By Raheem Kassam
A flurry of phone calls and texts at 2am taught me that some long-standing MAGA stalwarts are now preparing to ditch Donald Trump because they didn’t get the flood of feel good results last night. This attitude is incorrect, and sober analysis proves it.
The “OMG RED WAVE!!!” brigade are now the most vociferously disappointed. They set expectations so high – all the while carrying water for a Republican National Committee and party leadership led by the deeply unpopular Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell and Ronna Romney McDaniel. Now they’re upset.
Up and down the country, McLeadership candidates and strategies came up short of expectations. Not even all that short, to be fair. But still, deflating enough that people are already playing the blame game. Two can play.
Firstly, DC-based Republicans think its enough to run against something, rather than for something. They also fundamentally underestimated the appeal of Democrat messaging on abortion, student loan forgiveness, and the cringe-inducing “our democracy”. Honestly, we all did. People really are getting dumber and more pliant and there’s no ignoring that anymore, especially when you see how the TikTok generation turned out, and broke for the far-left. Congratulations, by the way, to Communist China for their apparently totally legal and unchallenged election interference, while CNN staffers shriek about how Elon Musk is trying to charge $8 for the very same verification processes they’ve been outwardly demanding for a decade. Argh.
There’s no need either, to sugarcoat Trump’s “bad endorsements”. As if the GOP field offering a choice between Dr. Oz and Dina Powell’s husband was Trump’s fault. Kathy Barnette may have been better, but her star rose too late. Expecting the man the RNC consistently demands to “stay out of it” to simultaneously tread lightly and deploy massive resources to deliver the same McLeadership who worked against him in office is asinine. And imagine what some of these results would have looked like without Trump’s rallies and assistance. Please.
In much of Trump-backed world, things went pretty much as expected, unless you live in that “HASHTAG WINNING!!!” or “OMG RED WAVE!!!” bubble. Expectation management has never been the forte of the political right, especially those who make their livings from keeping you engaged, day in and day out. But then again, that’s their job. Caveat emptor.
Look at it objectively. Vance won. Nevada looks good. Maricopa County attempted another blatant cheat, yet at the time of writing Kari Lake is within 10,000 votes of Katie Hobbs in Arizona. Georgia is predictably going to a run off. Kris Kobach won in Kansas. Joe Kent will win in Washington. Anna Paulina Luna got in. And a host of New York and New Jersey seats flipped red. Heck, even Zeldin came closer than everyone except the quixotic optimists had hoped. No, there wasn’t a “red wave”. But it’s not fair to say there was only a “red trickle” either.
Do I wish some of these campaigns and candidates had called upon some more thoughtful political strategists (ahem) in the past few months? Sure. Am I going to cry about it? Not really. Mitch McConnell can go to hell. Especially since that’s where he’s been trying to send MAGA Republicans for the past six years.
Now, the prescription:
- Democrats run “better” campaigns, mostly because they’re allowed to, which in turn is because they dominate in positions that exert pressure – in politics, media, and culture. It’s easier for Democrats to rip down Republican yard signs without recompense. It’s also easier for left leaning activists to get away with violence or intimidation. Their talking heads are rarely challenged when they lie. They use Chinese Communist-owned platforms like TikTok to radicalise impressionable young voters and they use issues like abortion and student loans to do it. We recognise all of this as immoral. But elections aren’t conducted by Marquess of Queensbury rules. Republicans play touch football and call it smashmouth. Democrats play smashmouth and call it kiss chase.
- The GOP ‘McLeadership’ must change. If you accept that Republicans should have done better in this cycle, you have to go to the source of where the decisions are made and how the money is spent. That’s in the hands of people like Kevin McCarthy, Tom Emmer, Mitch McConnell, and Ronna Romney McDaniel. Trump isn’t a “party leader” in a European political sense. He wasn’t on the ballot this year. He doesn’t control the purse strings, nor the hires inside the GOP. His philosophy is ultimately beholden to centralised implementation.
- DeSantis has a big and bright future. But it cannot come at a cost to the MAGA movement. Even those surrounding and supportive of the victorious Florida governor accept that DeSantis is closer to the GOP comfort zone – including the neoconservatives – than Trump is. The Florida governor had the winds at his back in this election – an horrific opponent, a mass Republican migration to the Sunshine State, and of course, his own well-earned incumbent record to run on. I think I may even have been the first person to tell DeSantis, during a 2015 Sirius XM news interview, that he would be president one day. But I do not think that time is now, and I do not fancy the governor wants to be the “kingmaker” of the party just yet. We shouldn’t force that fight.
Republicans have much to learn from these mid terms. Be glad these lessons can be learned right now, rather than in two years time. Certainly the strategy needs to change. Certainly the messaging needs to improve. Importantly, we’re seeing just how hard holding together a coalition on the right is. Republicans have a broader tent and a bigger problem than the centrifugal left. And it shows.