Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Hopeful Signs

Last week’s election results, some of which are still pending, turned my unrelenting pessimism into chary optimism. Nearly all Trump-touted terribles were defeated, including, importantly, every one of his election-denying, would-be secretaries of state, who’d have been able to decertify future elections if the wrong people won. The truly awful, prevaricating but nice-looking election-denier, Kari Lake, also lost. Like Trump, she’ll claim fraud forever.

Nevertheless, many Trumpian losers’ races were disturbingly close. Belief in The Big Lie and in Trump’s innocence of obvious crimes is wounded, but, like heavy breathing on a midnight phone call, still panting. Exposing their nationwide, vote-suppression agenda, the R candidate for Wisconsin governor promised that if he won, no Republican would ever lose again. He lost, but not hugely. Vigilance remains essential. The work of democracy isn’t term-limited. 

Ohioan Tim Ryan’s graceful concession speech reminds us what it means to accept the requirements of democracy. “I have the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance,” he said; a touchstone for all Americans. By contrast, several Trumpists, including a notable downstate Washingtonian, some of whom lost by huge margins, have refused to concede. This time, though, decent, undeceived Republicans showed up. By enough Republicans to have made a difference in some places, democracy is still considered worth preserving. Maybe MAGAs will give it some thought. 

Also hopeful is that younger voters showed up, too, in unprecedented numbers. They’re the future, and it’s clear their values align more with today’s Democrats than Republicans: Equality, voting rights, climate change, women’s reproductive freedom, democracy itself. “Values voters,” let’s call them.

In Pennsylvania, for example, about seventy percent of young voters voted for John Fetterman. And whereas they turned out in record numbers, it was still only thirty-percent of those eligible. Which means there remains a large reservoir of educable people, within which, presumably, future votes would favor Democrats. Puzzlingly, older white women still largely favored Republicans. Hard to figure. For what are they voting? Pollution? Bad schools?

Conceding their lack of positive ideas for attracting those upcoming generations, many Republican electeds are proposing raising the voting age to anywhere between twenty-one and twenty-eight. It’s laughable, but definitely on brand. Their dearth of helpful plans couldn’t be made clearer. 

Nothing schadens my freude more than Trump’s increasingly desperate, detached, and widely-reported meltdown, as many of his formerly reliable excusers are blaming him for the fizzled “Red Tsunami.” In the nascent war between him and DeSantis, I’d welcome either as the Republican nominee for 2024. Notwithstanding the media fawning over Reactionary Ron, this election made it doubtful either could win. To enough voters, Trump is manifestly poison. After attendees were prevented from leaving his (indictment-escaping?), lie-filled,  disturbingly authoritarian announcement, previous megadonors are bailing. Even Ivanka.

Outside Florida, DeSantis’ radical and cruel policies are poisonous, too. As a believer in the two-party system, I’d hope Rs have someone better. But maybe not till Democrats finish re-greating America.   

Close races confirm that Trumpism still lurks. Plenty of money will be spent on future dishonest, inflammatory, Tiffanoid ads, intended to keep MAGA Republicans in line and misinformed. But the fact that Lauren Boebert might have lost in a heavily-gerrymandered district, created as a lock for any R candidate, suggests there are many Republican voters who’ve had it with performative nastiness. MTG, Matt Gaetz, et awful, won easily, though. America needs conservatives who voted against such people to spread the word.

I’ve pleaded, many times, for those actual conservatives to pitch in and speak out. Based on these election results, some Republican voters are waking up to the dangers of Trumpism. That’s encouraging.

The runoff election between Rafael Warnock and Herschel Walker will be instructive. If Warnock wins decisively, it’ll be confirmatory. If he loses, or wins in a squeaker, well, optimism will take a bit of a hit. Because the fact that R leaders looked to Walker in the first place, knowing how dishonest and clueless he is, how unable to form a coherent, not-weird sentence, how disturbing his past, confirms the depth of their disregard for competent government: it’s only about gaining power on behalf of their biggest donors, by whatever means necessary. Imagine Walker, having nothing but a Heisman Trophy to recommend him, as one of a hundred senators responsible for our future. It doesn’t get more cynical than that. 

Finally, barely-eked Republican control of the House will showcase their distaste for responsible governance, as they focus entirely on shrunken-base-appeasing, lib-sticking investigations into law-abiding and competent people, which, unlike Trump’s two impeachments and the January 6 Committee’s findings, will be demonstrably vaporous. If 2022’s enlightened Republican voters have any second thoughts, that should end them.

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