Brace yourself: voting is on and we’re just a month away from what is likely to be the most consequential midterm election in years. Certainly the most momentous of the 10 cycles I’ve covered in four decades, perhaps the second since the 1994 election that gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Whatever the outcome — whether Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate, in either chamber, or neither — one thing is all but certain: win or lose, the outcome will not be for the long-term health of the party, nor will it be good for those of the country.
That’s because defeat will not give Republicans the tools they need to reform and stray from their anti-democratic path. And when they win, they just triple up.
Jackie Calmes takes a critical look at the national political scene. She has decades of experience reporting on the White House and Congress.
Only total rejection by voters could force Republicans to reckon with Trumpism. When a party is humiliated, its supporters look inward and correct course, as the Democrats did after the Reagan era. A comeuppance after 2020, when President Trump lost, hasn’t helped change Republicans because the party made gains in other contests. (So much for alleged Democratic vote rigging.)
By most reports, Republicans will not be repelled this year either. You only need a net win of five seats in the house races and one in the Senate contests to take over Congress. They were favored from the start to conquer the house, although it is no longer safe. This is despite their dismal record during that two-year convention, which began with nearly two-thirds of Republicans voting against confirming President Biden’s election, even amid the blood and destruction left behind by Trump’s insurgents that day.
The Senate is on the brink. Polls suggest that Republicans in swing states have either closed their summer gap with their Democratic rivals (Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado) or advanced slightly (Wisconsin, Nevada). The tightening was expected in marquee races featuring Democratic frontrunners — notably John Fetterman’s run in Pennsylvania against Mehmet Oz and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s bid for re-election in Georgia against Herschel Walker. (That was before reports this week alleging that alleged anti-abortionist Walker paid a longtime girlfriend, one of four women who had a child with him, to terminate a pregnancy.)
Overall, Republican voters are closing in as November 8 nears. In tight races, money is pouring in to candidates, particularly from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s fundraising committee. And ugly ads are aired in the name of Republicans, many blaming Democrats for crimes. A newcomer in North Carolina is unabashedly throwing down the racing card against Democrat Cheri Beasley, an African-American former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who is running against Trumpist Rep. Ted Budd to take a Republican-held seat.
Of course, historical trends against the Democrats also play a role. Midterm elections have favored the party from power for over a century. However, several factors make this cycle potentially unique and give Democrats hope: There’s the backlash to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade and the Red States’ rush to ban most or all abortions , and then there is the looming presence of Trump.
Republicans are burdened with a defeated president who is so narcissistic that he cannot bear to have an election that is not about him. His prominence as a sore loser on rally platforms and in the media, coupled with the record-breaking unpopularity of a right-wing Supreme Court he designed, has put Republicans in swing states on the defensive in a way unusual for the party without power.
This week, Nate Cohn, the New York Times’ election data expert, wrote that while the most likely outcome remains a majority in the Republican House of Representatives, “the idea that the Democrats can hold the House of Representatives is not as ridiculous, implausible, or far-fetched as it is it previously seemed the Dobbs ruling.” Wednesday’s Cook Political Report update agreed that a majority in the Republican House of Representatives was “the most likely outcome,” but its more dovish forecast left Republicans little to pick up on what they needed.
As for the Senate, analysts at FiveThirtyEight.com published an article Thursday entitled “Democrats are slightly favoured to win the Senate.”
However, even the worst-case scenarios for Republicans do not point to an outcome that would spur them to break with the far right. Their intransigence reflects more than just polarization. What is at work is a “calcification” of politics rooted in the racial, national, ethnic and religious views of voters, three political scientists wrote in The Washington Post last month about tribalism in both
“Voters are increasingly tied to their political allegiances and values. They are less likely to change their basic political view or vote for the other party’s candidate,” said John Sides of Vanderbilt and Chris Tausanovitch and Lynn Vavreck of UCLA.
Take Walker – he should be a dead man walking which with the abortion allegations piling on top of all the other evidence is unsuitable for the Senate. Still, his party support has not eroded, perhaps because Trump has so discredited accurate media coverage among Republicans that conservative Georgia voters simply cannot accept the claim as anything other than fake news.
Here’s another belief that has become calcified among Republicans: the “big lie.” On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that a majority of Republican nominees for the House, Senate and key statewide offices — 299 total in every region and nearly every state — deny or question Biden’s pick. Most are likely to win — running for secure Republican seats — giving them a role in certifying future elections, whether as governors, election administrators, or members of Congress.
That doesn’t bode well for our democracy. Americans have seen this film. Maybe we’ll see it again.
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-10-07/republicans-midterms-herschel-walker Jackie Calmes: No matter what happens in the midterms, Republicans won’t correct their troubling trajectory