As they say, the people have spoken, and the republic still stands, albeit at least as confused politically as it has ever been. I didn’t like many of the election outcomes, but I continue to be grateful that we have this great privilege, and that the great American experiment carries on. Here are my thoughts.
- First and most obvious: Donald Trump is toxic, and has become a huge liability for the Republican Party. As I write he is about to announce that he will be a candidate for President in 2024, which will be very bad news for his party and the country. I voted for him twice and have previously noted that he had a very productive run in several ways and he has a huge and dedicated populist following, but he chose to destroy his legacy in the events leading to the debacle of January 6, 2021. (see Trump: His Exit and Legacy, February 2021) What he should have done now is to get off the stage, an act of magnanimity that would have been a shocking and welcome surprise.
- The Republican Party finally released its Commitment to America late in the campaign, which was too little and too late, then compounded its ineffectiveness as a campaign tool by failing to produce details on specifics of policy and not spending enough time nationalizing the campaign and explaining exactly what the various policy priorities would do to benefit the country and Americans.
- Republicans recruited far too many low quality candidates across the board and/or supported too many Trump endorsed candidates whose loyalty to him was their only apparent qualification. And most of these candidates lost, probably resulting in the loss of a Senate majority in the very winnable races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. This process was managed and financed by resources at the disposal of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and it seems reasonable that there be accountability for these results.
- Clearly from the returns across the country, particularly at the state and local level, competence wins, and this was illustrated very well in many of the state governors races where the winning candidates stayed out of the Trump-related debates on 2020 denial grievances and tended to the business at hand.
- The abortion issue became a much bigger one than I predicted and the Republicans generally did a poor job of the messaging on the Roe v. Wade reversal in the Dobbs case. People in both parties and independents wanted to hear in more detail exactly how the candidates in red states would respond to the removal of the national right to abortion on demand, and the response was mostly weak, which fed into Democrat accusations of extremism which in many cases apparently stuck.
- In the end the independent vote that usually provides the numbers that produce mid-term election sweeps was not there this time for the Republicans. Quite simply, the people were of two minds–they overwhelmingly believe that the country is on the wrong track, but they didn’t totally buy in to the Republican response–and the result was a huge missed opportunity.
And that’s my take.