16 February 2022

How the Republicans could lose

Most of the recent polling I've seen suggests that we're heading for landslide Republican wins this year and in 2024.  However, this is not grounds for giving up and joining the moan-groan-doom-gloom crowd.  2016 and 2020 showed that the predictive value of polling is not what it used to be, especially when so many elections are so close (this also means that if the polling starts to look better, it's not grounds for complacency).  More to the point, there are still more than eight months to the election, and a lot can change in that time.  Here are some of the possibilities.

1) Trump saddling the Republicans with bad candidates.  Trump still has immense influence among the party's voters, and his endorsement carries weight in the primaries.  However, his main criterion for endorsing candidates is loyalty to himself and to his lies about the 2020 election being stolen, not electability.  If his candidates sweep the primaries, many will go on to lose in the general election.

2) Republican infighting.  A few Republican leaders are trying to loosen Trump's grip, including McConnell, currently the most powerful Republican elected official.  Trump's support among the Republican base, while still strong, is eroding (scroll down to the part about the January NBC poll).  By November there may be enough anti-Trump voters that the Republicans will be split into two factions, Trumpist and anti-Trumpist, with many in each faction refusing to vote for the other's candidates in the general election.  If Trump is indicted (or imprisoned, by 2024), it will further shrink the Trumpist majority of the party and enable the anti-Trumpists to mount a more serious challenge.

3) Election lies backfiring.  Telling your voters that the system is rigged against them is dangerous.  They may decide voting is a waste of time if the election will just be stolen anyway, and stay home.  Even a small percentage doing so could swing a close election.  This issue seems to have already played a role in the Georgia Senate run-offs.

4) Return to pre-pandemic normalcy.  Covid-19 infection and death rates are dropping rapidly as the omicron surge subsides.  Most states are planning to drop mask mandates in the next month or two.  If a return to real normalcy is achieved and holds steady, voters will count this as a win for the Democrats.

5) Democrats getting their act together (1).  If the Democrats can pass more major legislation that brings immediate benefit to a large number of voters, or if clear benefits are seen from the big bills passed earlier this year, that will help.  But it would need to be something with fast-acting effects.  Passing something that will show concrete results a year from now won't do any good.

6) Democrats getting their act together (2).  This is a long shot, but the Democrats could jettison the radical fringe issues that are dragging them down and return to their roots, focusing on economic and class issues so that voters no longer associate them with police-bashing and men using the girls' bathroom.  Youngkin in Virginia demonstrated a winning strategy for Republicans: focus on attacking wokeism and identity politics, and refrain from talking crazy wingnut shit.  Democrats need to do the equivalent -- explicitly name and attack the wingnut lies and insanity saturating the Republican party, drop the fringe-left woke stuff that turns normal people off, and emphasize the concrete benefits of Democratic policies.  If they keep hairsplitting about what exactly "defund the police" and "critical race theory" mean, they'll lose.  If they repudiate those things firmly and unambiguously, they'll start winning.

Remember, it is all about winning persuadable voters in the center.  The radicals have lately started bleating that there are no such voters any more and that only motivating the base matters.  They are totally, unambiguously wrong, as is shown by all the people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then for Trump in 2016, by the growing shift of Hispanics and women toward the Republicans in recent years, and by reality and common sense.  Most people are not ideological -- they want to know who will work for their personal prosperity and safety in daily life, and protect them from having crazy ideological shit pushed on them (or on their kids in school).  Voters lost so recently to the Republicans can be won back.  And they far outnumber the radical fringe.

o o o o o

From Canada, this Tumblr post reports an interesting (if true) example of citizen action succeeding where government failed.  According to it, citizen groups in Ottawa have aggressively confronted the anti-vax trucker insurrection and driven the insurrectionists out of at least part of the downtown.  If true, it makes a stark contrast with the feckless authorities who did nothing for two weeks while the insurrectionists blocked traffic and harassed the citizenry, abjectly failing to provide the "peace, order, and good government" those citizens are paying taxes for.  I have not been able to find verification of this post in mainstream news sources, however.  A lesser but verifiable example is this Ottawa resident who got a court injunction to stop the constant horn-blaring with which the insurrectionists had been tormenting the local people.  Apparently the government couldn't even do that on its own.  Trudeau needs to go down for letting this attack on a major city rage unopposed for two weeks.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

With all the gerrymandering, voter suppression and assorted corrupted shenanigans the Repugs have implemented all over the country in places where they felt they lost with Cheeto, I feel very disheartened.
Hopefully, two or several of the scenarios you propose (some look quite possible) will take place and their fuckery backfires.


