Too-Early-Too-Be-Useful Election Reactions
Shooting from the hip and hitting several innocent bystanders
I used to write about soccer, and my bread-and-butter was “match diaries”, which were collections of real-time thoughts on a game. The diaries were basically 30 percent analysis and 70 percent cheap jokes at the expense of people who weren’t there to defend themselves, which is very much my brand. So, I thought I’d apply that formula to the midterm elections — this column is basically my election match diary. These reactions were mostly written in real time, except I didn’t stay up to all hours waiting for West Coast results because I have recently become old.
I’d like to get on record regarding a big question in Democratic circles right now: How worried should we be about the Republican Party’s authoritarian bent? My feeling is “more than zero but less than we are, because the threat is real but also phenomenally overhyped.”
I do think that the threat is real. The Republican Party has two authoritarian elements that didn’t used to be there. The first is Trump, the large, gassy object whose immense gravity1 affects everything in our political universe. The second is an ethic that openly advocates for any measure that suppresses the Democratic vote.
The second thing has always been there, but it used to be treated as an unseemly reality that should be swept under the rug. It was sort of like a Victorian gentleman discreetly visiting a brothel — of course it happens, old boy, but it’s untoward and not to be discussed! When Nixon’s dirty tricks campaign got out, people were angry, and it was universally agreed that Nixon got caught doing things he shouldn’t have done. Today, the GOP treats that type of behavior as impish hijinks. A “Flight 93 election” mentality has convinced much of the right that the political game has no rules, and that the concept of fair play is for suckers.
The good news is that the modern dirty tricks squad doesn’t appear to be very effective. There was a time when voter ID laws and arbitrary culls of voter rolls appeared to shave a point or three off of the Democratic vote. But that period seems to be over; people have gotten wise to these tricks and the blowback now looks to be at least equal to the primary effect. The GOP does include fringe nutbags whose disdain for democracy is clear, and they are actively trying to rig the rules of the game to achieve one-party rule. But those of us who care about democracy have an ace in the hole here, which we should never forget: These people are total morons.
And Trump is a known entity. Yes: He will steal an election if you let him. He’s a dog sitting by the kitchen table waiting for you to get up so he can snatch the porkchop off your plate, and if you’re not aware of his agenda, then you’re awfully fucking dense. And the fact that we have an obvious wannabe dictator rattling around in the American political system is, indeed, unusual and troubling. For all the Republican whining about how Democrats are exaggerating the threat, they could greatly ameliorate the threat by ditching Trump, but they refuse to do that.
All of which is to say: I think there’s a danger. But it is also not the sword of Damocles that Democratic messaging makes it out to be. NPR listeners seek out January 6 discussions the way 13 year-old me sought out pictures of boobs, and I’m not sure we need a baker’s dozen of presidential speeches about the threat to democracy. The “flight 93 election” mentality is one thing warping Republican brains, and I don’t want to endorse the same sort of thinking on the left. Yes, there’s a threat. And that’s fucked up — the fact that a free and fair election isn’t 100 percent certain is very off-brand for America. But we need to accurately assess the size of that threat instead of blowing it way out of proportion.
I watch MSNBC on election nights for one reason: Steve Kornacki. He’s a guy who’s good at his job, which in this day in age makes him seems like a world-historic genius. He’s good enough to balance out Joy-Ann Reid, whose commentary I find about as valuable as a hefty bag full of snot. Apparently, I’m not the only one demanding hot Kornacki-on-telestrator action, because MSNBC has added a “Kornacki cam” to commercial breaks that tracks Kornacki’s movements even when he’s not doing anything. We were not deprived of a single nanosecond of him doing this:
What does it say about MSNBC’s coverage that their commentary plays second fiddle to static footage of a middle-aged white man’s ass?
Welp: I’ve been forced to recall that Sarah Huckabee Sanders exists. She won the governorship of Arkansas. My effort to Eternal Sunshine the Trump era from my brain continues to reap dismal results. One thing the GOP should really consider before nominating Trump again is that if he runs, we’ll be subjected to another round of comedy like this:
That might be more than we, as a nation, can endure.
