After my misplaced forecast of a Romney win in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, I have studiously avoided political prognostications. However a couple of reflections seem appropriate in the aftermath of the 2018 mid- terms.
Greg Sheridan, along with a number of others, has credited President Donald Trump with a political victory. On the raw figures, compared with Bill Clinton in 1994, and Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, the President’s party only suffered moderate losses in the House of Representatives, and made almost unprecedented gains in the Senate. Indeed, over the longer term, the swing against the Republicans in 2018 was below average.
Yet a note of caution is warranted. The Democrats of yesterday were not, as they are today, the party of an extreme left wing “resistance”. We may accuse Trump of verbal excesses and vulgarity, but much of the Democrat leadership seemed only too happy to foment harassment of their Republican opponents, and reluctant to condemn the violence of Antifa and other extremists groups and individuals who serve as the Left’s skirmishers and auxiliaries.
If the Democrats had emphasised civility and adhered to a centrist position, they would likely have made far more significant gains in the House, possibly even gained a majority in the Senate. Yes, on the raw figures, Trump did relatively well. But in terms of political cultur, we should be concerned that a very leftist Democrat Party was still able to capture a majority in the House.
Another point to remember is that a fair proportion of the Democrat representatives, thirty years ago, in the House and Senate were so-called “Blue Dogs”. These were conservative Democrats who regularly cooperated with Republicans, and enabled President Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s to enact so much of his legislative programme. Today, the Blue Dogs are all but an extinct species. All the so-called “moderate” Senators, bar Joe Manchin from West Virginia, joined the manic “resistance” against the appointment to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, a distinguished jurist with an unblemished record. United with the likes of leftist Senators like Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Cory Booker and the rest of the Democrat leadership in the promotion of utterly baseless smears against Kavanuagh, they proved to be easy pickings for their Republican challengers. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings should have made the Democrat brand toxic. The surprise is not that the Republicans have managed to capture up to four Democrat-held Senate seats, but that the Democrats managed to do so well overall in the aftermath of their deranged and obnoxious behaviour.
Whilst there is some evidence of increased support for Trump amongst African-Americans, a notable feature of these midterms was the loss of support for Republicans by the white suburban affluent middle class, especially women. At any rate, Henry Olsen, in National Review, penned a prescient piece on the eve of election day that remains well worth reading even now that the votes have been counted.
In Texas, whilst Governor Greg Abbott won his race by a margin of over 13%, Ted Cruz only defeated “Beto” O’Rourke by about 2.6%. Clearly, registered Republicans defected to the vacuous O’Rourke in a fit of fatuous anti-Trumpism. This was a pattern replicated in many hitherto “safe” Republican Congressional districts all over the country. Moreover, the college educated affluent young, the sons and daughters of Republicans, seem particularly addicted to infantile leftism. Trump enthused his base, yet his loss of a large section of the educated and affluent white middle class has disturbing implications.
In the aftermath of the downfall of the Soviet empire, it was said that the last refuge of Marxism were the universities’ sociology departments. The leftist messianic impulse soon revived and cultural Marxism has become entrenched in universities in the US, here and elsewhere. White middle class millennials have been infected. In the United States and elsewhere, we have an increased voting bloc of the supposedly educated who are oblivious to history and yet to be mugged by reality.