On the Maverick TV series, the heroes used to quote the sayings of their old father. One of them, a significant variation on a famous utterance of Abraham Lincoln, went like this: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, and those are very good odds.”
This may be as good an explanation of the Republicans’ misfire on November 8 as we’re ever likely to discover.
The polls are often fooled, but they aren’t all fooled about everything, and this year they unanimously indicated that voters in all the big categories were overwhelmingly concerned about exactly the things that the Democrats have intentionally or unintentionally screwed up royally: inflation, crime, the border. The polls unanimously indicated that Biden was perceived as an uncaring, insufferable old coot on the verge of dementia, if not in it, up to his neck. They didn’t use exactly those words, but that was the clear meaning. They also unanimously indicated that abortion was a big concern for a significant number of voters, a minority of whom were probably concerned because they didn’t want their states to keep legalizing abortion.
And out of this, we get an election in which, as I write (a full day after the polls closed) the winning party in the House elections has still not been called, although of the 44(!) purportedly undecided seats the GOP needs only 11 to attain a majority; and the Senate appears to be 50–49 Republican, with a run-off pending in Georgia, because no one got 50%. If this last sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing that happened two years ago. Here is an election in which the voters of Pennsylvania, a swing state, rejected a moderate conservative, an articulate and accomplished man, and elected a person who has never held a job in his life, who enunciated views about crime and the economy that are radically different from views held by the vast majority of people, and who suffered a stroke that rendered him incapable of forming or communicating in comprehensible sentences.
The polls unanimously indicated that Biden was perceived as an uncaring, insufferable old coot on the verge of dementia, if not in it, up to his neck.
This in the face of a surge of inflation created by the candidate’s party, and of its president’s declaration that he intends to wipe out coal mining, one of the state’s largest industries. It is true, as Selena Zito and others have pointed out, that as many as 700,000 votes had been cast before the election, in early voting. Nevertheless, someone voted for Fetterman after that debate. And he wasn’t very attractive before it, either.
In the great city of Los Angeles, a city whose government is characterized by monumental and publicly comedic corruption, a city fast spiraling toward the condition of Detroit, voters may be rebelling against the established candidate, Karen Bass, a progressive hack, and selecting, by a narrow margin, a modern liberal businessman named Rick Caruso. But here’s the rub: Caruso’s plan to solve the city’s epic homeless problem is to build tens of thousands of houses for the homeless. Then they won’t be homeless anymore, right? What difficulties could possibly remain? Meanwhile, the voters of Los Angeles County are rejecting Sheriff Alex Villanueva, an Hispanic Democrat who was the sole important political figure opposing the government on such issues as the arbitrary and capricious covid lockdowns. The lockdowns became highly unpopular; apparently Villanueva’s independent spirit became unpopular too. (But how do we know? Only 43% of the votes have been counted — officially.)
Lockdowns were one of my top reasons for opposing the Democratic state-within-a-state. So I was especially interested in the fate of people who imposed or opposed them. Thomas Lifson has consoled himself for Republican defeats by noting that two governors, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, opposed the lockdowns and won big electoral victories. More about De Santis in a moment, but who cares about a Republican who wins big in South Dakota? I’m still waiting to see whether covid hawk Steve Sisolak (D) will be ousted from the governorship of Nevada. He’s trailing the Republican slightly and should lose, unless the Libertarian candidate, who’s getting over 1%, saves him. J.B. Pritzker, governor of Illinois and a man of Neronian heft and tyrannical impulse, beat his challenger by 11 points. OK, so the Democrats used their money to get said challenger nominated, hoping that he’d be feeble, and he was. So let’s go to Ohio, which reelected Governor Mike DeWine by a 25-point margin, despite his status as a covid tyrant. OK, but DeWine’s a Republican. So let’s visit my home state of Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer — queen of the covid creeps, the tyrant who banned visits to vacation homes, the pumping of gas on alternate days, and the sale of paint, the moron who, while debating her opponent, an articulate candidate named Tudor Dixon, falsely asserted that she had closed the schools for only three months — was rewarded with a 11-point victory.