Stacey Abrams has lost, and more importantly: She has conceded. I don’t think Democrats talk enough about what a problem it that Abrams didn’t conceded the 2018 governor’s race and still uses the same rhetorical dodge that Republicans use when they say “Joe Biden is the president” instead of “Joe Biden won”. Several things are true here: One is that the Georgia GOP did, indeed, aggressively use voter suppression tactics in 2018. It’s also true that Stacey Abrams’ efforts to counter those tactics in 2020 were instrumental in neutralizing their effect. But here’s one more truth: Kemp won the 2018 election, and Abrams refusal to accept the results even after her challenges failed in court makes Democratic complaints about Trump’s election denial ring hollow.
It looks like Abrams will lose by about seven, which illustrates an important feature of America’s election deniers: If you beat them by several points, they concede. The trouble really starts when they lose narrowly.
Speaking of authoritarianism and concessions: There don’t seem to be any major contested races yet. Republicans ran Trumpist election denier Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania, and as of Wednesday afternoon, he hasn’t conceded. But he also lost by 13, so we can probably close the book on that race. Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels — who said that the GOP would “never lose another election” if he was elected — lost and conceded. I have no doubt that Herschel Walker is crazy enough to fight it out if he loses — my faith in Herschel Walker’s craziness knows no bounds! — but he hasn’t lost yet.
This is one reason why I feel that Democratic fears of Republican authoritarianism are overstated: Real authoritarians don’t go away if you beat them by five points or more. Republicans simply can’t rig elections the way authoritarians can. For starters, they don’t control the media. Their voter suppression tactics are, at this point, weak sauce. And their “election monitoring” teams — which I consider to basically be geriatric street gangs — are troubling but also several steps shy of a group of guys with machine guns busting into a polling place and stealing the ballot box. I think the will of many on the right to institute one-party rule has been demonstrated, but their ability to do so remains absent.
The polls seem to have been pretty accurate. It seems like “you can’t trust the polls!” is a bromide that we trot out roughly one election out of six, and in the other five elections the polls pretty much nail it on the nose. But that doesn’t stop us from yelling “you can’t trust the polls!” every 12 years or so.
Here’s an updated list of The Only States That Matter, sponsored by the Electoral College: Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona now matter. Ohio and Florida officially drop off the list (tough break, 34 million people in those states!). Nevada is now a swing state and an early primary state, so I think we can expect the interests of the porn industry to dominate presidential politics the way Iowa farm interests once did. Expect to see candidates next year putting forward plans for health care for ***Horny MILFS with H_U_G_E A_S_S_E_S who simply CANNOT GET ENOUGH 😜😜😜!!!!***
Another 50-50 Senate is looking likely, so tonight’s big winner might end up being everyone’s favorite guy: Joe Manchin. Really looking forward to two more years of a senator from a state that has fewer people than the Norfolk metro area wielding an amount of power that would make Julius Caesar blush!
I’d sum up the night by saying that this feels like a straight-up bad result for the GOP. Yes, they might win control of one or both houses of Congress, but the fact that there’s a “might” in that sentence is telling; picking up five House seats when the other party controls the White House should be a slam dunk. Republican operatives know that. The question now is whether they can do anything about it.
For more than a decade, I’ve wondered what might coax the Republican Party back to sanity. I’ve always come back to the same answer: If they get their asses kicked for several elections in a row, they might decide that “clown car full of lunatics” is a bad look. Well…I’d now say they’ve underperformed for three straight elections. They didn’t get their asses kicked, and it’s only three elections, but if you’re the GOP: This isn’t great.
Everyone is aware of one major factor causing this: Trump. He’s an obvious liability. Trump-backed candidates did poorly, and in a cycle in which I thought Democrats made enough dumb mistakes to put the Three Stooges to shame, Republicans couldn’t make real gains. And now we’re hearing that Trump will announce his next run for president very soon. Maybe three duds in a row will convince Republican voters that they need to ditch Trump, and if that’s the case, then in my opinion, tonight’s result was absolutely fucking fantastic.
Due to fat. For those who don’t know: I have suspended my beliefs about fat shaming for Trump only.