is time to cut the cord from the reason we are having bad or insufficiently good election nights, and embrace the man of the moment.
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