Do Republicans want to lose in the 2018 midterms?
Newly combative Democrats are counting on anti-Trump fever to drive 2018 election turnout, while apprehensive Republicans debate running as Jeb Bush or winning as Donald Trump.
In a scene reminiscent of the throngs of people attending Tea Party meetings on the night Obamacare was passed, the manager of a successful campaign to unseat a Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates recalls the scene of her first campaign meeting, as The New York Times reports (emphasis original):
[S]he went to a meeting of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, expecting to encounter the usual 30-odd regulars. Instead, she found 300 new faces. "Who the heck are all these people?" she wondered. It was, after all, an off-election year, and it was winter.
As the Times writer, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, notes, "the pop-up groups" of new faces were "largely unacquainted with politics." The campaign manager "knew that their primary motivation was their hatred for the president," but "she was optimistic that they might be taught to direct some of their umbrage" toward their Republican opponent for the House of Delegates seat.
The Times piece, posted at realclearpolitics.com, further observes that following Trump's inauguration, "there was no shortage of expressive opportunities for the left – protest, actions – but few electoral conduits for its new resolve." The writer quotes the campaign manager:
There's just this huge energy ... with people saying, 'We want to do something right now, we want to effect change in this election.'
The scenario was repeated across the Virginia House of Delegates, with Democrat turnout flipping at least 14 Republican seats and "coming within striking distance of retaking control of the House for the first time in 17 years."
The Virginia results, as A.B. Stoddard writes at realclearpolitics.com, "by no means guarantee that Democrats will turn out to vote in midterm elections they sat out and lost badly in 2010 and 2014. But Republicans should prepare for it."
As Pat Buchanan notes at newsmax.com, "off-year elections are often problematic for incumbent parties," and the "2018 Generic Congressional Vote" polling has steadily favored Democrats since Trump's inauguration.
Add to that the frenzy of NeverTrump resistance, the apparent success in Virginia of Democrat ads depicting Republican pickup trucks running down immigrants, and the apparent success of dredging up 40-year-old sexual allegations, and the Republicans face a potent electoral headwind in 2018.
"The political calculus has changed," David Drucker at washingtonexaminer.com says, "after energized Democrats and moderate swing voters turned out in droves to repudiate Trump." As Buchanan observes:
Republican candidates will have to decide how close they wish to get to President Trump, or how far away they can risk going and survive.
But "the most important part of the Republicans' survival strategy to overcome the Trump drag is to produce on Capitol Hill, a task that has proven difficult," says Drucker. Having failed miserably on Obamacare repeal, congressional Republicans know that "next year could be a bloodbath as their own voters abandon them" if they fail to produce tax cuts.
Drucker quotes a Republican House member: "When we do what we said we'd do, then we stand a chance to be competitive."
But Drucker's perceived "Trump drag" is really a "Congress drag" on itself. Consider the Trump ten-month résumé of 3% economic growth, record unemployment, massive deregulation, outstanding Cabinet appointments, reversing the Obama executive order regime, reshaping the federal judiciary, revitalizing the military, reducing illegal immigration, unleashing American energy, and a strong hand in foreign affairs, a litany recited by Roger Kimball at amgreatness.com.
And then consider the ten-month résumé of the Republican House and Senate. Who is the drag on whom in this game?
The Kimball piece exposes the myth of "Trumpism" that Republicans want to run away from and the Democrats want to resist:
In brief, I have concluded that "Trumpism" does not exist. Rather it does exist, but only in the way a unicorn exists: in the dashing narratives of fabulists. "Trumpism" is an imaginary, mythical beast.
Just as there are many different stories about unicorns – some emphasizing its fierceness, some the magical healing powers of its horn – so there are different versions of that mythical figment, Trumpism.
... While Donald Trump's election was supposed to be impossible, it is still utterly unacceptable. The fantasy of "Trumpism is an expression of that state of affairs.
... I believe that one of the great embarrassments confronting the persistent anti- or NeverTrumpers has been ... the utter failure of their fantasies about Donald Trump to materialize. He was supposed to be a horrible, xenophobic, racist, militaristic cad, but how has he actually governed?
The Trump presidential résumé and his "Make America Great Again" agenda for jobs and economic growth can provide the coattails if his congressional counterparts can put down the crying towels and step up to the plate. Passing a robust tax cut with a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate built in would be a good start.
Pat Buchanan says, "Ed Gillespie was Virginia's version of Jeb Bush."
Considering who won the presidency, House, and Senate, Republicans should reconsider running as Jeb Bush or winning as Donald Trump.