The Midterms: Continuing Decline

The Midterms: Continuing Decline
Kamala Harris, Joe Biden (Image: CBSN screen grab)

“And we fall, face forward, fighting on the deck.”

– John Davidson

The two major parties continue to fail the people and the country.  More and more they ignore the people’s work in favor of partisan squabbles about irrelevancies.

In a year that should have seen at least a Republican wave, the GOP barely managed to eke out a narrow House majority.  High inflation, the coming recession, high crime, unrestricted illegal immigration, an unpopular and perhaps incompetent president and a school-marmish Democratic Party that mostly lectures Americans about imagined foibles, combined for a rare opportunity for the GOP that promptly blew it, proverbially snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Speaking of incompetence, theirs was a virtuoso performance.

I suspect neither party learned a thing.  The Democrats may well conclude that, since this was supposed to be a rout of epic proportions, perhaps the public simply agrees with their policies.  Republicans may or may not learn their own lesson – that Biden’s feebleness and feeble numbers aren’t a substitute for articulating sensible policy alternatives.

But now the matter is out of their hands.

That’s because Donald Trump is very much still with us, will continue to be for at least two years, and his influence proved toxic for GOP office seekers.  For the most part, Trump-backed candidates either lost or did worse than expected.

Now, if Trump were a good Republican soldier, he’d learn the lesson and remove himself to the rear, far from the action.  But he’s no one’s soldier.  The classic “legend in his own mind,” Trump will do what he wants and the party be damned.  He still has both the hubris and the money to exercise it.  Most importantly, unless his true-believing supporters finally grow as sick of him as the rest of the country so plainly has, he may well have the votes to win the nomination in 2024.  Absent a complete Democratic catastrophe, he’ll have nothing like the votes to win a general election.

Trump the candidate would be as grievous a blow to the GOP as there ever has been.  The fall and disgrace of Richard Nixon will be nothing compared to the all-but-inevitable defeat of Donald Trump should he become the nominee.  This year’s electoral results shout to the heavens that the general run of American voters want Donald J. Trump out of office, out of their lives and off their TV screens.  His continued domination of the GOP would seriously reduce its power, particularly at the federal level.

Ron DeSantis?  He seems now to have the ability to govern well from the right and is popular among voters of the nation’s third largest state.  Unlike Trumpist candidates, DeSantis buried his opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist, by 20 points in the Florida gubernatorial contest, a fact that augers well for his electoral future.  In a year in which Republicans spectacularly underperformed and in a state that’s no slam-dunk win for them, DeSantis sparkled.  His success puts him squarely on the national stage, but has his time come?  Can he draw off enough MAGA Republicans to wrest the nomination from Trump and can he do so without the popular perception that he’s one himself?  I and many others doubt it.  For now, he looks premature, more like the potential savior of a Trump-damaged GOP post-2024 than the president two years from now.

Meanwhile, Democrats have their own problems, principally, a stable of lousy candidates.  Joe Biden claims he’ll run again in 2024, but sensible observers don’t believe it.  Already mentally compromised, Biden won’t get less so in the future and would be asking to be president until he’s 86.  Assuming there’s a Democratic primary, Biden won’t have either the energy or the mental capacity to compete.  In 2020, COVID allowed him to remain indoors for the duration of the “campaign” while a nakedly-partisan press attacked his opponent, circumstances not likely to be repeated during the Democrats’ primary season.

Kamala Harris is an empty suit.

Gavin Newsom has his own problems – open antipathy to law and order, a state with high taxes, high energy costs, once-lovely cities drowning in crime, garbage, mental health crises and illegal drugs, and residents fleeing the carnage.  Video footage of homeless encampments that dominate the landscapes of major California cities overlaid with statistics on crime and quotations like this from the Los Angeles Times – “a solid majority believe the state is headed in the wrong direction” – and you have GOP attack ads all but made to order.  Newsom’s main appeals are that he’s reasonably photogenic and not one of the other Democrats.  After all, who else is there?

Whatever happens in 2024, we know what to look for between now and then.  Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate will vie with each other in producing bills each party knows will never pass the other house, i.e., nothing but an exercise in virtue signaling.  They hope we won’t notice the scam, but of course we will and further downgrade Congress’ already abysmal approval rating.

The bigger picture though is the continued decline of the two-party system in the U.S.  Pre-election polls found the policies of the Democratic Party utterly out of step with the country.  Pew Research found the economy to be tops in voters’ concerns and violent crime high on the list.  To those concerns Democrats responded that inflation is all Vladimir Putin’s fault and jailing felons is racism.

But the election demonstrates that, as out of touch as Democrats are, voters don’t think Republicans are any better.

In short, this was a “plague on both your houses” election.  With seats in Congress so closely split between the two parties, it’s almost as if the voters are begging for stasis.  That’s a good enough plan for harm reduction, but a poor one for effectively addressing the needs of a declining nation.

This article originally appeared at The Word of Damocles.


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