There’s no way to sugarcoat it: that wasn’t what we were hoping for.
The GOP went into Tuesday’s midterms with elevated, even exuberant hopes. And they should have. Joe Biden was a barely functional nullity with 40 percent approval. Inflation was at 40-year highs. Stocks were tanking and unemployment was rising. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a calamity. Public schools were flooded with sickening tranny propaganda. Murder was up by a third nationwide. That was all more than enough to engineer a big midterm win. Even Democratic pundits seemed to think a shellacking was inevitable. There was talk of Republicans adding thirty, forty, even fifty seats in the House, to go along with 54 senators, or even more.
That didn’t happen. On Monday, Republicans were fantasizing of a Don Bolduc upset in New Hampshire; he lost by 10 points. Promising Republican House candidates like Bo Hines lost, and the GOP even lost several incumbents on its way to a narrow House majority.
There is certainly good news as well. Lauren Boebert looks likely to survive an election night scare. We are very happy to see J.D. Vance pick up a well-deserved win in Ohio. Ron Johnson once again fended off a tough challenge in Wisconsin. Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams are hopefully finished as national political figures. Kari Lake has good odds to pull off her race for Arizona governor. And, of course, Ron DeSantis’s systemic demolition of the Florida Democratic party is an inspiration to the entire country.
But still, it wasn’t a red wave, let alone a “red tsunami.” Going into Tuesday night, there were four true toss-up Senate races — Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona — and the GOP needed only two of them to win a Senate majority. As of this writing, Pennsylvania is lost and Georgia headed for a runoff with Raphael Warnock favored. The GOP may still win the Senate. But the most likely outcome is it will not, and the time to mentally accept that possibility is now.
Here are our takeaways from a disappointing night for American patriots.
Accept political realities on abortion
Did a “Dobbs effect” save Democrats, with millions of marginal voters turning out from paranoia that the GOP was about to ban abortion? Frankly, it might have. In every state where abortion got an up or down vote, abortion won. California, Michigan, and Vermont all made abortion a constitutional right, while Kentucky and Montana failed to approve pro-life referendums. Not only that, but exit polls suggest that, while married women and all men moved to the right this cycle compared to 2018, unmarried women (the group most likely to be radically committed to abortion) moved substantially to the left. In CNN’s 2020 exit poll, unmarried women voted 63% for Joe Biden.
But in 2022, unmarried women voted 68% for Democrats in the House.
Multiple exit polls indicated that voters listed abortion as a key issue. That doesn’t 100% prove the issue’s decisiveness; to some extent, liberal voters had internalized that abortion was a good reason to support Biden this cycle, and they certainly couldn’t say they were voting on the economy or crime. But still, the circumstantial evidence is there: The Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, and its aftermath, probably cost the GOP support in this midterm.
That doesn’t mean the GOP should become a pro-abortion party. The pro-life movement is a core part of the conservative coalition and supplies an outsize share of its organizers and activists. It also played a key role in building up originalist Supreme Court jurisprudence to push back on decades of liberal overreach. Without the pro-life movement, it’s virtually certain the Federalist Society would not be as prominent as it is today, and America’s courts would be far worse off for it. Overturning Roe v. Wade was worthwhile simply to remove one of the worst atrocities against the Constitution in American history (and pave the way for victories on other issues, like affirmative action). Plus, abortion is obviously morally wrong.
But during the half-century it spent under Roe, the pro-life movement understood that stopping abortion was a decades-long effort to change hearts and minds. Now, the right must realize that a big win at the Supreme Court hasn’t changed that. If America puts abortion to an up or down vote, for the time being it will still vote in favor of abortion. Democrats managed to make 2022 an up-or-down abortion vote for many people, and they benefited.
In this context, Lindsey Graham’s federal bill for a 15-week abortion ban was a huge misfire. It completely justified Democratic claims that Republican talks of abortion as a “state issue” was a sham, and they would impose tough restrictions the moment they were given a chance.
Instead, Republicans should return to the pre-Dobbs strategy that served them well for so long: At the national level, focus on not providing funding for abortions, and at the state level, focus on incremental changes that make abortions less freely available, while continuing to battle for hearts and minds.
A Star Is Born: John Fetterman
We’ll admit it: we underestimated the Braddock Behemoth. We thought his various shortcomings, like being a barely-verbal, scarcely-sentient entity of shapeless flesh, would preclude his ascent to high office. Instead, Fetterman won, and it really wasn’t even that close.
Revolver pointed out that Fetterman was utterly unworthy of the Senate as imagined by America’s founders. It turns out we were right, but in the wrong direction. Fetterman’s greatness is far too vast to be contained by a legislative body with 99 equals. The time has come to ask: Can Fetterman remake the nature of American society itself? Will he wear a hoodie on the Senate floor? In five years, will all senators wear hoodies? Is John Fetterman the American Caesar? The American Augustus? Is he our next U.S. president?
