Opinion: Failure in the Midterms – Gregory Hood

Photo: Dr. Oz. Credit Image: © Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

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On paper, the Republican Party should have run away with the midterm elections. It did not. It failed for structural, ideological, and demographic reasons. It probably can’t fix any of this. This is an opportunity for white advocates.

At this writing, it is virtually certain the Democrats will control the Senate no matter what happens in the runoff in Georgia. The GOP will take over the House of Representatives, though it will have a very small majority. The Democrats will not be able to pass any major legislation without Republican turncoats.

Republicans were expecting far more. Historically, the party in opposition gains seats during the midterm elections in the president’s first term. Republicans could also look forward to victory based on Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s success last year, which turned a blue state red.

There were high hopes the GOP could expand the map this year, especially because of President Biden’s low approval ratings. A CBS news exit poll found almost two-thirds of voters don’t want to see President Biden run again. Inflation was the top issue among those polled, and only just over one-third of voters said President Biden’s policies were “helping” the country. If you had seen those exit polls and nothing else, you would have expected a horrible night for the Democrats.

In the weeks up to the election, there were signs of trouble for the “Red Wave.” First, Democrats completely closed the enthusiasm gap with Republicans. Second, important figures including Republican senate candidate Blake Masters in Arizona and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania closed polling gaps far too late in the election — with the Democrats enjoying an advantage among everyone who had voted before the Republicans rallied. Democrats also outspent them. Third, the repeal of Roe v. Wade rallied unmarried women, who now are the core of the Democratic coalition along with blacks. Finally, gasoline prices fell in the run-up to the election, something the Biden Administration might have helped along by tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Still, Republican prospects were good, and before outlining the Republican Party’s failures, it’s worth highlighting its success. The GOP won the House and 6 percent more of the popular vote. (Since 1992, Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential race only once: George W. Bush in 2004.) Voters dashed progressives’ hopes of upsetting GOP stars, such as Ohio Senator-elect J. D. Vance, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Governor Dan Abbott of Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Governor Brian Kemp and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. Governor DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio both look like strong candidates for 2024, Florida is a red state, and the GOP won outright majorities in overwhelmingly Hispanic districts. Once again, we need to think more carefully about what the “Hispanic” racial designator means in politics. Governor DeSantis looks like President Trump’s presumptive rival for 2024 and has been an effective governor.

Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to a crowd of supporters during his election night party at the Tampa Convention Center. (Credit Image: © Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Press Wire)

In contrast, President Trump’s “MAGA movement” is dying. Trump-endorsed nominees Blake Masters, Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, and Joe Kent lost. Rep. Lauren Boebert has a slim lead in her race, but it’s still too close to call. President Trump himself will be a candidate for 2024, but his power within the GOP may be broken. His weak showing may also make the Biden Justice Department less hesitant to indict him. While many strong candidates were re-elected (and electing Senator J. D. Vance is a populist victory), nationalists aren’t dominating the GOP. The Democrats’ trick of funding so-called “election deniers” in the primaries may make it hard to take Democratic claims of “defending democracy” seriously. However, as a political trick, it worked; those candidates lost.

Senator-elect J. D. Vance celebrates his win over Tim Ryan. (Credit Image: © Jintak Han/ZUMA Press Wire)

The structural reason the Democrats did so well is because they’ve built a superior get-out-the-vote operation, using early voting, mail-in voting, and ballot harvesting. Ballot harvesting means a person can collect absentee ballots from voters and turn them in. It raises questions about fraud, since it breaks the chain of custody between voters and election officials. In some states, it’s a crime.

However, even if all ballot “harvesters” are honest, it ensures high turnout in dense areas that tend to support Democrats. Driven, passionate, progressive activists harvest ballots from their low-agency urban base. Republicans could do the same, but it would require more money and determination.

“Election Day” itself is a misnomer because early voting has changed the way campaigns should be waged. If you aren’t winning a few weeks ahead of “Election Day,” you may have already lost. Winning the vote cast on Election Day may not be enough to overcome earlier votes.

Early voters in every age group tended to support Democrats. There are many Republicans calling for changes in the voting rules to prevent fraud, but the party lacks the power to do much. The national party could propose making Election Day a holiday while cracking down on other practices, thus capitalizing on the GOP’s Election Day advantage. If not, the GOP needs to build a comparable machine to harvest votes early in a campaign. Speaking from my experience with conservatives, it probably won’t do anything.

A party built around “limited government” has a hard time playing for keeps. Nor do Republicans generally promise their voters support from the Treasury. Conservative activists live off the movement, working for NGOs, activist organizations, or as consultants. The Democrats’ NGOs either work with or get money from the state. Republicans don’t run the “permanent campaign” Democrats do. Republicans do not have the same number of full-time activists. They probably never will until they abandon the idea of limited government and instead openly aim for taking over the state and using its power.

Major parts of the Republican coalition are also unpopular. Democrats have done well since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. They mentioned abortion more than any other issue in television ads. A constitutional ban on abortion in Kentucky failed. In Montana, a bill that required medical care for newborns that survived abortion also failed.

Pro-life activists say their cause is egalitarianism taken to its logical conclusion. A fetus has a “right” to life even if it is the product of rape, is defective, or is unwanted. That may be logical, but most Americans don’t vote that way. Even in deep red states, voters don’t want total abortion bans. They think partial-birth abortions are wrong, but not first-trimester.