Biden warned that this election might be the end of democracy. For once, I guess, he was telling the truth. Maybe democracy doesn’t die in the darkness; it dies with a blaring mouth and the sheen of innumerable facelifts.
Mystery also attends the failure of an interesting and aggressive GOP candidate, Lee Zeldin, to dislodge accidental governor Kathy Hochul. Zeldin is no pretty boy, but Hochul looks like a witch, or like Whitmer, and at a time of intense public dismay about truly vicious attacks on defenseless New Yorkers, she was capable of sneering at Zeldin’s concern with crime, “I don’t know why that’s so important to you.” The easiest way to explain Zeldin’s defeat is the overwhelming number of Democratic Party registrants in New York. But what’s the reason for that? To put the broader question: what’s the reason for the overwhelming adhesion of big-city voters to the same party, election after election, despite their constant complaints about the deterioration of St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and now New York? The answer must be that they vote that way because they have always voted that way. That’s also true for my own extended family, who vote for Democrats because they have done that for a hundred years, despite the fact that the party and its environment have changed, totally and repeatedly, during that period of party loyalty. Is this how the dinosaurs died? Compare population figures for big cities in 1950 and 2022.
Maybe democracy doesn’t die in the darkness; it dies with a blaring mouth and the sheen of innumerable facelifts.
And “demographics” are quite capable of altering their political allegiance. Robert Francis (“Beto”) O’Rourke’s attempts to cast himself as some kind of Mexican American were never as effective as his backers expected. Even I could tell that his Spanish wasn’t much good. But the Hispanic population has now welcomed him to his third defeat — in his race for senator, in his race for president, in his race for governor — and this was a defeat of 11 points. According to Nicole Russell of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “His concession speech Tuesday night, such as it was, seemed detached from reality. He blamed ‘voter suppression’ and talked as if he was an underdog on campaign cash.” She notes that Democratic donors have now wasted $190,000,000 on “Beto,” 40% of it coming from Hollywood (“out of state”).
It was the same Out of State that tried to crush Ron DeSantis. But the Hispanic voters in his state, Cuban American and Puerto Rican, weren’t buying it. He won by almost 20 points. He carried Miami-Dade County 55–44, taking with him all state and federal legislative candidates except one. The county is 70% Hispanic, and Hillary Clinton carried it by 30 points. I doubt very much that this is a reward for DeSantis’ standing up to Disney or sponsoring a law against early childhood sexuality instruction. It’s a reward for his — I hate to say this about any politician, but I will in this case — heroic common sense in the face of the covid hysteria and the national campaign to label him a murderer.
Election night had barely started when David Plouffe commented, “The Obama coalition in Florida is gone.” Plouffe was President Obama’s campaign manager, and ought to know. DeSantis’ election-night comment, and a good one, was, “Florida is where woke goes to die.” Texas is no longer a state the Democrats will continually get confident about winning, and Florida is no longer a swing state, the archetypal swing state. Less happy was DeSantis’ hubristic application to himself of St. Paul’s “I have fought the good fight . . . .” He’s beginning to sound like Trump. And this brings up — Trump.
I’m not excusing Biden, and I’m not excusing Trump, either.
DeSantis’ election-night comment, and a good one, was, “Florida is where woke goes to die.”
No one is more conscious than I of Trump’s achievements. He punctured the fathomless pomposity of the political elite. He kept the warmongers at bay (I will never forget the video of Hillary Clinton cackling over the horrible death of Muammar Gaddafi, while she was doing her best to destabilize the Middle East) and made real progress in international relations. He offered the Democrats a decent immigration reform, which they rejected. He took the first long step in many years toward real reform of the prison system. I am also conscious of his failures, the major one of which, according to me, was ignorantly and fearfully conceding almost total power to Dr. Fauci’s gang, to people whom even I recognized as quacks. Rightly angered by his opponents’ ceaseless and vile and finally successful attempts to run him off, Trump intervened disastrously in the matter of the electoral votes and of the Georgia senatorial runoff, electing the Democrat in that race and giving control of the Senate to his enemies. He then devoted himself to the task of talking endlessly about himself, casually dumping off such policy proposals as the idea that peddlers of illegal drugs should be executed — quickly! This is truly awful stuff. The obsessive self-interest, the intellectual irresponsibility, the diseased “toughness,” and now the sanctimony — Trump is morphing into Hillary Clinton. The only difference is that he doesn’t lie all the time. He says what he thinks is true, whether it has any relationship to reality or not. Perhaps he is morphing into “Beto.”
