Thursday, November 08, 2018


Bret Stephens has some thoughts about the midterms:
For months we’ve heard from sundry media apocalypticians that this year’s midterms were the last exit off the road to autocracy.
Yes, and yesterday's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions demonstrated that this was an accurate assessment. A Trumpist polemicist and hack is now America's acting attorney general. He'll begin the process of shutting down the Mueller investigation any day now. If the GOP had maintained control of the entire federal government, wouldn't that be a crisis?
On Tuesday, the American people delivered a less dramatic verdict about the significance of the occasion.

In a word: meh.
Actually, Democrats seem on course to flip 35 House seats, and they've taken back 7 governorships. It remains possible that Republicans will have a net gain in the Senate of only one seat, in an election in which Democrats were defending ten seats in states Donald Trump won. Meh? Unh-unh.
Are you interested in seeing Donald Trump voted out of office in two years? I hope so — which is why you should think hard about that “meh.” This week’s elections were, at most, a very modest rebuke of a president reviled by many of his opponents, this columnist included, as an unprecedented danger to the health of liberal democracy at home and abroad. The American people don’t entirely agree.
Some of the American people don't agree. Quite a few, in fact. That's because -- as in Hungary, Poland, Italy, and Brazil -- bigoted nationalism is proving to be a helluva drug. Stephens presents this reality as if it's the Democrats' fault for not banishing it from the nation with a wave of the hand.
The 28-seat swing that gave Democrats control of the House wasn’t even half the 63 seats Republicans won in 2010.
In part, that's because Democrats had farther to fall. They went into the 2010 midterms with 257 House seats. Republicans right now have only 223. (And the swing seems likely to be 35 seats, assuming the Democrats leading in undecided races are declared the winners.)
... in politics, intensity is not strategy. You have to be able to convert.

The Resistance didn’t convert.

It didn’t convert when it nominated left-wing candidates in right-leaning states like Florida and Georgia.
In Florida, Democrats ran Alex Sink, an uninspiring moderate, for governor in 2010. She lost by 65,550 votes. They ran an uninspiring ex-Republican, Charlie Crist, for governor in 2014. He lost by 64,145 votes. Andrew Gillum currently trails Republican Ron DeSantis by ... 38,613 votes. Maybe, just maybe, the candidate who inspires Democrats to turn out (Gillum won more than 4 million votes, while his predecessors couldn't even clear 3 million) is also the candidate more likely to inspire opponents to turn out. Maybe there simply is no formula for Democrats to avoid losing every statewide race in Florida by an eyelash, at least for now.
It didn’t convert when it poured its money into where its heart was — a lithesome Texas hopeful with scant chance of victory — rather than where the dollars were most needed.
Beto O'Rourke lost by 2.6%; the last guy to run against Ted Cruz lost by 16%. But O'Rourke's popularity helped two Democratic House candidates beat two top Republicans, John Culberson and Pete Sessions. It led to other downballot wins as well.
It didn’t convert when Chuck Schumer chose to make Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court the decisive political test of the year. It didn’t convert when it turned his initial confirmation hearing into a circus. It didn’t convert when media liberals repeatedly violated ordinary journalistic standards by reporting the uncorroborated accusations against Kavanaugh that followed Christine Blasey Ford’s.
A CNN poll released on October 11 revealed that a majority of Americans opposed the confirmation of Kavanaugh -- 51%, as opposed to 41% who were in favor; 52% believed his accusers and only 38% believed he was telling the truth.
...what does the average voter think about the people who pompously style themselves “the Resistance”? I don’t just mean the antifa thugs and restaurant hecklers and the Farrakhan Fan Club wing of the women’s movement, though that’s a part of it.
Stephens's reference to Farrakhan makes clear that his arguments are a product of either bad faith or tunnel vision. Not even the most fervent foot soldiers of the MAGA Army were talking about Louis Farrakhan this year -- he's only a concern of a handful of elites who are looking for any stick with which to bash the left. Maggie Haberman of The New York Times brought him into the election conversation with a a tweet last week praising a New York Daily News op-ed denouncing Farrakhan. To the vast majority of resisters, Farrakhan has been an irrelevant has-been for more than a decade.
I mean the rest of the Trump despisers, the people who detest not only the man but also contemn his voters (and constantly let them know it); the ones who heard the words “basket of deplorables” and said to themselves: Bingo. They measure their moral worth not through an effort at understanding but by the intensity of their disdain. They are — so they think — always right, yet often surprised by events.

I was a charter member of this camp. Intellectual honesty ought to compel us to admit that we achieved precisely the opposite of what we intended. Trumpism is more entrenched today than ever.
Trumpism is "entrenched" because his ideology is running amok globally, and because much of white America has been primed to relish his style of demagoguery after thirty years of consuming right-wing talk radio and more than twenty years of watching Fox News. They were going to hate liberals and GOP apostates no matter what we did or didn't do. They regard politics as a war -- hell, they were at war with a milquetoast named Mike Dukakis thirty years ago -- and Trump was inevitably going to enrapture them because he's always on a war footing.

There are tactical adjustments we can make. I don't think personal harassment of Republicans and Fox hosts at restaurants and homes ever really accomplishes anything -- no one we've done it to has backed away in the slightest from the behaviors we're protesting.

But it doesn't matter. They hate us, they'll hate us however we conduct ourselves, and there are a lot of them. We were never going to change that with some magic combination of extremely polite dissent and disarming humility. They're at war with us. We took a good amount of territory back on Tuesday. But it's going to be a long slog.

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