16 February, 2022 03:04  
Blogger Jack said...

It is interesting that the possibility of Democrats getting their act together seems like the least likely of the various options, but I can't disagree with that. My guess is that the Democrats will lose badly in the midterms but may have a chance to recover a bit as we head into the next presidential election. I'll be curious to see who they decide to run in 2024.

16 February, 2022 05:03  
Blogger NickM said...

The Dems have to get their act together. That is like task (a). Biden needs to bring something out of Ukraine otherwise the Republicans will hammer him over foreign policy for right or wrong (most likely for wrong because I can't imagine how Trump would have handled that...)

Secondly, "Woke" has to go. The Dems have to show they care more about "A tanner on the pay and an hour off the day"* rather than the right of guys with beards using the ladies toilets.

Thirdly... OK... This is a big one. Truly affordable healthcare. That has got to be a big vote winner. Not easy but neither was Apollo.

*An early slogan of the British Labour Party. I had to look up what a "tanner" was. That's how early.

16 February, 2022 07:59  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

fuck the republicans

16 February, 2022 13:53  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

Many, many days I feel like giving up. Then I read your essay full of possibilities, perhaps not easy ones, but possible.

16 February, 2022 15:47  
Blogger Bohemian said...

Haven't a lot of the ReTrumplicans died off from The Rona and will continue doing so thru 2024? I never did understand that Party intentionally giving it's base false information to keep them healthy and Alive... since... well, Dead people don't Vote.

16 February, 2022 16:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Those things are concerning, but remember that 2020 had incredibly high turnout, suggesting that the vote suppression didn't work -- and the Republicans won most of the really contested races anyway. I worry less about them cheating than about them genuinely winning.

Jack: The thing is, when a party is really committed to positions that are poison with the voters, it generally takes a series of electoral defeats to beat some sense into them, not just one. I'd like to think that losing big this year would be enough to scare them into dumping the woke stuff, but I doubt it will be that easy.

NickM: I'm somewhat optimistic about Ukraine. Biden knows how to play hardball on foreign policy, and he won't kowtow to Putin like Trump did. But passing any major domestic legislation is almost impossible when we have only 50 out of 100 senators and two of those are determined to be assholes. We need a bigger majority to pass something big, but we may need to pass something big to get the voters to give us a bigger majority.

YDG: Whatevs.

Ricko: There are always possibilities. Embracing despair almost inevitably leads to defeat.

Bohemian: That's true, but I don't think it will make any difference except in a handful of cases. We've had 900,000 covid-19 deaths in total, maybe a few hundred thousand more Republicans than Democrats, but a few hundred thousand isn't much out of an electorate of 156 million.

17 February, 2022 06:35  
Blogger Glen Tomkins said...

You left out the two least unlikely paths to the Rs losing. The ones you do outline have been tried and failed. They are conventional political solutions. After the last 7 years, it seems not entirely sound to imagine that conventional politics will suddenly start working again

One way they lose is that they commit a more overt insurrection, something extreme and obvious enough to get the current administration and Congress to treat it as the crime of insurrection. It will have to be something pretty overt to alienate enough of the electorate so obviously that even the Ds feel empowered to do the basic duty of govt, because obviously even 1/6 wasn't an overt enough attempt to overthrow the govt to get that done. But hey, who knows how overt this crew is willing to go. They have yet to disappoint fans of overtness in authoritarian ambition.