Deranged libs on MSNBC are already salivating over a Fetterman Presidential run:
"It just makes you wonder" pic.twitter.com/flV9sdSytl
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 10, 2022
Learn to fight the early voting battle
Okay, all joking aside, the Fetterman question deserves some serious consideration. How did a lifelong loser, who sponged off his parents and never held a real job and whose deepest wish was to abolish life without parole for murderers, suddenly become a U.S. senator?
In a word, it’s turnout.
With crime way up, inflation raging, the economy fading, and America clearly in a state of decline, Republicans reasonably assumed they could use a huge enthusiasm edge to their advantage. And, in a pre-2020 election, they might have been right.
But 2022 is a brave new world. Consider Pennsylvania. In 2018, 163,000 citizens voted early or by absentee ballot. In 2020, more than 2.6 million voted that way thanks to Covid and a borderline criminal effort to repeal Pennsylvania voting law by fiat. Crucially, though, Pennsylvania did not go back to normal afterwards. It kept the new mail-heavy approach, and so in 2022 the close to 1.2 million Pennsylvanians again voted early or by mail-in ballot.
17 states changed the way they vote because of Covid fears. Universal mail-in, absentee, curing ballots, deadlines, harvesting ballots. Only 9 rolled things back. Dems adapted. GOP did not. Here’s PA mail-in ballots: pic.twitter.com/y8wxNBrZBS
— Justin Hart (@justin_hart) November 9, 2022
Covid has successfully entrenched the use of mass mail-in voting and extended early voting windows. And the Democrats have clearly mastered the advantages this supplies. Could this involve fraud? Maybe, but even if there is no fraud at all, a superior early-vote operation gives Democrats an enormous boost. Instead of fretting about maximizing turnout on a single day, Democrats can use their ground game to harangue every likely supporter of theirs for weeks on end. They can knock on their door, offer to “help” them with their ballot, and in many states, volunteer to turn it in for them. By the time of actual Election Day, Democrats can focus all of their resources on whatever holdouts and marginal voters they still have.
Republicans, in contrast, seem to be shell-shocked so badly by 2020 that they have talked themselves into a losing position. Whereas the Democrats identify all of the Dem-leaning voters in a state who are extremely unlikely to vote based on their past voting history and harangue or hand-hold them into voting by mail, the GOP does no such thing. These voters simply would not bother to vote under the old system, and by turning them out, the Democrats can completely flip around the polls.
Directly encouraging the base Republican voters to go to the polls on Election Day, as so many candidates have done, does not turn out those voters who maybe voted for Trump in 2020 and would be open to vote Republican if they were persuaded, but simply don’t feel motivated to vote or sold on the idea of voting for, say, Dr. Oz.
Furthermore, if a Democrat plans to vote early, but doesn’t, she can still vote on Election Day as a backup. But if a Republican insists on voting on Election Day, but then forgets, or is “too busy,” or is put off by long lines or bad weather, they can’t travel back in time to vote early. Their vote is simply lost.
All midterm elections have lower turnout than presidential elections. As high-stakes as 2022 felt, it was no different. About 5.2 million Pennsylvanians voted in the Fetterman-Oz contest. But in 2020, Pennsylvania cast 6.9 million votes for Trump and Biden, a difference of 1.7 million. The 2022 race was, quite simply, a contest about which side would lose fewer voters. Democrats won that contest, and their mastery of early voting is a huge reason why.
Democrats have built an election machine that will churn out votes, no matter how bad a candidate is and how bad the country looks. To defeat this, Republicans have no choice but to build a machine of their own.
This will be a challenge. One reason the Democrat machine works well is that, with black Americans consistently voting 85% Democratic or more, investment into maximizing black turnout produces extremely good returns. Another reason is that, in 2022 America, there really is a vast group of people with essentially religious devotion to the tenets of liberalism.
It’s funny to see GOP types debating which candidates or issues would have made a difference, when the simplest hypothesis is that there is a critical mass of voters who will support left-liberalism on essentially theological grounds, regardless of the conditions it produces.
— Adrian Vermeule (@Vermeullarmine) November 9, 2022
The Democrats have poor approval ratings, a cratering economy, surging crime, urban decay, a wide-open border, and creepy child mutilation ideology in public schools all working against them. But despite that, there really are just tens of millions of people who will never vote for another party, under any circumstances, ever. That is why California and New York, almost universally seen as in sharp decline and with residents fleeing in droves, are more rock-solid blue than they have ever been in history.
