The Red Ripple - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Red Ripple
Kari Lake campaigns in Arizona (brian james cramer/Shutterstock)

“I was wrong,” wrote Melissa Mackenzie, publisher of The American Spectator, on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. “Terribly wrong.”

“I’m what happens when a conservative believes the polls,” she said. “I had wrongly thought that the polls swinging toward the Republicans meant that the polls were undercounting Republican support, as they have from time immemorial.”

Melissa is certainly not alone. Almost all of us at The American Spectator missed the call. We all thought that the red wave would come ashore with a furious assault on the Democrat Party and its collection of misfits, overeducated dunces, fraudulent “experts,” race hustlers, sex hustlers, crony capitalists, rent seekers, and Marxist wreckers who have spent the past two years abusing power to bring America to a depth not seen since the miasma of the late 1970s.

What goes up must come down, and vice versa, we all assumed. It’s basic physics. I myself wrote a piece analogizing the dynamics of an ocean wave as it comes ashore after being triggered by disturbances under the water, the water rising as the wave slows due to friction encountered in shallower water.

Physics very often describes politics, as human behavior is strikingly similar to the behavior of nature. It’s only rational to assume that two years of failure, corruption, nuttery, and tyranny at the hands of Joe Biden (or whichever faceless Obamites handle him like a marionette), Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi would produce a tsunami on November 8.

So, I was right there with Melissa. I saw the red wave coming. But what did reach land on November 8 was no red wave. It was barely a sea spray.

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Three days after the elections, the counting in Nevada and Arizona continued, a shameful and suspicious governmental failure that fueled familiar accusations of cheating, and Republican expectations of as much as a 54–46 Senate majority disintegrated with the close-but-no-cigar defeats of Adam Laxalt and Blake Masters — excellent candidates who in any favorable Republican year should have won handily over very nondescript Democrat incumbents.

With those losses, Republicans were stuck at forty-nine seats, requiring Herschel Walker, thought by some to be the weakest of the major GOP challengers in Senate races, to pull out a runoff victory in Georgia just to recreate the 50–50 parity in the Senate that the cycle began with. And look how that turned out.

Yes, Republicans won the House — by the narrowest of margins. That’s certainly something. It’s not a red wave.

What to believe in the aftermath of this? Why were Melissa and I, and so many others on the right, so wrong about the 2022 midterms?

Why couldn’t the Republicans summon up all the anger and trepidation about the state of the nation — some 75 percent of Americans surveyed in exit polling believe the country is on the wrong track under Biden and friends — into positive action on Election Day?

There were five schools of thought gaining adherence among the chattering classes. All have some merit; none are completely correct.

Trump Screwed It All Up

This is the narrative favored, obviously, by the Never-Trump gang and the legacy corporate media. It holds that Republicans underperformed because Republican candidates, particularly those whom Trump endorsed, weren’t good enough.

And that Trump is — as they’ve said over and over again — a malign influence on the party and that when he rears his orange head disaster soon follows, with the midterms merely the latest example of the GOP failure that began in 2018.

Is it true? Well …

Trump still brings a great deal of energy to the GOP. That’s undeniable. What’s more, that energy has reoriented the Republican Party and the conservative movement toward something that is unquestionably more accessible and sustainable by average Americans, particularly the working class of all races and those without political connections or degrees from “selective” colleges and universities. There is a real possibility of building out a governing majority based on the America First agenda that Trump sketched out in his time as president; without him, that simply would not have happened.

You know all this already, and, whether you’re happy with it or Trump, you can’t deny that he’s changed the GOP.

So, that’s his due. One might even go so far as to say that without Trump, if the GOP had continued to devolve from George W. Bush to John McCain to Mitt Romney to Jeb Bush, it might have even broken up and disintegrated under the weight of corporatism, militarism, and the political subservience that its own voters kept screaming was the wrong approach.

All that said, did Trump screw it all up?

