The Red Wave That Wasn’t

Those expecting a Red  Republican Wave were either disappointed or relieved by the results of the US midterm elections. At the time of writing, it appears likely that the Republicans will claim a very modest majority in the House of Representatives, but control of the Senate is still up for grabs. A thin Democratic majority has likely been replaced by an even thinner Republican majority, and the pundit class will proceed to read the tea leaves. But the real significance of this election is, for the most part, to be found at the state level, and these trends are encouraging for both conservatives and classical liberals alike.

Unlike the European variety, American conservatism is imbued with a liberal mentality , due to the influence  classical liberalism exercised  over America’s eighteenth century founding fathers. The US has a political culture which values and unites individualism, egalitarianism and populism more so than that of the political cultures of Europe. Despite being an intensely religious nation, the US embraces an institutional separation of Church and State. This separation is not based on devaluing faith, but rather in an extreme valuation of sincere faith and freedom of conscience, which accommodates believers (of all types) as well as sceptics and nonbelievers. American conservatism is impossible to separate from liberalism, at least without drastic alterations in American political cultural life.

With this in mind, it is interesting to consider the midterm results. The re-election of Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, will likely promote an upswing in leftist election denialism. Two years ago, Georgia passed an electoral reform that triggered Democrat histrionics, caused woke corporations to boycott the state, and drew criticism from President Biden (who memorably claimed that the reform was worse than Jim Crow). The reform instituted Voter ID (a policy measure supported by a supermajority of Americans, including a significant majority of African-American voters) and made early voting easier in Georgia than in Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware. Clearly the reforms didn’t suppress voter turnout – Georgia experienced record levels of votes – and Kemp handily won re-election nonetheless. Whether or not Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams accepts this result gracefully remains to be seen, but should she start singing the tune of “stolen election” the mainstream media will gladly hand her the megaphone.

Nonetheless, the key takeaway here is that Georgia-style electoral reforms, which make it easier to vote but harder to cheat, offer a practical way to secure election integrity.

Brian Kemp, interestingly, was also among the first governors to re-open businesses during the pandemic. This relative liberalism during the COVID-19 pandemic was also shared by Ron DeSantis in Florida, who was re-elected by a 20-point landslide. Also winning re-election was Colorado’s Jared Polis – a Democrat but one with noted libertarian sympathies and substantially less enthusiasm about lockdowns than California’s Gavin Newsom. In the Senate, re-elected Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky used his victory speech to promise he would continue to pursue Dr. Anthony Fauci – arch advocate of lockdowns (and, allegedly, gain-of-function research). These lockdowns were an affront to the most basic civil liberties, and the successes of DeSantis  Paul and  Kemp  show that  vast swathes of American opinion still treasure those liberties.

Indeed, Ron DeSantis was the star performer of the evening, winning 59.4 per cent of the vote in generally-purple Florida. This is the same man who, due to his unwillingness to impose economy-destroying lockdowns (and instead pursuing a strategy of “targeted protection”), was referred to by the mainstream media as “DeathSantis” and accused of conspiring to kill everyone’s grandparents. The evidence, however, ultimately vindicated the strategy: Florida’s COVID death rate was comparable to California’s despite the latter having a lockdown policy so strict that only Governor Newsom and his friends were allowed to go out to dinner.

DeSantis humiliated the establishmentarian COVID narrative in real time and won vindication at the polls in a purple state. This kind of performance is a clear harbinger of a 2024 Presidential run. His liberty-preserving response to COVID, demonstrated an ability to attract the votes of ethnic minorities (particularly Latinos), and willingness to play culture war politics (for example with the Parental Rights in Education bill) whilst also being able to credibly claim a more moderate stance (for example, the state of Florida does permit elective abortion within the first 15 weeks of gestation, similar to most European nations) has at least some appeal for libertarians, populists, religionists and centrists alike. The only other Republican governor who can hold a candle to this is Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin, who would certainly make an appealing choice of running mate in 2024.

Other notable performances of the evening were the better-than-expected showings of Lee Zeldin in New York (who gained >47 per cent of the vote in a deep blue state) and Christine Drazan in Oregon (who may theoretically still win). In Nevada, Republican candidate Joe Lombardo seems likely to win over Democrat incumbent Steve Sisolak. Another notable, if notably negative, Democrat performance was that of Beto O’Rourke, whose popularity among the media class never seems to translate into popularity among voters.