To compete with this vote machine, Republicans have to put up better candidates who are better on the issues, but that’s just a bare minimum. They must also build a competing machine of their own. About nine hundred thousand Trump voters simply didn’t turn out for Oz on Tuesday. If a GOP turnout machine captured even one-fourth of those missing voters, Oz would be a senator today.
A successful GOP machine will also be better at the dirty work of clearing spoiler candidates from the field. It’s an open secret of politics that Democrats prop up the Libertarians, and the GOP props up the Green Party, for the sake of undermining their opponents. Well, in Arizona’s Senate race this year, there was a Libertarian in the race, but no Green candidate. A better Republican machine will avoid such hiccups in the future.
Thanks for nothing, Mitch!
If Republicans had won a nice breezy victory on Tuesday, it would be easy to forget about Mitch McConnell funneling $9 million to Alaska to help Lisa Murkowski fend off a more conservative challenger. But Republicans did not get a breezy victory. And in states like Georgia or Nevada, a few extra million dollars of investment might have pushed candidates past a tipping point. There was absolutely no justification for McConnell funding Murkowski; thanks to Alaska’s instant-runoff system, a Republican win in the race was guaranteed. The decision to burn $9 million was purely about Mitch protecting himself.
So with that in mind, can we finally get rid of Mitch and his colleague Kevin McCarthy? Both of them are uninspiring leaders disliked by the base. They exercise no ideological leadership (or when they do, that leadership is mostly bad). The only argument for having both in charge, then, is that they possess strategic and organizational acumen that will deliver victories and bigger majorities across the country. But instead, they’ve failed, repeatedly, undercutting promising MAGA candidates with pulled funding while propping up many of the least useful members of the conservative “coalition.” It’s time to move on.
The curse of Florida?
In 2018, amid an otherwise ugly midterm for Republicans, Florida provided a bright spot by unseating Bill Nelson in favor of Rick Scott, and electing Ron DeSantis over Andrew “Meth and Gay Hookers” Gillum. In 2020, Florida voted for Trump by two more points than it had in 2016. On Tuesday night, for the third election in a row, Florida provided early results that were extremely positive for the GOP, but then weren’t followed up on by the rest of the country.
Florida also once again set a model for the whole country by having its millions of votes almost totally tallied within just a few hours of polls closing. In contrast, Arizona took the entire night just to get over 60% of votes counted. This is egregious. Arizona had total Republican control the last two years and dramatic, first-hand experience in why counting ballots quickly is a helpful check against fraud. There is no excuse for every GOP-controlled states to not immediately copy every aspect of Florida’s election system.
Unsurprisingly, Ron DeSantis’s big win, coupled with struggles in the rest of the country, has fueled even more calls that Trump should step aside (or be forcibly pushed aside by the GOP establishment) so that DeSantis become the party’s national standardbearer.
We would like to briefly caution against overreacting to Tuesday’s events. While DeSantis’s easy reelection is tremendous, it may also be misleading, precisely because of Florida’s success as a beacon to the rest of the country. Since 2020, hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Florida from other states, seeking a more business-friendly environment or refuge from Covid lockdowns. But that migration may have stripped various northern states of the people who could have provided the votes for a red wave. The people who might have delivered New York for Lee Zeldin instead gave Ron DeSantis a bigger landslide. Of course, that’s great for the people of Florida. But it is, bluntly, an obstacle to the liberation of other states, and a point against a special political genius of DeSantis that can be scaled nationally. The flood of Republican voters into Florida means that one cannot automatically analogize Florida to the other 49 states of this country. And that, by extension, means we can’t prematurely crown DeSantis as the Republican champion and 2024 nominee.
Trump, for his part, isn’t going anywhere. He remains the leader who inspires by far the most passion and most enthusiasm on the right. To the extent he has erred, it is because of his deviations from the mold of 2016 Trump. That’s a mold he can still easily fit into once again: his speech on Monday night was vintage Trump, low on grousing about the 2020 election and instead high on bold suggestions like executing the nation’s drug dealers.
Trump calls for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers
WE ARE SO BACK! pic.twitter.com/hSBweecQ2A
— A Very Serious Place (@SeriousPIace) November 8, 2022
We are cautiously optimistic about DeSantis. While he doesn’t quite have the “It” factor of Kari Lake, he’s been a successful governor of a major state who has thrived under pressure. But it remains to be seen whether this state-level success truly translates to being the sort of leader who can not only lead and turn out Republicans nationally, but just as importantly, resist the “pain box” created by the full hostility and pressure of America’s ruling media/bureaucratic regime.
Could Ron DeSantis be the new Republican champion? Absolutely. But the people saying he already is are jumping the gun. They aren’t trying to elevate DeSantis. They just want to discard Trump.