Well …

He might have played a more positive role.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, his endorsee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, was a blunder. Oz, a Turkish Muslim from New Jersey who made his money selling diet supplements on the Oprah Winfrey Show and whose political orientation was clearly not conservative, couldn’t have been a worse ambassador to the working-class, blue-collar voting base that the GOP simply must have in the Keystone State in order to offset the Democrat machine vote in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Trump endorsed Oz because he agreed not to vote for Mitch McConnell to lead the GOP Senate caucus and because David McCormick, the better candidate (McCormick is a Gulf War veteran who served as the CEO of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates and who previously served in the George W. Bush administration), didn’t. McCormick had his own problems, but those working-class voters would have related better to somebody who’d served in the American military rather than in the Turkish one, as Oz did.

Oz wasn’t the only questionable endorsement. But that wasn’t the end of the problems.

Trump may have had the same misconceptions about the red wave that Melissa and I did. A week or so from the election, he began preparing the public-relations ground for his 2024 presidential run, something that was wholly unnecessary given that all the other potential Republican candidates were going to wait on his decision. Trump teased a November 15 presidential announcement just a few days before the election, stealing headlines from GOP candidates and energizing Democrat voters still suffering from the dreaded Trump Derangement Syndrome.

We now know, as we already suspected, that Trump is a turnout engine for Democrat voting unlike anything in recent American history. That he also energizes Republicans makes him politically viable regardless — but it’s now apparent that he’s a net liability when he’s not actually on the ballot. He can turn Democrats out to vote against Republicans, but he doesn’t necessarily turn Republicans out to support the party’s candidates whether he endorses them or not.

And some of Trump’s actions made just before the election and for several days after might indicate why.

Inexplicably, he began the month of November by cracking wise against Governor Ron DeSantis (whose performance in Florida was the clear shining light of the 2022 cycle), calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” after reading polls showing that Trump held a sizable lead over DeSantis in a hypothetical 2024 GOP presidential primary race. Trump then alleged that he has “dirt” on DeSantis, in a not-so-veiled threat against a prospective challenge by the latter.

The media picked up on those statements and seized on them to fan a controversy and the impression that the GOP is riven by division. Whether it was fatal to turnout is debatable, but it certainly didn’t help.

Own goals like this simply cannot happen by the leader of a political party whose job it is to hold a coalition together, not to drop a plunger and blow it apart.

The Establishment Screwed It All Up

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-thirty 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 such as Katie Hobbs, Kathy Hochul, and Gretchen Whitmer.

But at no point during what appeared to be a red wave on the horizon was there any feeling among the American people that the Republican Party deserved much, if any, preference over the Democrats in the eyes of the public.

In fact, Republican assertions that when Trump was in charge, particularly in 2018 and 2019 after his policies had taken hold and before COVID-19 changed everything, the American economy and standing in the world was markedly better, while finding general agreement among at least small majorities of the public, weren’t dispositive.

Why? Because there is a strong sense that while most GOP voters are behind Trump, the party’s political class most definitely is not. And, as such, the Mitch McConnells, John Cornyns, Lindsey Grahams, and Kevin McCarthys of the world don’t get to ride in Trump’s slipstream.

So when Trump and McConnell clashed over Senate nominees, with McConnell actively sabotaging winnable races so that GOP establishment detractors such as Blake Masters and Don Bolduc were grossly underfunded compared to the Democrat incumbents they were trying to take down, it was clear that the party was poorly prepared for success even with Democrat failure manifest from Portland to Portsmouth.

The truth is that there is also manifest failure among Republicans — it’s political more than in governance, which is perhaps an even worse sin — and, if the voters were only willing to deliver a mild rebuke, at best, to 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.

McCarthy and the GOP House leadership put out a document called the Commitment to America, a detailed program of some 150 policy proposals to change the federal government. It’s good, though it got very little play and House candidates almost universally did not run on it. And now, without the Senate, very little of the Commitment to America will make it into law — at least not in 2023.

There is even word that the rank and file are so disappointed in the House underperformance that McCarthy might have trouble attaining a majority to be elected speaker.

But McConnell is in little danger. He’s the least popular politician in Washington, and yet a majority of the GOP’s Senate caucus thinks he’s swell.

