The end of American democracy, at the hands of a motley crew of Donald Trump cronies who deny elections and revere MAGA, was usually expected to begin on the night of November 8.
The Republicans, led by a vanguard of radical candidates under the sway of Mr. Trump, would win a large majority in the House of Representatives and a narrow majority in the Senate. Further down the ballot, in races for secretary of state in swing states, the winners would also be Trumpers, determined to gerrymander the voting process itself. They would begin working to secure a GOP victory in 2024 – heads, you vote us into office, heads, we declare the election invalid.
But it turns out that a surprisingly large number of Americans didn’t have it. American politics is a game of inches, and mid-term the electorate moved inches, if not feet, to keep many of these people from being elected.
The result is that Democrats retain control of the Senate, while the GOP majority in the House (with a count still going on in some districts) will be microscopically thin. And plenty of evidence suggests that the deadweight that has held the Republican Party back from taking off is Mr. Trump.
Republicans haven’t done so badly — they’ll hold 49 or 50 of the 100 Senate seats (pending a runoff next month in Georgia), half the governors’ mansions and just over half the seats in the Bedroom. . But they expected, and had reason to expect, so much more. The ruling party always loses a significant number of congressional seats in midterm elections, and this midterm came at a time of heightened economic anxiety, with polls showing stubbornly low levels of support for the Democratic president. Joe Biden.
But Republicans have tied most closely and vocally to Mr. Trump, and his campaign to deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election has done poorly — and it made a difference.
Take Georgia. It is a purple state whose electorate is tinged with republican red. Moderate Republican Governor Brian Kemp was easily re-elected, beating his Democratic opponent by seven points. Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was also easily re-elected – a Republican despised by the MAGA crowd and personally targeted by the former president for refusing to “find” additional votes for Mr Trump in 2020.
Meanwhile, GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker, a former soccer star with a long list of personal issues and a strong endorsement of Trump, got 200,000 fewer votes than Mr. Kemp and fewer votes than his Democratic rival.
Or take Arizona. In 2018, moderate Republican Governor Doug Ducey won re-election with a 14 percentage point majority. In Arizona in 2022, the GOP nominee was Kari Lake, a former television news anchor and election denier exploited by Mr. Trump. She came down to defeat. Also defeated was fellow MAGA Blake Masters, who lost the Arizona Senate seat held from 1987 to 2018 by the late moderate John McCain.
The offices that Republicans should have won, across the ballot and across the country, were lost because they ran scary candidates. At the same time, however, the GOP also won House seats in a staunchly Democratic California and New York, and they owe their House majority to those victories. Mr. Trump did not fit into those races – unlike Georgia, Arizona and many others.
A widespread response has been to declare Mr. Trump politically dead. But rumors of his disappearance are premature. On Tuesday night, he announced he was running to reclaim the White House in 2024. He delivered one of his most boring speeches ever, delivered with a level of enthusiasm bordering on sleepwalking; he is nonetheless the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP nomination. He remains, for now, the most popular Republican with the Republican base.
But what the midterm elections show is that he may be the least popular Republican among independents and swing voters. His most ardent supporters can’t get enough of him; for people who decide elections, he has become kryptonite. And for Democrats, it’s a voting machine.
American politics is not Canadian politics, but there are rhymes and echoes. And a lesson from this month in the United States is this: if a conservative party fields moderate, sane, pro-democracy candidates, it can win power. And if so, all bets are off.
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