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.

10 thoughts on “Republicans Still Can’t Face Reality

  1. So true you can't explain "astrophysics to a tree stump".  Some republicans must have thought they could empower the stump like crowd and control what they did.  Empower they got, control they didn't.  Now they are caught up a whirlwind of consequences with the base having a cult like or beyond attraction to one person rather than the party as a whole.  We watch as the moths roast themselves in their obsession with the light but like the republicans who turned the light on are powerless to change anything.  Where will the moths go in the darkness they wonder.  Now they do not control but are controlled by what they created.  

    Those who write, in right wing circles, ideas suggesting as fact that the vaccine caused more problems than it fixed and the like, with vilification of Dr. Fauci do so knowing, that doing otherwise, would only loose readers (from a group that is not replete with good readers).  They are bound, writing only to the echo chamber. The base has been trained to turn upon anyone but the "light".  The light has only an on switch.  Like the old joke, it can only be made to turn off if it wants to turn off.  Only that stump would be smart enough to speculate if or when "the light" wants to turn off.  

    I would be more encouraged if the party showed a history of learning from their mistakes. Come to think of it, if they even admitted having made mistakes in the past would show improvement.  

  2. There is no reasoning with these people. You might as well try to explain astrophysics to a tree stump.


  3. The Republican candidates and incumbents are in a trap of their own making. I would say 'design' but this is a mess that they allowed, encouraged, and added to for momentary benefits. Warnings that it would come back to bite them were there, but they took the easy path.

    What's the trap? I'd call it Limbaugh Outrage Addiction. (I'm gonna trademark that.) Limbaugh did not offer solutions, nor was he confined by facts. He sold outraged for years and the consumers could not get enough. There was huge energy in resentment. Alex Jones refined it, casting aside even the pretense of objective truth (which Limbaugh maintained, at least as a facade.) 

    Contrast the wack-s-doodle with John McCain at a town hall, refusing to participate in an attack on Obama that he's a "Secret Muslim." McCain sometimes exhibited basic decency – that day he took back the mike and said, (paraphrasing) "Obama is a Christian family man who he (McCain) had political differences with." That level of courtesy was once the norm for candidates of both parties. 

    The vast majority of the GOP base is detached from reality – it's only a difference of degree. To win in the GOP primary, you have to reflect that alternate reality. Again, it's a question of degree. Not all subscibe to theories of Jewish space lazers or litter boxes in classrooms for children but a frightening number cast doubt on the legitimacy of the last presidential election as a staple of their candidacy. 

    I mentioned a trap. You can't win the primary without subscribing to lies. You havee to look as crazy to the GOP voters as they are. And they're out  there. But then, you have to run in the general where a substanial majority live fact-based lives in the common reality we share. And they can't win. After winning the primary, Blake Masters immediately pivoted from being an election denyer to admitting Biden won. It didn't save him, but it's illistrative of the dilemma that GOP candidates got killed with. On the national stage, you can't win in the primary with a platform you could win with in the General. And Democrats are quite prepared to eat you alive if you try to run on two different platforms. 

    I'm watching for a post-election Trump approval poll but after the FBO searched Mir A Lago, 60% of the GOP polled wanted Trump as POTUS in 2024. In that poll 82% thought Trump could win. These numbers drive what GOP candidates think they can "believe" – at least in public.

    How will this break in the next two years? I'm sure Trump is going to declare his candidacy as part of a strategy to stay out of jail. The GOP machine knows if Trump dominates their politics in 2024, they will (as a party) go on the endangered species list. Facing extinction. I'm not saying the is just my opinion – it's the opinion of a LOT of memebers of Congress who survived. 

    How will you know if they've decided to throw Trump under the DOJ bus? You'll see a lot of articles in conservatie publications defending the criminal and trial system with the message no one should expect special treatment. The jury system will guarantee justice if a person is unfairly accused. You'll see "principled" members of Congress refuse to interfere with legistaltion to hinder the DOJ. And memebers of Congress will report they've see DeSantis walk on water. Mary Trump predicts Trump will bring the entire GOP down before he lets them abandon him. (I'm paraphrasing.) I'm hoping.


    • Outrage addiction is good.  Tune in again tomorrow for your daily emotional roller coaster ride.  Like hogs wallowing in a stye of hate.  Who would have thought hate would sell.  Who would have thought we could do this on public airwaves.  Tickle that brain stem.  Get in touch with your cave man self.  

      You've got a workable concept there,

  4. Repeal the 19th Amendment, dude (more like 'dud') at Clownhall?


    How 19th/early 20th Century of you!


    Let me guess: 

    I bet you always whine about how you think today's women are spoiled rotten, and are also too lazy for sex.  And it's probably because they refuse your invitations for dinner, and don't want to have anything to do with you that might be considered even vaguely sexual in nature.

    It doesn't take me a crystal ball or a Ouija Board to guess you're an incel.

    Talk about repealing the 19th Amendment won't exactly endear you to many women.

    The Incel Motto:  "A bird in a bush is worth 20,000 in the hand*"

    *But that only applies if you find a bush that likes you enough to let your bird land in it…

    If you know what I mean.

    And I suspect you do.

  5. @gulag – Thanks for a good laugh over the 'incel motto'!

    Republicans are a cult. They work overtime to keep the force field strong, that maintains the bubble of ignorance. They can't learn anything because they don't want to. And I want a whole lot more of them to talk, much louder, about what they REALLY think of the 19th amendment. Tens of millions of curious minds want to know.

    I'm a lot more interested in us, the sane people. We lucked out with Nov 8. And where do we go from here?

    Storm track predicts Trump will be in serious legal trouble next year, with most Rs concluding he'll never win in 2024. By contrast DeSantis will make his play. The House will become a poisonous circus, and so the challenge for the Dems there will be both to not buckle and do their best to contain the crazy. Kevin McCarthy who's wanted to be Speaker forever is being challenged by the likes of Matt Gaetz. He'll be speaker but the crazies will be running the show.

    And what Democrat doesn't wish we had a more youthful team than Biden-Harris? If this was true in 2020, it's more so now, given DeSantis' age. For me the question isn't 'will Republicans learn?', I know that answer, I bemoan that our team continues to play with its hands tied behind its back. We were very very lucky last Tuesday.

    • Our "luck" came in the form of women voters, particularly younger women voters.  In the under-29 category, women broke for Democrats by 72%. Going forward, Democrats should not ignore any demographic but they can pound women's rights as THE central issue.

      • Would women have come out if Roe were still intact? That's luck – some random circumstance (radical Supreme Court acts) – tips the field in our favor. Don't depend on luck!

  6. Ron DeSantis is 44 years old. You can bet that Biden's age will be one of the main arguments they'll use in 2024. It's the simplest argument of all to sell to a dumb base, no brain cells required. Moreover, they've been honing and repeating this since 2020 – every wingnut already thinks Biden is senile ("is this who you want handling the nuclear codes?" – one recently asked me, oblivious to the way real military people viewed TFG with horror). I'm sure James O'Keefe has a few interns dedicated to collecting Biden video to lightly edit to send out to their base.

    Rather than focusing on: will Republicans learn anything (answer: NO), we should be focusing on why Democrats refuse to take the fight as seriously as they should and could? Why send out an Old-Man-of-the-Sea rowboat to face a battleship? Especially when we have a deep bench of talent that could meet DeSantis head-on. I love Joe as much as the next Democrat, but it makes no sense to not use your best weapons instead of deferring to the worn and rusty one you've used forever.

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