Republicans Campaigned on Fear. America Didn’t Buy It.


America stood on the brink of another generation in Trumpism this week. On Tuesday it took a step back to reconsider its options.

This is the most significant result of a midterm election that surprised all but the bravest few who insisted that things are looking good for the Democratic Party. As Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy discovered, perhaps for the last time, you can flirt with Trumpism many times before it destroys your culture and leaves you dead in the street.

The results of the elections, for the House and many other offices, are almost finished. But unlike every midterm since 2002, and in 2002, the President’s party has not struggled. And it might be better than the Democrats. The reasons are unknown. But some things are clear.

Republicans assured the electorate that terrorists were coming to attack them and that immigrants were coming to the border carrying fentanyl to kill their children. (Fox News went with fentanyl-laced candy as its Halloween trick.) It was a visceral message, delivered to the world. Instead, Republicans told voters that a Democratic victory would bring swift and violent death — to themselves and their families. Inflation can increase funeral expenses.

Democrats, meanwhile, told voters that a Republican victory would bring a slow and violent death — of their freedom and their democracy. Many said it was a mistake for Democrats to base these elections on a hardened, disaffected electorate. It required voters to set aside immediate concerns in favor of a long-term philosophical and humanitarian project. Who would care?

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It seems that women and teenagers are enough – it’s always women and teenagers, right? – realized the real threat, personally and nationally. Abortion rights appear to have won everywhere they voted, including Kentucky. The American people, including the few who say otherwise in the church, do not want the right to abortion to be taken away. Indeed, it is possible that the death of the intervening period was established in June, when the proud Supreme Court ruled that Roe v. Wade.

Of course, it’s also possible that many voters realized that the series of talks about Benghazi on Hunter Biden and the supposedly “woke” organizations are unlikely to reduce crime or global inflation. Perhaps some voters also understood that the erosion of Republican interest in the state was directly related to the abandonment of democratic principles and the commitment of many Republican legislators.

Many on the left will be rejoicing in Donald Trump’s worst night yet. But the GOP has been ahead of Trump for some time. Not so long ago, Republican voters said they were more loyal to Trump than to the GOP. Now they are saying the opposite. Trump doesn’t need Trump to thrive. The landslide victory of Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, Trump’s new opponent, is evidence of the continued dominance of Trumpism.

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Like Mr. Trump, Mr. DeSantis has a policy of oppression, using the power of government against his chosen interests – immigrants, trans children, Mickey Mouse. DeSantis, however, has skills and intelligence that Trump lacks, even though Trump is still the party’s top leader. DeSantis is more likely than Trump to bring Trumpism to fruition. That prospect, however, is more elusive today than it seemed yesterday.

However, there is no quick way to solve the country’s democratic problems. The Republican Party, meanwhile, is devoted to lies. Words are important in a democracy, where actions are often done in words. The hundreds of dissidents who have won Republican nominations for key elected positions prove that the party has little commitment to democratic rhetoric, values ​​or practices.

“Deselectionist” is a vague term that many journalists have settled on to confuse the form and function of democracy. Currently, the term refers to a person who rejects the results of an election. But given the power to achieve their goals, anti-choice activists can reject the actual practice of fair elections, not just their results. That desire came to the fore this week. America’s democracy is strong because of it.

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On a night that saw many Democrats win, the most important thing, the one that probably felt the longest, was for the loser. “I am honored to concede this race to JD Vance,” Representative Tim Ryan said after losing his bid for the US Senate seat in Ohio. “Because the way this country works is that when you lose an election, you accept it.”

No one has embarrassed so many, so easily.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Seven Early and Middle-Class Collections: Jonathan Bernstein

• Ron DeSantis Moves Florida From Purple to Red: Ramesh Ponnuru

• Even Without the Red Wave, This Could Now Be Weimar America: Andreas Kluth

This column does not reflect the views of the editorial team or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Francis Wilkinson is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering US politics and policy. Previously, he was an editor for Sabata, a columnist for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and political analyst.

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