The other possibility is that their Trump Really Won movement just collapses under the weight of its own absurdity. Past experience tells us to put the likelihood of that happening pretty low, because those folks have piled on the absurdity pretty heavily already, and still no collapse. If reduction ad absurdam could kill Trumpismus, you would think it would have done so in the summer of 2015, and then on about a daily basis since, yet here we are, with Trump Really Won now a credo whose denial will get you excommunicated for heresy from their party. The only reason I include this as a possibility at all is that the phenomenon of the success of Trumpism is not at all understood, so who knows if its inner workings can finally be pushed too far, or what that event will look like that finally pushes it over the line.

The risk of mentioning that second possibility is that it will be relied on to justify doing nothing. In a way, the second idea is that, yes, conventional rules of politics will reassert themselves. If there's any chance the Trump Really Won movement will just go away on its own, that will just encourage the rest of us to repeat the strategy of just waiting for Trumpism to self-destruct so that we won't have to do anything ourselves to make it go away, aside from trying the same stuff outlined above, that has been tried and consistently failed.

19 February, 2022 09:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Glen: #1, #2, and #3 have not "been tried and failed" because they are all things Republicans might do to sabotage themselves, not things Democrats might try to do against them. #1 and #3 have only become a possible issue since Trump lost, and there hasn't been another national election since then. #2 hasn't been a possibility since 2015 (and still isn't, really), because anti-Trump Republicans have been too few in number to constitute a significant faction; I'm just arguing that that may be changing. #4 hasn't already been tried because it's only barely becoming technologically feasible, with vaccines and other treatments; if it happens, the Democrats will deserve 10% of the credit and medical research 90%.

#5 is the only one I would concede "has been tried" in the sense that Democrats have already passed some major legislation during Biden's term, as I acknowledged by saying that if the public sees substantial benefits from those bills, it could help. It's too early to say it has failed, though.

#6 has not been tried, which in my opinion is the crux of the problem. The rise of wokeism, explicit anti-Semitism, "the squad", etc has only been a major issue for the party for a few years, and I haven't yet seen any serious organized effort by centrist Democrats to overcome it -- we're probably even less advanced in dealing with this problem than the Republicans are in dealing with Trumpism and the other far-right crazy stuff. Ultimately, I think whichever party does the best job of squelching its lunatic fringe and moving back to the sensible center will end up dominant among the vast majority of normal non-ideological voters, but so far neither party has made much of an effort in that direction.

I'm not sure what more the Democrats have to do to show that they do indeed recognize January 6 as an insurrection. Hundreds of people have been arrested, many charged, convicted, and imprisoned (I believe people who participate in an insurrection against a duly-elected government should be executed, but realistically, that's not going to happen in our current society). Building a case against Trump and other leaders is a slow and laborious process, but charging a former president (still with a huge following) with sedition is a radical step, and needs to be handled carefully.

You are probably right about the Trump Really Won movement. The country periodically suffers these outbreaks of fever delusions (McCarthyism, the Satanic Panic, alien abductions, etc) and they usually do burn themselves out after a few years. There are some signs that that's starting to happen with the Trump Really Won thing, but probably not fast enough for it to disappear by 2024, certainly not by this November.

19 February, 2022 10:15  
Blogger Kwark said...

Seems like the Democrats "getting their act together" is the least likely of any of the scenarios. Has the Democratic Party ever had their act together since Regan? Sinema and Manchin are just the latest chapter in a long, sorry story of sell-outs, posers, and blue dogs. When party leadership thinks blaming "the squad" is a winning approach you know the Party is screwed.

19 February, 2022 17:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I don't think you really read the post. I was quite clear about what, specifically, I meant by Democrats getting their act together.

19 February, 2022 21:29  
Blogger Daal said...

I believe people learned from last time that we can't expect things to 'get fixed and stay fixed' -- & I hope they remember... I know it woke several family members & me to the extent that we worked phone banks.

22 February, 2022 21:16  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Unfortunately what we need this time is a willingness to confront the disastrous radical policies which are dragging the party down. So far I see very little willingness to do this.

22 February, 2022 23:34  

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