Voices: Republican reactions to the midterms make it clear. The age of Trump is over

Voices: Republican reactions to the midterms make it clear. The age of Trump is over

President Biden and the Democratic Party just defied political gravity. The results are still coming in, but in major races across the country, an indictment of Trumpism was delivered. What we saw was a debunking of the manufactured “red wave” narrative and a vindication of Democratic politics.

Heading into Tuesday’s midterm elections, the prevailing media narrative was that concerns about inflation and crime would supersede any concerns about abortion rights and democracy. Democrats were slammed as out-of-touch on the most important issues facing Americans. Forecasting models projected a 50%+ likelihood that Democrats would lose the Senate, and an overwhelming likelihood that they would lose the House by a wide margin. But as the results began to trickle in on election night, it was clear the red wave was actually a red ripple.

For those of us who managed to sleep, Americans ended the night with some key bellwether Virginia congressional races being called for Democrats Jennifer Wexton in VA-10 and Abigail Spanberger in VA-7. These districts are often indicators of how the night may go, and Republicans were not doing as well as they’d hoped. In the early morning hours, John Fetterman defeated Dr Oz in Pennsylvania, handing Democrats their first Senate seat flip of the 2022 midterms.

The Senate majority will now come down to races in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. We will know the results of Arizona (forecasts lean Democrat) and Nevada (toss-up) within hours or days. The Georgia Senate race between Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R) will go to a December 6 runoff after neither candidate notched above 50% of the vote. After Fetterman’s win, Republicans would have to gain two seats to take the Senate. Democrats may very well hold it in the end. Democrats also overperformed in some key state House and state Senate races, like in Michigan and Minnesota.

Republicans are still favored to take the House — though right now it’s too close to call — but with nowhere near the margin that was anticipated. It’ll probably come down to a few scattered seats. It’s clear by now that President Biden and his party have overperformed decades of historical precedent.

This was the best incumbent party performance in a president’s first term since George W Bush gained eight House seats and two Senate seats in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2002. It was also the best first-term performance of any Democratic president since Kennedy. If we just look at the past 30 years, the trends are pretty consistent. President Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in his first midterm in 1994. President Obama lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats in his first midterm in 2010. President Trump lost 40 House seats in his first, and only, midterm in 2018. By the time the House is called, we know Biden won’t be anywhere near that. In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), this election was “definitely not a Republican wave, that is for darn sure.”

So how did pundits get this so wrong? Polls seemed to miss higher-than-anticipated youth turnout in multiple states and underestimated the impact of the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v Wade. GOP-sponsored polls inflated polling averages. It appears that the true pulse of the people was missed, and more Americans were turned off by GOP extremism than many had thought.

Bolstering this point, Trump-backed candidates had a terrible night. According to CNN’s count, as of this moment, “no Republican endorsed by Trump in a toss-up gubernatorial, US Senate, or House race has won.” Among the most notable losses were Dr Oz and Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania races. Mastriano is a proud election-denier who would’ve held massive sway over how elections were administered if he became governor. Fortunately, Democrat Josh Shapiro will hold that office. Republicans thought being pro-insurrection would benefit them. Americans proved them wrong.

In an interview with Newsnation yesterday, Trump gave a classic deflection that was almost laughable in its bare-facedness: “If they win, I should get all the credit; if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” Well, Republicans are handing him all of the blame, and on his most beloved network. Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich tweeted: “GOP source tells me ‘if it wasn’t clear before it should be now. We have a Trump problem’.” Fox News commentator Marc Thiessen called the election “a searing indictment of the Republican Party” and an “absolute disaster,” and said the party needs to do some serious introspection.

Earlier today, Fox News published a story with the headline: “Conservatives point finger at Trump after GOP’s underwhelming election results: ‘He’s never been weaker.’” The story was shared by Fox on Trump’s social network Truth Social, ensuring he would see it. CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that “Trump is livid” and “screaming at everyone.”

What does this mean for 2024? Perhaps that question can be answered by Fox News’s promotion of a New York Post story with the headline “Ron DeSantis Shows He’s Future Of The GOP.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said “if Republicans get serious and drop the frivolous bulls**t, 2024 could look very different. IF.”

Will it look different? Will the Republican Party do any introspection and finally exorcise itself of its anti-democracy stances and efforts to erode fundamental rights? Probably not. If we see Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) leading a Republican narrow majority in the House, it will be hard for him to contain the more extremist members of his caucus. We could very well still see partisan probes and frivolous culture wars elevated. If McCarthy continues down the path Republicans are currently on and remains out of touch with the average American, his party could be in for another presidential loss in 2024 against a now-emboldened Democratic Party.

Speaking of 2024, the enthusiasm around Trump’s incoming presidential campaign announcement has disappeared, especially with Georgia headed to a runoff. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman tweeted that there are “people pushing Trump to reschedule his announcement next week, and several [Republicans] have texted asking whether he will.”

Does this new distancing from Trump mean we will see a 2024 Republican nominee that isn’t an extremist? I doubt it. We’ll likely just get a Trump imitator. In other words, the new spawn of MAGA: Ron DeSantis.