Thinking About Things: Winners, Losers, and Survivors.

By John DeQ. Briggs

Well, I am glad the election is finally over. I also think that we will all survive quite nicely, at least in the short term.

But what a weird ride. Donald Trump was not even the biggest loser. The pollsters and the media seem to me to have lost more. To be sure, President Trump was personally repudiated, but the pollsters and the media had virtually every major prognostication dead wrong. There was no “blue wave.” The Democrats lost a half dozen or more seats in the House of Representatives and, at least for the moment, Republicans seem to have maintained control of the Senate, subject to the Georgia runoff elections. Even if the Democrats capture the Senate and the Vice President is poised to break a tie vote, that will mean the party can go no further to the left than its most conservative senator will abide. Further down ballot, the Republicans maintained control of all of the state legislatures and governorships that they previously had and flipped a number of state legislatures as well, significant in a decennial redistricting year.

Much to the dismay of the Democratic Party, even the despised Mr. Trump gained substantial ground among black men and Latinos, as well as other voters of color. He actually lost support among white men compared to 2016. As The Economist magazine pointed out, exit polls suggest that Mr. Trump increased his share of support from every group except white men. If that is right, Democrats won the election chiefly through their improved turn out effort, not by wooing voters from Mr. Trump. This may not bode well for unity going forward.

On the other hand, it is not clear that “Trumpism” will survive the absence of Mr. Trump. It is not even clear what “Trumpism” really is. For the last four years, as The Economist points out, Trumpism has been whatever Mr. Trump said it was. Yet there are some influential Republicans, such as Senator Cotton from Arkansas and Senator Rubio from Florida, who have attempted to turn the party into an actual vehicle for the working-class concerns Mr. Trump raised. But in a way, Mr. Trump himself emerged as the main obstacle to the conservative movement he inspired. His low approval rating, and the election results, suggest that he was again backed by Republicans who dislike him but could not bear to vote for the alternative. Hence, as pointed out in The Atlantic, “Never Trumpers” may have been among the big winners, especially if Republicans maintain control of the Senate after the Georgia runoff elections. They will have gotten rid of Mr. Trump himself, but recaptured the semblance of a political party that has expanded its constituency beyond any of their hopes or expectations.

The Week Magazine headlined that “The Left Just Got Crushed.”

So much for the Democratic fantasy — the one that seemingly never dies — of unobstructed rule. Democrats didn’t just want to win and govern in the name of a deeply divided nation’s fractured sense of the common good. No, they wanted to lead a moral revolution, to transform the country — not only enacting a long list of new policies but making a series of institutional changes that would entrench their power far into the future. Pack the Supreme Court. Add left-leaning states. Break up others to give the left huge margins in the Senate. Get rid of the Electoral College. Abolish the police. Rewrite the nation’s history, with white supremacy and racism placed “at the very center.” Ensure “equity” not just in opportunity but in outcomes.

Yet the toxicity of Mr. Trump himself generated an historically huge opposition. One gets the feeling that most of the vote for Mr. Biden was an anti-Trump vote, not a pro-Joe vote. As Mr. Biden himself has said, he will be a transitional figure. Where the party will go after his tenure is not clear, nor is it clear that Ms. Harris will be the future of the Democratic Party, although the press seems to have already declared her anointed in that role. Yet it is difficult to imagine her as one who could appeal to any meaningful segment of the 70 million who voted for Mr. Trump.

Other points to ponder:

  1. The South is open to the right Democratic candidate, whether Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina. All of those states could turn as Blue as Virginia. This is a bright spot for Democrats and a danger area for Republicans, who are broadening their base but must do more or lose ground.
  2. The entire business of polling must change. This will take time. It might not even be possible to get reliable poll numbers anymore.
  3. The media (press and social) needs to return to fact gathering and reporting. The media can do far more mischief than any foreign power. Social media in particular seem to be to have earned the loss of their Section 230 immunity and their loss of it should be swift and bipartisan.
  4. The conflict inside the Democratic Party is just beginning — again. It is unclear how much of the Democratic Party is aligned with the whole Woke Mob (or with the historical middle-roadism of Mr. Biden), but it does not seem too likely that Mr. Biden will embrace them, although he must not appear to reject them either. He must walk a tightrope. Should the Democrats capture the Senate in January, Mr. Biden might prove unable to resist the woke progressives. I have a suspicion that he must be hoping against hope for Republican control of the Senate to as to avoid the intraparty warfare. 
  5. Mr. Biden ran on pandemic management and unity. The pandemic will run its course and it seems unlikely a Biden administration will make an ounce of difference inasmuch as state policies dictate living habits. As for Mr. Biden’s professed quest for unity, it might be hard to establish in a world where the constant and consistent message from the Democrats – all of them – for the last four years has been: resist, overturn, boycott, surveil, investigate, sue, leak and impeach. Only a real Truth and Reconciliation Commission, managed by someone of the stature and grace of a Nelson Mandela, seems capable of overcoming all of that.

I wonder about the Middle East. Do the Democrats truly wish to ditch oil production and become, once again, dependent on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf State oil? Secretary Pompeo seemed to have a strategy, although not one that was clearly articulated, to use American worldwide oil dominance to pressure the Gulf States into alliances with Israel and to create a Middle East largely aligned against Iran, as well as China. One can only speculate regarding what a Biden administration’s Middle East policy might look like. But it is reasonable to speculate that basic policies could turn into a John Kerry/Susan Rice reprise, but greener and less focused on geopolitical issues or interests.

But as I have ended several of these ruminations over the last year, hope springs eternal.