Although the most interesting events of these midterms were at the state level, on a macro scale the Republicans’ recapture of the House of Representatives (and possible recapture of the Senate) represents a return to divided government. The appeal of divided government is based in the thoroughly American view that too much power in one set of hands is inherently dangerous and that it is best when  different loci of power act as checks on potential abuses committed by other power centres. This viewpoint is shared by investors – American markets tend to perform better under divided governments.

The question of why the Red Wave did not happen has frustrated many conservative  election commentators already, but it is hard to ignore the likelihood that the repeal of Roe v. Wade diminished enthusiasm for Republican candidates. Even though Roe v. Wade was a metaphorical abortion of jurisprudence and that its repeal makes the question of abortion policy one for state legislators rather than governors or federal representatives or senators, it is plausible that anger at the repeal manifested at the ballot box. Even deep red states like Kansas and Kentucky have rejected attempts to eliminate or further restrict abortion. Clearly many Republicans are less “pro life” than the rhetoric of the religious faction of their party suggests.

Another plausible reason for the attenuation of the Red Wave into a red ripple  was that many of  Donald Trump’s endorsed candidates were simply inadequate. Take, for example, Herschel Walker, who pushed a hard pro-life stance yet was accused of bankrolling abortions for females he had impregnated — a charge, incidentally, he vigorously denies.

Then there was Dr Mehmet Oz, a television personality with a history of promoting ‘miracle cures’ who proved unable to defeat a stuttering stroke victim (the conservative satirical-news website The Babylon Bee suggested a head of cabbage would’ve beaten Oz). It certainly didn’t help that Democratic-affiliated groups often ran television ads attempting to promote more ‘extreme’ candidates (and/or diminish more ‘moderate’ candidates) to Republican Primary voters. The party that cried the loudest about an imminent threat to democracy was more than happy to assist the manufacture of such a threat. “Ultra MAGA” won’t go away – the Democrats need it too much.

The flaccidity of the election result really is a surprise, given how terrible the Biden Presidency has been. Inflation is at levels that haven’t been seen in decades, the President is clearly suffering from dementia, his son stands accused of being both a crackhead and running a pay-for-favors-from-daddy scheme, the Justice Department is used to punish the administration’s enemies, war rages in Europe, gas prices and food prices increase, several of Trump’s good policies (tax cuts, regulation cuts, Title IX due process reform) have been abandoned, violent crime increases, immigration law is neither reformed nor enforced, small businesses are crushed and children suffer years of learning loss due to pandemic panic, transgenderism  has become a fashion trend, recession nips at the heels of the US economy, and the press/media class proves its naked partisanship by attempting to redefine “recession” to pretend it is nothing of the sort. And yet Biden now seems  encouraged to run again in 2024.

America, then, remains bitterly divided, with hatred of the outgroup cementing loyalty to the ingroup. Policing one’s own side and cherry-picking the very worst extremities of the other side has become a form of entertainment. It does not help that these extremists do in fact exist and, at least for those on the Democrat left, wield genuine social power and influence. There are, of course, crazy pastors who believe that sexual minorities should be executed. Yet, there are far more crazy teachers who belong to ANTIFA, teach children that they can identify as trans, and think that The 1619 Project is actual scholarship. A midterm election is perhaps the last thing capable of healing America’s partisan divisions.

 However the Republican party is still in the business of winning them. How could the upcoming 2024 election pan out given current trends?

Those who desire a “Don vs. Ron” primary are sabotaging Republican chances. Justifiably or otherwise, Donald Trump has been  rendered unelectable. Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, is a successful purple state governor with both minority appeal and genuine populist credentials. In this context, Trump was merely a symptom of an underlying energy that DeSantis can successfully harness, just like Trump himself did in 2016. Not to mention, Glenn Youngkin as a running mate  – Youngkin is a Republican governor of a Democrat-leaning state who got elected because of  his stance on radical “woke” ideology (Critical Race Theory) in K-12 education. A DeSantis/Youngkin ticket could combine anti-woke credentials, bipartisan and multi-ethnic appeal, social moderation and reasonable economic perspectives, without the electoral baggage attached to the name “Trump.”

Governorship elections for 11 states will also occur in 2024. North Carolina, which currently has a Democratic governor, could turn Republican due to woke overreach similar to Virginia. All of the other governorships are held by Republicans already or, are very safe Democratic states (such as Delaware, Washington and Vermont). As for the House and Senate, it may be too early to start forecasting. What we can say is that in America, lockdowns are unpopular, wokeness won’t win elections, election integrity cannot be dismissed as “racist,” and the future of the Republican Party is DeSantis.

