It’s late as I write this, though not late enough to know how things will turn out. But there are things we can safely say just after midnight Eastern time on Tuesday as the vote counts roll in and the races get called.
One of them is that for all the anger we’ve seen evidence of from Republican and independent voters, it seems pretty clear that channeling it into positive action is something beyond the reach of the GOP’s leadership and political class.
Is that a failure of that leadership? Well, yes. It is. And we’ll spend weeks and months analyzing the fact that what was supposed to be a red wave election was more like a sea spray that might be just enough to take majorities in the House and Senate by the tiniest margins … or perhaps not even that. And we’ll be analyzing it within the context of the opportunity the GOP had in 2022 — and the party simply blew it.
This should have been a massive wave election. Given the low job approval ratings of the sitting president in his first midterm election, and given the favorable generic congressional ballot numbers, this should have been a plus-five wave in the Senate and a plus-30 wave, or bigger, in the House. It also should have resounded down to statehouses, and yet the GOP turns out, apparently, not to have been able to beat abysmal Democrat gubernatorial candidates like Katie Hobbs, Kathy Hochul, and Gretchen Whitmer.
There are so many utterly horrid Democrats who will remain in office after this election that it should be offensive to average Americans. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of believing there must be wholesale corruption in American elections, but the problem with going there is that there must be proof before it’s actionable.
Until some is presented, we’ll have to deal with something very unpleasant. Namely, here’s the truth that we on the Right are going to have to accept: the American electorate in 2022 is awful.
And the axiom about the cycle that involves weak men and tough times is a real thing, and we are in the worst quadrant of that cycle.
We are still in the time in which weak men make tough times. We have not gotten to the point where tough times make tough men.
But get ready because those tough times will do their work. Perhaps for quite a long while.
Somehow, the Democrats and their pals in the legacy media managed to convince a large swath of Americans that we’re not in a recession. Four in five Americans are unsatisfied with the economy, a large majority seem to be furious about gas prices, people say crime is out of control, and yet barely half of the country — if that — are motivated to unload the horrid leadership that caused those issues.
Look at the state New York is in, and yet the voters there overwhelmingly chose to retain Hochul?
But gas prices will skyrocket thanks to the Biden administration’s running out of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The true shortage of both crude oil and refined petroleum products will soon become unmistakable.
And it’s going to be a cold winter in America, and a rough time coming.
You only think it’s rough now. You have no idea how bad things can get. When the diesel fuel runs out and the trucks don’t move, and the shelves go empty, and the layoffs come, perhaps you’ll think of 2022 as the good times.
The responsibility of the American public was to deliver an utter rebuke to the Left and the Democrat Party that the Left runs, and the 2022 election was not a rebuke.
How you can perform so manifestly awfully in running a country like the United States of America over the past two years and not suffer a rebuke from the American public is mystifying. But the Democrats will perform even more manifestly awfully over the next two years.
The trouble is that the Republicans are also performing manifestly awfully, and if the voters were only willing to deliver a mild rebuke, at best, of the Democrats, they do appear willing to deliver one to the Republicans as well.
The voters took a look at the Republican Party and they don’t prefer Mitch McConnell to Chuck Schumer — or, if they do, not by a lot. They don’t prefer Kevin McCarthy to Nancy Pelosi — or, if they do, not by a lot.
And they didn’t see much of anything out of the GOP that they thought was worth voting for, even if they thought the Democrats were no better.
This isn’t a new problem. It’s the reason Donald Trump rose as the party’s surprise nominee in 2016 and why he’s the leading figure within the party still. Republican voters don’t even like the Republican Party, and Trump was seen as somebody who could reinvigorate it.
To some extent, he did. As underwhelming as things are right now, it would be infinitely worse if the Bush Republican brand was still dominant within the party.
The problem is that too many people who would be GOP voters think of it as a Bush Republican Party.
And if the numbers on Kari Lake and Blake Masters persist in Arizona, those people might be right. It may be that shaking things up in the GOP upsets too many of the complacent, “compassionate conservative” crowd who prefer a slow descent into irrelevance for the party to a vigorous fight to the end — not just for the Republican brand but for the country as founded.
Right now, McCarthy has to be seen as a liability atop the GOP House leadership. Steve Scalise was always a better choice and Scalise is going to have to make a decision he’d like not to, which is to step over his friend and lead. Because, if he won’t, somebody else who can make a compelling case for conservatism will necessarily step over both of them.
The worst result of the 2022 midterms, however, is that we will be stuck with Mitch McConnell as the leader of the GOP in the Senate for two more years. Without Masters and Don Bolduc and Herschel Walker (who might yet win) and Mehmet Oz, it’s going to be hard to find enough Republicans in the Senate who’ll vote against him.
Though Trump is demanding he go, to be replaced by Rick Scott of Florida.
I doubt that would be the case, though it should happen that way. Scott isn’t going to have the votes within the caucus to unseat McConnell, barring something unforeseen.
But Trump didn’t play the net positive role he should have, and that might be the real takeaway.
Mehmet Oz should not have been the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania. It should have been David McCormick. Everybody knows that now. McCormick would have beaten the ridiculous John Fetterman easily. Oz lost while performing similarly to Trump in 2020.
I’m not going to fault him for backing Masters. Masters was objectively the most interesting of the candidates in Arizona, and I wouldn’t give up on him as someone with a future in politics if he wants it. And I can’t understand Kari Lake’s underperformance, except she must have come on entirely too strong, particularly late in the race — but even then, in a competitive state, it’s impossible to fathom her losing to Katie Hobbs.
But when Trump rejoiced in Joe O’Dea’s loss in Colorado on Election Night, it was a rotten look.
It’s also a rotten look for Trump to have thrown jabs at Ron DeSantis, who is the single brightest light in the Republican Party. DeSantis held Charlie Crist under 40 percent, or he was doing so last I checked, and won reelection by 20 points.
Objectively, it’s clear that DeSantis is the future of the GOP. The talk about Lake as potentially overshadowing him can now be put to bed.
What we’ll have to discover is whether, rather than the future of the party, DeSantis must become its present. Because what he’s done in Florida in turning it definitively from purple to red in just four years is the single most impressive thing in Republican politics.
Frankly, it might be just about the only impressive thing in Republican politics now.
Republicans should study DeSantis and emulate him. He’s the standard. And as America turns bleak over the next two years, he might be the only inspiration the party has left.
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