Republicans Still Can’t Face Reality

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m predicting the Republican party as a whole will not learn a thing from last week’s election results and will likely double down on the crazy in 2024. They might or might not move away from Trump himself. They appear to be doing that now, but we’ve seen this dance before. With or without Trump, however, the GOP is still going to be the party of culture wars and grievance in the foreseeable future.

Former Republican David Frum writes at the Atlantic that Republicans refuse to learn anything.

The question after the 2022 midterms is: Can conservatives learn?

Through the Trump years, the Republican Party has organized itself as an anti-learning entity. Unwelcome information has been ignored or denied.

Trump lost the popular vote in 2016, and by a worse margin than Mitt Romney had in 2012? Not interested: It was a historic landslide victory.

Trump never rose above 50 percent approval (in any credible poll) on any single day of his presidency? Not interested: All that matters is what his base thinks.

Republicans were crushed in 2018 in the highest midterm turnout of eligible voters since before the First World War? Not interested: The result showed only that voters wanted more Trump and more Trumpiness.

Trump got swamped by a margin of 8 million votes in 2020? Joe Biden won the second-highest share of the popular vote than any presidential candidate since 1988, next only to Barack Obama’s blowout win in 2008? No need to pay attention: After all, Rudy Giuliani and Dinesh D’Souza said the election was stolen! Besides, check out those Latino votes for Trump.

Democrats won two Senate seats in formerly bright-red Georgia after winning the state’s electoral votes in the presidential contest? Only a temporary setback; wait ’til next time. By then, Trump will have helped get elected a bunch of “America First” secretaries of state who will rewrite the rules so that a Democrat can never win again.

In contrast, Frum wrote, Democrats after 2016 took a remarkable interest in what red state voters were talking about in diners. Democrats didn’t like what happened, but they wanted to understand it. Of course, we mostly ended up arguing with each other about what really motivated Trump voters, and there was much unfair blaming of Bernie Sanders, but at least Democrats engaged in some degree of self-reflection. Can Republicans do the same now?

Probably not. Frum continues,

In their anti-learning culture, conservatives have come to view everything that happens, however unwelcome, as proof simply that the most extreme people were the most correct. In the state of Florida, Republicans are proceeding postelection with more of the draconian anti-abortion laws that cost their colleagues so dearly across the country. Conservative pundits are gamely insisting that they did not really lose the 2022 elections but were once again cheated by a rigged system.

Should conservatives start noticing that they lag among unmarried women and the young? No, instead: Ridicule and insult unmarried women, especially the young. Having hooted and jeered Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush, and pushed Liz Cheney and other principled Republicans out of Congress, the right now expresses bafflement and outrage that those rejected leaders did not rally to help candidates who condoned the January 6 insurrection and opposed aid to Ukraine.

A bedrock chunk of the right-wing psyche is a certainty that most Americans believe the way they do, no matter what the polls or election results say. Of course, “most Americans” in their minds are not necessarily “most Americans” as reflected in the census. “Americans” by their definition are people like them, not those other people who are different, so of course there’s broad agreement within their demographic.

For example, here are some numbers Republicans don’t want to know about: “Exit polls show 72 percent of women ages 18-29 voted for Democrats in House races nationwide. In a pivotal Pennsylvania Senate race, 77 percent of young women voted for embattled Democrat John Fetterman, helping to secure his victory.” Not a surprise.

I dimly remember, sometime during the Bush II years (probably after the 2006 midterms) Republicans were complaining about the quality of voters. What they were offering as a party was not the problem; voters were just too clueless to appreciate them. I’m starting to see something like that now. For example, do see this guy on the right-wing site American Greatness.

Where did Republican messaging stumble? The party, perhaps, could have been more affirmative about what they support. But they cannot be blamed for betting that voters would recoil at the ugliness of the alternative. Even the Democrats are surprised by their success. The choice here was pretty stark: “You can vote for more crime, child mutilation, and toddlers in masks, or you can vote for us, but you have to give up your abortions.” There was a rational choice, and the people didn’t make it. 

Those expecting a thundering rebuke of tyrannical COVID restrictions, Biden’s incompetence, the border crisis, and economic mismanagement underestimated the passivity of the people.

Passivity? In several battleground states voter turnout broke the previous midterm record. This was not passivity. People really didn’t want what the Republicans were selling, and they got their asses to the polls to vote against it.

But how can you reason with someone who considers mask orders during a deadly pandemic to be tyranny but thinks women with unwanted pregnancies, including from rape, including those with life-threatening complications, should just suck it up and gestate? You can’t. There is no reasoning with these people. You might as well try to explain astrophysics to a tree stump.

And don’t expect the Wall Street Journal or Fox News to send reporters to cafes in blue states to listen to what voters are saying. They aren’t capable of listening to us and aren’t about to change anytime soon.

Here’s another one, This guy at Townhall at least understands that it’s time for Trump to step aside, although he can’t bring himself to admit that the 2020 election was not rigged.

The midterm clusterfark has drawn plenty of hot takes and instant analyses that range from insightful to self-serving to unbelievably stupid. But now that we have gotten past the initial blasts of the flamethrower, perhaps we should take a breath and sit down, and think about where we are as a movement and what we need to do as a party for 2024. There’s a lot to talk about, from procedural questions like how we intend to cope with the new world of extended mail voting to substantive imperatives like how we must repeal the 19th Amendment as it applies to single, liberal women who vote for their Democrat Daddy in appalling numbers. We need to ask questions about candidate selection, money, issue choices, and a bunch of other stuff. And we need to answer the question of what to do about Donald J. Trump.

Again, he’s blaming “single, liberal women who vote for their Democrat Daddy in appalling numbers” rather than asking himself why it is women, including a lot of married ones, might feel strongly that they don’t want the government to have a say in their reproductive choices. This is called “still not ready to face reality.”

Republicans lost the close “battleground” states because the real majority of “most Americans” disagree with the Right. See Election deniers lose races for key state offices in every 2020 battleground.

Voters in the six major battlegrounds where Donald Trump tried to reverse his defeat in 2020 rejected election-denying candidates seeking to control their states’ election systems this year, a resounding signal that Americans have grown weary of the former president’s unfounded claims of widespread fraud.

It looks as if the GOP will have a tiny single-digit majority in the House. Don’t expect the “freedom caucus” tribe to modify their plans to turn the House into a retribution machine to punish Democrats. They’ll still want to impeach President Biden and Merrick Garland and Anthony Fauci and Hunter Biden’s laptop and everyone else who ever pissed them off, never mind that Fauci is retiring, as well as hold the debt ceiling hostage to force cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Let’s hope they don’t have the votes to do any real damage. Let’s hope that at least a few Republicans will be willing to vote with Democrats on critical issues, so that the House isn’t completely shut down as a governing body.

I think most voters are done with culture wars, with drama, with endless hate speech from the Right. They want the government to be a government, not a reality show. They want issues they care about addressed soberly and sensibly, and they want an end to the endless pubescent whining and gaslighting. And the hard-core Right is no where close to understanding that. Because pubescent whining and gaslighting is what they live for.

(Update: See also Josh Marshall, Abortion, Democracy and The Bogey of Issue Literalism.)

Chris Hayes explains the election results.

Update: One more example — the headline on Hugh Hewitt’s column at the Washington Post:

Classic. Here’s the column if you want to read it. Note that he doesn’t mention “Trump” even once.