October 20, 2021
Conventional wisdom says a president’s party loses seats in midterm elections. Republicans, needing few gains to control Congress, will benefit from the census shifting seats to red states, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other cheating. But modern American politics confounds conventional wisdom. No longer conforming to a rational paradigm. Many pundits even think Trump may regain the White House. Could voters be so crazy — after January 6 — and with Republicans still steeped in that Kool-Aid?
The “stolen election” story is a pathetic joke. As if the out-party could have pulled that off. Trump (the biggest liar ever) simply made it up because his deranged ego couldn’t accept losing. Any fool could see that. But not his cultists, so unhitched from reality the lie is now literally an article of faith. It was Trump himself who tried to steal the election, culminating on January 6, and the insanity continues to warp our whole body politic. Might voter revulsion at this negate the usual midterm dynamic? Or will Republican distraction efforts succeed? (Despite being undermined by Trump’s obsessive histrionics.)
We’re also being told that if President Biden can’t get his ambitious multi-program bill passed, Democrats will look hapless. While if it does pass, Republicans will have a field day crying “socialism!” So Democrats can’t win. But Republicans will shriek “socialism” no matter what. Now needing, as we’ve learned, no nexus with factual reality for any of their shtick. Screaming that Democrats will destroy America — which Republicans themselves nearly did on January 6.
Meantime, what’s actually in Biden’s legislation is mostly stuff most voters like and want: subsidized day care, family leave, college, etc. Another thing we’re told endlessly is how Democrats don’t connect with the working class economic anxieties Trumpism exploits (without actually doing anything about).
Well, Biden’s big “Build Back Better” bill does tackle those bread-and-butter concerns. But for many voters, it’s “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” And Republican politics today isn’t about genuine policy issues anyway. Mainly it’s demonizing and hating Democrats. “Owning the libs.”
As a longtime Republican, I have no illusions of Democrat and Biden wonderfulness. I’ve criticized him over Afghanistan, and China policy. His handling of migrants and refugees is disappointing — breaking, I feel, a personal promise. Yet Biden is still a decent, honest, responsible, saneantithesis to Trump who — on top of every other ghastly travesty — tried to overthrow our democracy. And would wreck it forever if, against all reason, returned to power.
I’d like to think it inconceivable. But that’s what I thought in 2016 — before it showed too many U.S. voters gone rogue — against all reason.
Americans are mostly admirable, pragmatic, down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth people. But even before 2016 I warned that our being, in the global/historical scheme of things, a peaceable oasis of democracy and freedom, was not somehow ordained by God. And would not endure without citizens understanding and internalizing the principles undergirding it. Heedless ignorance, flouting those principles, metastasizes. As on January 6. And millions actually believe Trump was “making America great again.” Another pathetic joke.
I fear the power of the strongman syndrome. Bin Laden said, “if people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will prefer the strong horse.” Even if, as with Trump, it’s strength of badness. Those still gaga for him are psychologically attracted by the illusion of strength. Imagining only a tough character can solve tough problems. And voters in many other countries have made that same mistake again and again, falling for the primitivist, misconceived macho allure of a “strongman.” Like moths to a flame.
I love America. Trump’s presidency felt like watching her raped. Re-electing him would be like infidelity.