I have a bet with my youngest son. He’s a political pessimist, especially when it comes to the state of Indiana. (The bet involves very expensive dinners…) The bet was triggered by my excitement–and optimism–about Jennifer McCormick’s announcement that she is a candidate for Governor. I think she can win, even in deep Red Indiana; my son has written off the possibility of any Democrat winning statewide office, and has dismissed any predictive value of Obama’s 2008 Hoosier win.
My optimism about McCormick’s campaign is partially due to candidate quality (both hers and that of her likely opponent, the odious Mike Braun) but it is also based on what I see as a national trend: from top to bottom, the GOP is running truly horrible candidates.
At the very top of the Republican ticket, we are almost certain to get either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. American voters soundly rejected Trump in 2020, and he gets more certifiable as his legal woes mount. DeSantis appears to be basing his campaign on an “anti-woke” platform. Not only is DeSantis most definitely not a guy you’d like to have a beer with, his evident belief that a majority of Americans want to return to the 1950s, when “men were men” (and in charge), women were in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, no one had ever heard the word transgender, and schools dutifully imparted White Christian propaganda, is simply delusional.
In a recent issue of his daily newsletter, Robert Hubbell noted that Democratic over-performance hasn’t abated since the midterms, when that predicted Red wave failed to materialize. He pointed to subsequent elections in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where voters selected the first non-Republican mayor since 1979 by a margin of 15 points;
a Pennsylvania special election to the state assembly where the Democrat won by 20 points and maintained Democratic control despite the fact that, going into the 2022 midterms, Republicans had held a 113-90 advantage; and a New Hampshire assembly race where the Democrat won by 43 percentage points, “eclipsing Biden’s 27-point margin in 2020.”
Hubbell quoted one analyst for the observation that
Democrats have overperformed the 2020 presidential results by an average of six points across 18 state legislative races this year. . . . They’ve also beaten their 2016 margins by an average of 10 points.
He quotes another analyst who focused in on the underlying reasons for that over-performance: abortion extremism, ongoing GOP-encouraged gun violence, extremist MAGA candidates, and a (finally!) fired-up Democratic grassroots.
In the run-up to the midterms, Republicans confidently pointed to Joe Biden’s disappointing approval ratings as a sign that they would sweep their gerrymandered House districts and retake control of the Senate. As we now know, despite the extreme gerrymandering and the vote suppression efforts, those victories eluded them.
As Morton Marcus and I argued in our recent book, the loss of Roe v. Wade was a major reason for that outcome. Women’s progress toward civic equality requires autonomy, control over one’s own reproduction, and most women who vote understand that. Republicans running for office in 2024 will have to “thread the needle” between primary voters who are rigidly anti-abortion and a general election electorate that is lopsidedly pro-choice.
Good luck with that…
Add to the abortion wars the daily gun carnage that feckless Republicans keep trying to blame on mental health–despite the fact that large majorities of voters, even majorities of NRA members, attribute the mayhem to the lack of responsible gun regulations.
Voters who aren’t part of the White Nationalist Cult that is today’s GOP look at Congress–at Republicans protecting George Santos, hiring Neo-Nazi staffers, threatening to ruin the economy if they aren’t allowed to deprive poor people of food and mistreat veterans...and a not-insignificant number of them are echoing the immortal words of Howard Beale in the classic movie Network:“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”
It’s true that the GOP can count on its cult members coming to the polls. There are more of those sorry creatures than most nice people want to believe, and they absolutely pose a danger to all of us–but they are a distinct minority of Americans. We need to see them for what they are, and recognize the threat they pose to the America the rest of us inhabit, but they can’t win in the absence of majority apathy.
Democratic candidates, on the other hand, appeal to voters who (like Indiana’s McCormick) support public education and academic freedom, who believe in separation of church and state, in women’s equality, in civility and compassion and inclusion–in all those qualities that our parents taught us were admirable, but the GOP disdains as “woke.”
There’s a lot to be concerned about, but like Hubbell, I’m hopeful.