The Great Red Wave of 2022 has crept onshore and withdrawn leaving nothing more than questions by Republicans as to what went wrong.
One of the things that went wrong, and which we have been criticized for pointing out almost weekly, was the GOP’s total adoration of, and obedience to, Donald J. Trump. Trump has been the leader of the Republican since the moment he and his wife descended the escalator at Trump Tower in New York City on June 16, 2016.
He mesmerized what had been a great American institution, the Republican Party, into following him, and at a minimum approving if hot cheering, his ad hominem attacks of people who didn’t express daily adoration, his ugly rhetoric toward policies which he disagreed (assuming he understood them in the first place), and his oft-expressed admiration for dictators around the world.
Republican office holders and wannabes elbowed one another out of the way to proclaim their fealty to Trump in person and Trumpism in the abstract. It has been like the members of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea not wanting to be the first person to stop applauding for their Dear Leader.
Former House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney and her replacement, Elise Stefanik, are but two examples of Trump’s political reach.
In the runup to the 2022 midterm elections, Trump made it known he would sprinkle pixie dust on the candidacies of those who bowed before him and would destroy the career of anyone who dared stand at the same height.
Democrats and allied groups like the Lincoln Project used political jujitsu on Republicans by actively supporting the most outrageous Trumpsters who were running in primaries.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board pointed this out:
“The Democratic strategy of spending money to help MAGA candidates win primaries was cynical, but it worked. Every one of those candidates lost.”
Singing the same tune, Columnist Jill Lawrence in her LA Times piece, quoted a Tweet by RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende:
”It turns out selecting your candidates from the Star Wars cantina might not be a recipe for electoral success.”
Republicans have defied history in midterms before. In 1998, during Bill Clinton’s 2nd term and in the midst of his imminent impeachment for the Monica Lewinsky business, according to Wikipedia:
“Democrats picked up five seats, marking the first time since the 1934 elections in which the incumbent President’s party picked up seats in the House during a midterm election.”
That election was so badly run, it cost Speaker Newt Gingrich his job.
I was running GOPAC, generally known as Newt’s PAC, in 1998 and so take my fair share of the blame for the design and execution of the GOP’s strategy.
Republicans will still likely organize the House when the 118th Congress meets in early January, 2023. They only needed five seats to change hands. We’ll likely know the answer to that by this weekend.
They might also take control of the U.S. Senate but we might not know the answer to that untl the runoff in Georgia takes place in early December.
But, this was supposed to be a Red Tsunami, wiping away Democratic incumbents from the 49th Parallel to the Gulf of Mexico and from sea to shining sea.
Republicans were poised to duplicate, or at least approach, the midterm election in Barack Obama’s first term when they picked up 63 seats in the House and seven in the U.S. Senate.
And as for Trump, he has all but reprised his famous denial of his actions (or lack of actions) in dealing with the coronavirus: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
As if to make that point, he has taken it upon himself to anoint the House Leadership. From The Hill newspaper:
“Former President Trump said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has his support for Speaker if the GOP wins a House majority in Tuesday’s midterm elections as anticipated.
“Trump also threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) for another term as chair of the House Republican Conference.”
On the other side, the NY Times quoted long-time Republican lobbyist and TV analyst, David Urban, as saying, “Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff.”
Right onto the rocks where they had thought the waters of the Great Red Wave would be there to greet them.
See you next week.