There is a reason Trump rose as quickly as he did as an electoral force. The Republican establishment needs a makeover, and the 2022 elections confirmed that fact.

Dobbs Screwed It All Up

Another favored narrative of the chattering classes held that the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade and brought abortion back to the states for a more local disposition created a massive Democrat voting constituency of women desperate to preserve the “right” to kill the unborn.

Was that a real thing? It apparently was.

Several ballot initiatives in states across the country showed the power that the pro-abortion movement still possesses. In Kansas, an August anti-abortion ballot initiative failed decisively, and the issue played significantly in Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s unsuccessful bid to take down Democrat incumbent governor Laura Kelly. In Kentucky, a constitutional amendment ending the right to an abortion failed. In Montana, a measure that would have guaranteed medical treatment for babies who survive failed abortions also failed. And, in Michigan, Proposition 3, which further guaranteed abortion rights in state law, fueled turnout for that state’s atrocious governor Gretchen Whitmer as she won a narrow contest over Republican rising star Tudor Dixon.

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.

Single women voted more than two to one for the Democrats, something that stood in the way of a Republican wave. The fruited plain is covered with cat ladies, and that vote is now the foundation of Blue America.

The pro-life position is the correct one, and it’s fundamental to the preservation of our country as founded. The pro-life movement has made great and laudable strides in the past decades, and those should be celebrated even if there was a cost in November.

But that work isn’t over, and many hearts and minds must yet be won.

And if, someday soon, advancements in medical science might make possible a happy resolution to the abortion issue, it would point decisively to a Republican future.

The Screwed-Up Kids Screwed It All Up

 CNN exit polling for the House elections during the midterms had it that while voters sixty-five and older (baby boomers) were 12 points more likely to vote Republican and those forty-five to sixty-four (Generation X) were 10 points more likely, younger Americans went a different way.

Among those thirty to forty-four (roughly, millennials), Democrats held a 4-point advantage.

And among the eighteen-to-twenty-nine crowd (roughly, Generation Z), Democrats were plus-28.

There is an old axiom that describes this, of course. That axiom goes: if you’re not a liberal before you turn thirty, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative afterward, you have no brain.

Generation Z will move to the right as it gains experience — and especially as the inevitable suffering Team Biden will inflict on the country is experienced and processed.

But this is the least heterosexual generation in human history. Generation Z has been bombarded in the schools and culture with every variant of the woke critical-theory cultural-Marxist bent, from transgenderism to critical race theory to third-wave feminism and beyond, and that has taken its toll.

Biden’s empty promise of student-loan debt forgiveness and Republican opposition to it was almost certainly a factor in the giant spread among the younger vote as well.

There is no question that this is a far worse problem that anyone credited — and we’ve all known it was a serious issue for Republicans. It has to be addressed, forcefully, now.

America Is All Screwed Up

There are so many utterly horrid Democrats who will attain or remain in office after this election — from John Fetterman to Gretchen Whitmer to Kathy Hochul to Catherine Cortez Masto — that it should be offensive to average Americans. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of believing that there must be wholesale corruption in American elections, but the problem with going there is that there must be proof before it’s actionable. As of this writing, there are only rumblings and suspicions of the same.

In Arizona and Nevada, though, the ceaseless and inexplicably slow counting can only be interpreted as prima facie evidence of skullduggery.

Nevertheless, until some proof of perfidy 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 must be reformed in some significant way.

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.

Perhaps in this there is perverse cause for optimism. Because those tough times will do their work. Perhaps for quite a long while.

Gas prices will skyrocket thanks to the Biden administration’s running out of oil taken from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The true shortage of both crude oil and refined petroleum products will soon become unmistakable. Diesel is already rationed, where it’s available, and the trucks have begun to cease rolling.

Food prices are bad enough. It’s worse when the shelves go empty.

And it’s going to be a cold winter in America. The tough times are coming.

Republicans are going to need to be ready to supply the tough men and women in 2024 if the good times are to return.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is a contributing editor at The American Spectator  and publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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