After the disastrous failure of the Bush-inspired Neoconservative project (to remake nations in the image of the US using military force), Americans revolted. They first elected Obama, who campaigned on a strident anti-war message but ended up giving the military-industrial complex whatever it wanted. Because Obama delivered none of the change his voters hoped for, Trump was elected (and unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump was willing to concede that the invasion of Iraq was a waste of money). Trump gave war a cost-benefit analysis that included average Americans, not just defense contractors, and consequently he did not get the US involved in any new wars during the course of his administration. Trump was a nationalist, but no ‘authoritarian’ – he was a liberal nationalist who rejected the Neoconservative project precisely because it was not in America’s interest.

And why was this project not in America’s interest? Because nations differ. Each nation has its own culture and, consequently, its own political culture. Even  the more  liberal  Anglosphere nations have differing political cultures (compare Australia to that of the USA, for an example). This is why the Neoconservative and Biden-Democrat belief that any culture can become the spitting image of the US through “the power of democracy” was and is  false – not all nations are the same, just like not all people or not all demographics are the same. The reality of diversity is much deeper than the left likes to admit.

And this is why supra-national governance projects like the EU should be questioned. Diverse nations are not standardized parts for a machine. Just as the US is indeed exceptional (in the sense of having a unique and historically unprecedented political culture), all nations are unique. Each nation has its own history, demography, geography and economy, and both US Democrats and central planners in Brussels need to wrap their heads around this social fact.

Dr. Andrew Russell is an economist, philosopher and musician from
Brisbane, Australia. Lana Starkey is a PhD candidate in seventeenth-century literature at
the University of Queensland; a freelance writer, and classical
musician from Brisbane

9 thoughts on “The Red Wave That Wasn’t

  • Homer J says:

    “Justifiably or otherwise, Donald Trump has been rendered unelectable.”
    Since 2016 we’ve heard this many times. He won in 2016. In 2020 he gained 10m votes. He got all these votes against all the lies, hate and non-stop attacks from all sites. I think he can do it again but I doubt they (the swamp) will let him. I expect that they will charge him soon with something.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Since politics is the art of exaggeration, it follows that the expectation of the red wave was also an exaggeration.

  • rod.stuart says:

    The DNC has been cheating at electdions since the 1960’s.
    Di Santis banned the devices that encourage cheating (mass mail in votes) and set up a police force to monitor the voting. Look what happened.
    Is there any reason to think that the DNC did not cheat in 2022?

  • Homer J says:

    I agree. A week before the US elections, Biden said that people should be very patient days and weeks AFTER election day. Tucker Carlson thought this was a very strange thing to say. Yesterday Biden said that he still thinks that the Dems would win the House. Well, well, well. Let’s see what happens!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Trump withdrew America from the Paris Agreement and moved America into energy independence.
    You don’t seem to mention that, but it did more than any other policy to help rebuild rust States and give people confidence in the future and keep inflation down. I’d like to be sure that De Santis would not allow himself to be duchessed on this fake matter in the way that Scott Morrison in Australia was taken in, coming back from COPS toting Net Zero as a road to Damascus conversion he inflicted then on his Party. The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is less than compelling with the unproven CO2 hypothesis and lack of real empirical evidence; there is certainly no ’emergency’ about it. I cannot see why this is not the main topic on every conservative commenters lips, and in their analysis.
    Otherwise, I have a lot of common feeling about your analysis, having just lived through the mid-terms here in four States of Middle Southern America and writing this from Florida. The liberal nature of American conservatism is something often missed by those looking in from outside the culture.
    Fixing the electorial system in key States is also essential before 2024.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:


  • terenc5 says:

    The majority of yanks obviously don’t care what scribblers think and the Trumpster may well be 47.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “Justifiably or otherwise, Donald Trump has been rendered unelectable.”

    Clearly, he doesn’t think so, having now made his Mar-a-Lago statement that he intends to run n 2024.

    That speech could mark a turn-around in the manner in which he now intends to present himself; more as a statesman and conciliator. If he can keep this up, and enlarge his already large base, he may yet win, leaving De Santis to run in 2028. Both would make idea Presidents, but Trump does have a following that De Santis has not yet achieved as you speak around to people in the shops and other local arenas.

    The MSM baggage of the past might become less marked in time if a new persona is developed and most crucially, put into wide circulation.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    typo on ‘ideal’, although they also come with ‘ideas’.

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