At least some voters turned out to defend abortion specifically. A plurality of 31 percent of voters said inflation was the most important issue, but abortion wasn’t far behind at 27 percent. In Pennsylvania, those polled said abortion was the top issue, and voters who said abortion was most important broke four to one for Democrat John Fetterman. In Michigan, a plurality of 45 percent said abortion was most important. Voters from that plurality backed Democrat Gretchen Whitmer 77 to 22 percent.

Young (and therefore more racially diverse) voters backed Democrats. Even a majority of 18–29-year-old men backed Democrats. This included a majority of white 18–29-year-olds; every other generation of whites voted Republican. While married women backed Republicans, unmarried women voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. Deliberately or not, Democrats gain from broken families and measures that weaken families.

Republicans are also stuck with deeply unpopular positions, notably meddling with Social Security and Medicare. Blake Masters floated the idea of privatizing Social Security, which let incumbent Senator Mark Kelly run ads on the issue. The program is unsustainable without an overhaul, but because changing it is political suicide, nothing will happen until it’s too late. Republican Governor Chris Sununu criticized Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott for trying to discuss changes to abortion and Social Security at the national level, and he was strategically right to do so.

President Trump harping on the 2020 elections didn’t sit well with voters. Almost as many voters said they were turning out to stop Donald Trump as said they were voting to stop Joe Biden. In a break from the last four midterms, independent voters tended to support Democrats rather than the party out of power. Polls indicate that some of those who oppose Joe Biden still voted Democrat, and that President Trump’s negative approval rating hurt his candidates.

There are a few paths forward for Republicans. The outright Republican victory in Miami and continued Republican growth among Hispanics, Asians, and even blacks shows that a strong anti-crime campaign won’t necessarily cost minority support. Some Republicans left white working-class voters on the table, ceding them to candidates such as John Fetterman who didn’t take them for granted and who won defections even in deep-read parts of the state. Those voters could be won back. Moderation on social spending and abortion, heavy emphasis on “law and order,” and advocating quick and clean elections in the future rather than moaning about 2020 could give 2024 candidates a winning platform.

Of course, that depends on where Republicans put their money. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, wouldn’t free up millions of dollars to help Blake Masters in his close race. Instead, the money went to Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who fended off a Trump-backed GOP challenger. This means one could argue that some party leaders might rank control over a rump GOP preferable to a majority GOP they can’t control. Current Republican leaders may want what they are getting: a GOP that is looking past Donald Trump, winning more minority voters, and getting used to losing politely.

Blake Masters. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Senator Josh Hawley’s claim that the “old party is dead” and it’s time to “build something new” may be right, but it’s unclear what will replace the GOP. In theory, a party that’s tough on crime and immigration, more moderate on abortion, unwilling to slash social programs, and eager to appeal to white working-class voters could win. In reality, the GOP’s pro-life voters are among the most important members of its base. The conservative movement is built around the ideas of limiting the federal government, so almost no candidate can win the nomination without mentioning entitlement reform. Finally, Republicans don’t have a candidate who can reach working-class white voters as well as Donald Trump did.

The GOP may be trapped. Changing demographics mean it has a hard time building winning coalitions in states such as Arizona and Nevada. The party needs President Trump’s voters, but President Trump himself is a drag on the ballot. Banning abortion entirely is a political loser, but the issue is of great moral importance to the GOP base. You won’t convince pro-lifers to drop it.

White advocates should realize these aren’t our problems. We have limited money, staff, and resources. White advocates shouldn’t be dragged down by the Republican Party’s efforts to save itself. We’ve successfully changed the discussion online to the point that people run political ads about “anti-white” discrimination. The Supreme Court may soon ban affirmative action. White advocacy will be more important than ever if it does. We have battles of our own to fight.

The populist moment for the GOP has passed. President Trump squandered his chance in 2016 and the GOP has lost in 2018, 2020, and now 2022. This year, the GOP couldn’t win a backlash election even in very favorable conditions. “Christian Nationalism” lost in Pennsylvania. While Senator Hawley is right that the party needs to change, especially on economics, there are few figures who can force it to. Senators Hawley, Vance, and Tom Cotton all lack the charisma to stage a hostile takeover the way Donald Trump did in 2016.

The GOP will either make necessary changes or it won’t, but “America First” candidates are on a bumpy road within the GOP. A Donald Trump endorsement is necessary for victory within the party but seems to do more harm than good in a general election, and it’s not even true that Donald Trump always supports the best candidate, as Rep. Mo Brooks can attest.

As usual, white advocates should look coolly at political reality. Whites are politically homeless and are a stateless people. Neither party represents us or wants to. While infiltration or entryism is possible, it needs to be done openly — as pro-white candidates willing to fight the GOP — or not at all. The halfway strategy of “America First” candidates didn’t work this time.

Rather than trying to save the Republican Party from itself, white advocates should already be looking to the future. The election results are a liberation. We are not bound to the GOP as the “lesser of two evils” because it is no longer a realistic opposition party. Instead, we should be building local power and networks that can support our activists within a hostile system.

The Democrats’ defeat of the GOP on Election Day doesn’t have to be our defeat. Instead, it should mark the moment when we stop trying to save the GOP. We should devote all our attention, resources, and efforts towards building a home for our own people, who are unrepresented — even despised — by the current regime. That may sound unrealistic. Compared to the chances of the GOP retaking the government, it is more realistic than hoping, once again, that a Republican will save us.

 

 

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