Calmes: The biggest losers — the GOP and Donald Trump

What a well-deserved irony: for a party that is almost certain to gain control of the US House of Representatives, the Republican Party is the big loser of the 2022 midterm elections, trailing only Donald Trump.

These two facts are of course related. Had the party’s “leaders” severed ties with Trump after the January 6, 2021 uprising he instigated — as a sane, pro-democracy party would have done — Republicans might have cavorted in elections across the country. They had predicted it, and they had more than a century of history on their side: With rare exceptions, major half-time wins go to the party not holding the White House.

But Republicans did not cavort. Instead of a red wave, they ran into one “red wedding,” as right-wing provocateur Ben Shapiro lamented. Drudge, the right-wing website, headlined “Republicans in shock… Toxic Trump in MAGA Meltdown… Fox News Freaks”.

Karma is a bitch.

Spotted portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

opinion columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes takes a critical look at the national political scene. She has decades of experience reporting on the White House and Congress.

Now that we’ve held the first federal election since Trump’s attempted coup, it’s worth examining what Republican “leaders” did do after the siege of the Capitol. Rep. “My Kevin” McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives from California, drove to Mar-a-Lago to seek forgiveness from Trump after initially condemning him and the riot. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell orchestrated Trump’s acquittal in the Senate trial after the House of Representatives impeached him. Then earlier this year, in duplicity that would have made Orwell blush, the Republican National Committee officially declared the Jan. 6 protests “legitimate political discourse.”

Well, it turns out that most voters actually value Democracy more than Republicans. And more than a few dialing codes suggested. (Yes, once again voters have humiliated many polls and pundits.)

Despite some criticism of Democrats’ — and President Biden’s — focus on the issue, 44% of voters told AP VoteCast’s surveyors that the future of democracy was the most important consideration behind their decisions. It came second to inflation, which was cited by 50% of respondents.

It’s no wonder, then, that a Republican party that has nominated nearly 300 draft dodgers for Congress and top nationwide offices would not live up to their lofty hopes. Numerous Big Lie advocates have won in safe red districts and states, but many have lost, some unexpectedly. Like these candidates, the party has bonded with a narcissistic, riotous loser and paid the inevitable price.

Consider: After Trump won the presidency in 2016 (despite losing the popular vote), he has lost in every election cycle since. The 2018 midterm election was a referendum on its erratic, divisive record, and Republicans lost majorities in the House and Senate. In 2020 he lost re-election. Yes, that’s a fact. After that unprecedented record of losses—House, Senate, and White House—a normal party would have divorced him.

But of course the Republican Party didn’t do that, and now it’s 2022. Trump’s selfish insistence on running the midterms over him and not the unpopular Biden — even teasing a possible run-in for president on election night — helped depressing what should have been big Republican gains. His and other Republicans’ mockery of the recent caning of Paul, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could not have helped.

Final election results are days or even a month away if Georgia has to hold a Senate runoff. But Democrats won gubernatorial posts in battleground states Republicans thought were in the bag. They are favored to hold the Senate, if only by a splinter. And the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will be so narrow that McCarthy’s dream of becoming Speaker could face threats from right or left. On Wednesday, breakaway Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger suggested House Democrats would try to get the handful of non-Trumpy Republicans to join them to elect an alternate speaker, someone more moderate, someone who isn’t Trump – is toady.

But let’s say my Kevin becomes speaker. His slim majority will leave him to the MAGA wing of the house; Majorie Taylor Greene, the representative of the mad caucus, has already said so. “No. 1, we need to indict Joe Biden,” she declared last month, and impeaching his Homeland Security secretary and attorney general would be next, she said.

And you thought the Republican priorities were lowering inflation and lowering crime? you stupid

We’ve seen this film before, from the Gingrich Republicans in the mid-’90s and the Tea Party Republicans in the mid-’90s: Republican hyperbole and extremism are scaring off voters and playing into the hands of the Democrats for the next election .

As Republicans look to 2024, they face another test: Will they finally say no to the self-proclaimed MAGA king? In the coming days, will they publicly deny his inevitable and dangerous conspiracy to electoral fraud to explain away the losses among the MAGA candidates?

The first signs are not good. Axios reported early Wednesday that Trump is facing “waves of blame” from Republican insiders. But here’s the problem: As usual, this blame comes from anonymous sources. No significant Republicans spoke out this week as Trump ridiculously said, “If they win, I should get all the credit.” And if they lose, I shouldn’t be blamed at all.”

Your silence allows Trump. Could the conservative media give the cowards a nudge? The inimitable front page of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post tabloid on Wednesday celebrated Gov. Ron DeSantis’ landslide re-election in now demonstrably red Florida with a photo of the governor and his loving family above the headline: “DeFuture.”

The Exile of Mar-a-Lago would not have liked this rising of his new nemesis. However, many Republicans did. But of course only privately.

Until party leaders at all levels go public, Trump will remain the de facto Republican leader. And he will lead them to further losses.

@jackiekcalmes Calmes: The biggest losers — the GOP and Donald Trump

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