What he’s doing right now, of course, is running for president a third time, and starting to give DeSantis the treatment he (Trump) always gives his competitors, whether the treatment is deserved or not. Republicans should not forget that Trump’s level of popularity, in and out of office, is and usually has been similar to the level enjoyed by Biden. This is not the basis for a winning campaign, and to judge by Trump’s performance this year, it can only get worse. I believe he will intervene in this year’s Georgia runoff, and cause another disastrous defeat.
On his radio show Ben Shapiro observed that the candidates endorsed by Trump did either badly or only fairly in this year’s election, and that exit polls indicated that only 37% of voters liked him. This is probably true. He also suggested that Trump, for whom he voted last time, should not and probably will not be nominated next time. I concur.
Will the Libertarian Party play any part in events to come? I am sorry to say this, but I think the party has sunk to the status of a spoiler, whenever it can rise that high. In Arizona, the LP senatorial candidate, Marc Victor, who was doing pretty well at over 4%, quit in favor of the Republican candidate. Victor still got over 2% of the vote; he was still on the ballot, and the Republican has apparently failed to win. In Pennsylvania, the LP candidate came close to guaranteeing the victory of Fetterman, but the Democrats finally got enough votes to make 50% all by themselves. In Georgia, the LP Senatorial candidate’s small total of 2.1% necessitated yet another runoff election between the big boys. My guess is that without the LP, enough of the votes might have gone to the Republican to put him over the top.
Trump intervened disastrously in the matter of the electoral votes and of the Georgia senatorial runoff, electing the Democrat in that race and giving control of the Senate to his enemies.
Is stuff like this enough justification for the Libertarian Party to spend the time and money of its supporters? I ask as a registered Libertarian.
Unfortunately, no one pays any attention to the educational parts of the party’s campaigns. People should pay attention, but they don’t; and there’s no point in libertarians morphing into Trump, acting as if they have a right to be heard, and will be heard if they just shout louder.
The truth is that libertarian, as opposed to Libertarian, ideas have penetrated very deeply into the major parties, especially the Republican, and that this is the current strength of libertarianism. How — to become, for a moment, the devil’s disciples — can we work to limit our influence? One way is to imitate the political system we oppose. Right now, it functions as a system of ideological and personal exclusion. Trump demands that his ring be kissed before he bestows his, possibly disastrous, political blessing. Mitch McConnell would rather lose the Senate than provide campaign funds for candidates who might use it to win (as in Arizona), because he doesn’t like the cut of their jib. Democrats insist on total ideological allegiance, and get it, even at the loss of the House. Never-Trump Republicans embrace only Republicans who hate almost all other Republicans — and it is usually the embrace of death.
Are libertarians doing the same thing? I can’t prove this statistically, but there are plenty of examples of us acting in that way. We have our own variety of cancel culture. And it must be fun — responding to one’s sense of alienation by using one’s residual power to refuse to associate with anyone with whom one does not completely agree, especially when one doesn’t bother to consider what that person is actually saying.
The Libertarian Party has sunk to the status of a spoiler, whenever it can rise that high.
The other day I made the mistake of saying to a libertarian friend that I thought Greg Gutfeld had done more for liberty in the past year than the whole political process. I might have been exaggerating a bit, but that’s not what he picked up on.
“Ewww,” he said. “Gutfeld. The professed libertarian.”
“That’s right,” I said. “But where else do you see professed libertarians on a TV show that people actually watch?”
The rest was silence.