Delusions, skullduggery, and the red wave that wasn’t

Well, those of you who were hoping that sanity in government might be restored with the midterms are going to have to wait another two years. The much ballyhooed “red wave” was barely a trickle.

No, it was even worse than that. The Democrats have retained control of the Senate; this we already know. At the time of this writing, the fate of the House of Representatives is unknown. But it will likely come down to a handful of contests in California. 

You can blame the Democrats. You can blame gullible swing voters. But a stark fact remains: the Republicans brought most of this on themselves. 

The first fatal error was the rote primary adoption of a slate of Trump-selected candidates, many of whom were completely unprepared for the contests they faced. They were unprepared because their main selection criterion (their only selection criterion, in some cases) was a willingness to play sycophant to Trump.

Then there was abortion. However one feels about legalized abortion, it has been the law of the land for 50 years now. You can’t make a 180-degree shift in any fundamental, established law without provoking a backlash.

The GOP could have survived the Dobbs v. Jackson decision by itself. The GOP was unable to survive the spate of absolute bans either enacted or proposed by GOP lawmakers and candidates since late June.

The textbook example of screwing the 2022 midterm pooch was provided by Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan. Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer was so unpopular after her ham-fisted and contradictory handling of COVID in her state, that this one should have been a slam-dunk for the GOP. Almost no one in Michigan liked Gretchen Whitmer at the end of last year.

But Tudor Dixon refused to stop talking about how Trump was robbed of the 2020 election. (This is why Trump endorsed her in the first place.) She also advocated an absolute ban on abortions in the Wolverine State, with no exceptions for rape or incest. You don’t have to be a bra-burning feminist to get twitchy about that. Tudor Dixon lost the  race for the Michigan governorship by 11 percentage points. In politics, that’s a blowout defeat. 

I understand, on some level, the Republican desire to “own the libs” by staking out untenable positions and running with dogs that are just never going to hunt. But part of “owning the libs” ought to include running a candidate capable of winning a general election, just once in a while. 

That means running to the center and finding common ground, an art that this new batch of Republicans has yet to learn, or even discover. The midterms were the Republican Party’s to lose. But somehow, the single-issue windmill tilters on the fringes of the GOP managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

But the Republican Party primary voters weren’t entirely to blame for the scope of the debacle. Democratic Party groups spent tens of millions of dollars promoting MAGA candidates in at least nine states, because they knew that such candidates would be unpopular with general election swing voters. And lo and behold, they were right: these candidates were largely unpopular.

The disastrous 2022 midterms are the bitter harvest of the Republican Party misreading the public mood, with a dollop of Democratic Party chicanery thrown in. The GOP assumed that the voters were so disillusioned with Biden and the Democrats, that they would go along with Trump 2.0 on the state and local levels, along with a total abortion ban. This ignis fatuus not only squandered the Republican Party’s midterm hopes, it also guaranteed the American public two more years of grossly incompetent Democratic Party leadership.

There are no heroes here, only dupes, boobs, and scoundrels. Let’s hope our country can survive another two years of this ruinous status quo.