There’s been a lot of head-in-the-sand, “Naw, we didn’t lose, it was the GOP ESTABLISHMENT that lost” kind of nonsense going around the conservative blogosphere this week about Tuesday’s disastrous election night. On sites like Breitbart, you’d almost come away believing that Tuesday night’s electoral shellacking, which saw the GOP lose the Virginia governor’s race, the New Jersey governor’s race, seats in the Washington state senate, seats in the Georgia House, and seats in the Virginia legislature…was some sort of bizarre VICTORY for Republicans…or at least, President Trump. You have to swallow a lot of Kool-Aid to believe something like that.
It doesn’t do the Republican Party, conservatism, or Trumpism any good to pretend that we didn’t lose bigly on Tuesday. Now is the time to reflect on what went wrong to make sure we don’t see a repeat performance of this disaster next November, when the stakes are much, MUCH higher.
Of course, it will also not do to listen to the mainstream liberal punditry tell us what lessons Republicans should be learning from these losses, particularly Ed Gillespie’s loss in Virginia. No, that will not do at all. We’re not sure we’re quite ready to believe that Gillespie lost because he tried to distance himself from the president, but we’re also not sure the media is correct in framing this as some kind of referendum on Trump himself. CNN’s own exit polls, after all, showed that for the majority of voters, Trump was not a factor at all in their vote. All politics is local, they say, and that’s certainly the case with local politics. Just as it doesn’t do us any good to bury our heads in the sand, it doesn’t do us any good to read tea leaves that aren’t there.
Even so, it’s not hard to imagine that these results might be a little bit more favorable if the Republican Party in Washington had put together a more successful legislative agenda over the last ten months. It has seemed like one failure after another on Capitol Hill; even now, the doubts circling the Republican Party’s push for tax reform are growing darker and darker. Nothing breeds failure like failure, and the GOP has not exactly been a beacon of success in the era of Trump. The president himself has done some real good from the Oval Office, but his legislative success rate – whether you blame him or Ryan and McConnell – leaves something to be desired.
If there was a defining failure in Virginia for Republicans, it was in the area of turnout. Democrats came out in droves, beating Republican by 10% in the stampede to the ballot box. That’s a clear sign of waning enthusiasm on the right, and that will be a KILLER in the midterms if we aren’t careful. This is why Republicans – from the state level all the way up to the top of the White House – need to come through with some major victories for their voters before the 2018 election season swings into high gear. Next November will be here before you know it, and we don’t have much time to turn things around.