I’ve been troubled and deeply pessimistic about the future of the republic throughout the 2020 campaign season. Last night, I sat up, feeling optimistic, and suddenly hopeful.
This was a fantastic year for the GOP.
If you paid much attention to the media in the run up to the general election, here’s what you heard: There’s going to be a Blue Wave. The Democrats will capture the White House, the Senate, and retain their control of the House. The detestable Donald Trump, whose every fault was broadcast and whose successes were largely ignored, will be decisively rejected. A newer, less racist, more inclusive, intersectional America will arise after four years of racist dog-whistles. There will be a reckoning. Why there may even be “truth and reconciliation” commissions to hold to account those who supported Trump.
We’re going to cancel everything but virtue.
The pollsters called it, too. Trump was going down hard, in poll, after poll. (Only the Trafalgar Group came close to getting it right, and that’s because, as Robert Cahalay of the group notes, other pollsters generally neglected adequately to factor into their polling the extent to which Trump supporters were reluctant to voice their opinions for fear of being shamed, cancelled or otherwise marginalized.)
As of this writing, almost 69 million Americans voted for Trump; almost 72.5 million Americans voted for Biden. Ballots are still being counted in so-called battleground states. Neither candidate has yet to muster the 270 votes necessary to win.
What’s more, the landslide that was expected to deliver the Senate to the Democrats failed to happen. It appears that the Senate will remain in Republican hands. As of this writing, ABC News has the Senate 48-45 for the GOP. The Democrats retained control of the House, but have a less commanding majority than they did prior to the election. (Keep an eye on Georgia, which had two Senate seats to fill. There will be a run-off election to fill one of the seats in early January, as none of the candidates for the seat currently held by incumbent GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler garnered the 50 percent of ballots necessary to declare victory.)
Call it a Blue Dribble.
Why do I say that?
After the months of unrelenting hostility to Trump by the media and the confident pollsters predicting a slaughter, the fact that millions of Americans turned up to vote in the midst of a pandemic suggests that they had a message they wanted to be heard. And here’s the message: We’re not buying the vision that the Democrats and the media are selling. They voted to cancel “cancel culture.”
What is that Democratic vision?
It’s hard to say, actually. One gets the impression that so much of the Democratic strategy this year was the so-called “character” campaign: Trump’s a buffoon, unstable, and divisive; Biden, by contrast is, well, what, exactly – a 47-year career politician acting as a Trojan horse for party activists who see smoldering cities as “mostly peaceful protests”? The Hartford Courant reported on the view of one Biden voter who regarded Biden as but a necessary cipher: get rid of Trump and then find a real winner.
No, thank you, half the country said. I’m with them.
My hunch is that the Republican Party is stronger than ever. The Democrats wined, dined and courted the electorate, demonizing a man whose faults are obvious. At the end of the date, there was no marriage, only a dismal stain on a soiled sheet. Joe Biden is the room service manager left to clean up the mess.
Candidly, if Trump loses this election, as I suspect he will, it will be good for the party. His shenanigans have become a distraction, and may have cost the Republicans the White House this year. In this razor-thin election, defectors who voted Biden because they couldn’t stomach another Trump tweet were perhaps the difference between success and defeat.
I’ve long viewed Trump as the canary in the mineshaft of American politics. What made the emergence of such an improbable president possible? We have a better view of that now that the canary has, perhaps, died.
The Red Tide that rose this year sends a message. There are millions open to a message that says character, not identity matters; that the burdens of empire are no longer ones we want to carry (Trump is the first president in a long time to spend four years in the White House without ensnaring us in another armed conflict abroad, and the prospects for lasting peace in the Middle East are better than they have been in generations); that our ability to serve as a “destination nation” for the world is limited; that diversity for diversity’s sake is an empty promise, yielding nothing by a mad dash to claim the spoils of victimhood.
The Republican Party should waste little time fighting endlessly about a corrupt and stolen election. Electoral fraud and irregularity can be prosecuted; the election won’t get redone. Yes, litigate the results. But if you lose, prepare for tomorrow.
The January Senate race in Georgia is a good start. Imagine a race that could result in a 50-50 split in the Senate. Is there a Republican alive who really wants Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate?
It’s time for new leadership in the GOP. Harvest the data from this election, find new candidates, focus on the 2022 congressional elections. After two years of an undertaker and his understudy in the White House, House seats will be ripe for the pickings. As for 2024, let’s see more of folks like Senators Tom Scott of South Carolina, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Susan Collins of Maine. And let's not forget Nikki Haley. The Democrats have no sustaining vision of what moves American forward. The wave that wasn’t proves it.
In an uncanny way, should Trump lose the 2020 election, it might be just the gift the GOP needs as it looks to the future. The canary may well be dead, leaving only the mineshaft.
It's time to stop whining and to get back to work.