Let the People Decide!
After the midterms, Republican
blame-gaming reached a crescendo.
By: Victor Davis Hanson
November 18, 2022
And it was fueled by two realities: one, Ron DeSantis had a spectacular night (and two years ago had delivered Florida for Trump in 2020), and two, Donald Trump, in circular fashion and often vulgarly, attacked almost everyone, from his wife Melania and Dr. Oz to DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin. As a result, the commentariat simply declared Trump dead and buried. He may be, but the people, not the hierarchies, will decide his fate.
Who or what exactly was to blame for the Republican meltdown?
Back and forth, voices screamed that Trump candidates brought down the entire ticket.
No, in response, Trumpers objected, many like J.D. Vance won and many anti-Trumpers like Joe O’Dea lost.
Polls had misled conservatives into thinking that Insider Advantage and Trafalgar were correct in predicting a huge tsunami and in giddy response they let down their guard. (They were off about 7 points on average in 13 states’ key races.)
No, the culprit was naivete about mail-in/early voting and the Democratic mastery of having turned Election Day into a Republican fossilized construct. (Again, reread Molly Ball’s 2021 Time spike-the-football essay, bragging on how the Left outsmarted us, Neanderthals, in changing laws, voting rules, and raising billions.)
Republicans naively harped only on how horrible Biden’s record was—but without offering concrete steps on how to undo his damage.
No, others object, the real issue was abortion that galvanized coastal women and the under 30 single and childless. (The short-term is going to be bad for conservatives if they don’t figure out non-Election-Day voting; the long-term outlook is good in that they have larger families and better-run states and are simply happier people on average.)
Trump was stingy with his huge PAC money.
No, the base protests, it was Mitch McConnell who used his PAC war chest to ensure that he retained his party’s Senate leadership post by cutting off Blake Masters and pouring cash into Lisa Murkowski’s race against a true conservative Kelly Tshibaka.
Trump’s final meltdown ensured his final demise.
No, his supporters insist, his temporary bout of derangement will quiet down and his base remains firm.
DeSantis is another Ronald Reagan, but with a more impressive resume and record.
No, we don’t know whether he will prove the great-governor hope like Scott Walker in 2016 whose superb work in Wisconsin did not transfer to the primary debate stage. And we don’t know, Trump supporters worry, whether the corporate Romney-Bush Right will see his candidacy as an opportunity to pour in Wall Street money and get back control of the party.
In all this chaos and back-and-forth, remember it is the people who alone decide.
If Trump candidates performed poorly, it was because the people voted for them in the primaries as they did for Trump in 2016 and by acclamation in 2020. And they did so in part in reaction to the dismal McCain-Romney races and the 2008 loss of the Congress, overseen by a bankrupt Republican leadership.
Remember, we do not appoint candidates in a free society.
Mitch McConnell may or may not be right that candidates like Don Bolduc or Blake Masters lost “sure” races. But then again McConnell waited until the last minute to help the former and not at all the latter. We were told the RNC had superb “new” congressional candidates—but many of them got trounced. So, what is the alternative to selecting primary candidates or forbidding so-called losers to run? Just let the people vote for whomever they wish, the more candidates the merrier.
In truth, we do not know who the nominee will be in 2024. Now, of course, with Trump’s implosion and DeSantis’s deserved ascendence, we naively feel it is almost a done deal. The more Trump screams crazy things at DeSantis and the more the latter sits in silence and plays rope-a-dope watching Trump punch shadows in vain, all the more the “experts” deem Trump through and DeSantis coronated.
But Trump has nine lives and only about seven are expended. The candidate who survived the Access Hollywood psychodrama and January 6th has a history of recovery from the unrecoverable. And there are also other candidates—Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Tim Scott—who will have their moments. Expect Biden’s hubris to incur Nemesis. The likely dilemma will be more on the Democratic side about who will replace incumbent Biden, given his health, his terrible record, and his increasingly angry, get-off-my-grass snarling.
In a perfect world, Trump emeritus perhaps would retire to Mar-a-Lago, rest on his considerable 2017–21 laurels, contrast his four years with Biden’s, spread his PAC treasure liberally among MAGA candidates, and talk about issues as he hopes a DeSantis does well in perpetuating his own agenda.
But this is not a perfect world. Trump believes he was so wronged, so slandered, so damned by two impeachments, the Russian-collusion hoaxes, the laptop melodrama, and the weirdly radical changes in the 2020 election laws in most states that explain our present messy voting today, that he sees 2024, at best, as deserved redemption and, at worst, an occasion to get back power to get-even and settle scores.
So let the games begin as we distill who is the last person standing.
If Trump slips more, or if DeSantis trips in the future, there are plenty ready to “pounce” and capitalize. Certainly, no one thought Joe Biden would be the nominee in 2020 after his dismal February. Few imagined Trump in 2016 would win either the primaries or the general election. Most thought Hillary in 2008 would crush Obama by convention time. The idea of a John Fetterman to me is a terrifying notion. But the people of Pennsylvania disagree and so they will live either with a recovered socialist senator or a serial stroke-suffering socialist senator, but it is their choice, not anyone else’s.
So, we will have a Lucha libre of all comers. And We the People alone will see how it will end up. The op-ed pages, the Sunday shows, the polls, Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg, and the insiders at the DNC or RNC don’t quite yet have the power to anoint candidates.
So let the people vote—wisely or foolishly—and live with their decision as they must.