Trumpism Hits a Wall
Washington -The most important long-term consequence of the 2022 mid-term election is that no matter who controls Congress, Trumpism has hit a stone wall. A broad coalition of voters in pivotal swing states firmly rejected former President Donald Trump’s naked attempt to stage his own comeback in 2024 by pushing slates of handpicked election deniers into major state offices this year, to put them in a position to manipulate the next election.
The sweeping defeat of Trump candidates in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Alaska, signals that the Trump tide has peaked. Exit polls make clear that the final week of warnings from President Biden and Barack Obama about the Trumpist threat to American democracy was widely heard and that helped turn the tide against Trump’s candidates.
Nearly 44 percent of 94,000 voters polled by the Associated Press all across the country said that the fate of democracy was their primary worry in this election, almost as many as the 50 percent who cited the economy as No 1. Ten percent of all voters said they had made their vote decisions in the final ten days. ”They wanted to protect democracy and their right to choose,” Biden crowed at his post-mortem press conference.
Election returns also bore evidence that the refusal of hundreds of thousands of mainstream Republican voters to back Trump-echoing extremists contributed to the losses of Trump’s picks. These mainstream Republicans found Trump’s proxies either too extreme or lacking in any experience to qualify them for public office.
Publicly Trump put on a brave front, but the shock of defeat left Trump privately “livid” and “screaming at everyone,” according to one Trump adviser. The former president, this adviser told CNN, was ranting that “they were all bad candidates,” and blamed others, including, his wife Melania for supposedly selecting celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz to run for the Senate from Pennsylvania.
More broadly, the wave of Trump losses shattered the facade of Republican unity. Sour recriminations from other Republicans against Trump for promoting extremist right-wing candidates blossomed in all the media. Fox News, long a Trump cheerleader, aired a volley of GOP post-mortems blasting Trump for the party’s weak showing. Joining the chorus, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, once a Trump ally, blamed the GOP’s losses in competitive states on Trump’s putting his own interests ahead of his party.
Trump’s Miserable Batting Average
The final loss of Trump candidate Herschel Walker in the senate runoff race in Georgia on December 6 left Trump’s brazen attempt at a power grab in key swing states in shambles.
Only seven of thirty high-profile Trump Class of 2022 picks for major state offices gained victories. Among eight high-profile campaigns for the U.S. Senate, the Trump camp lost six and won just two – best-selling author J.D. Vance in Ohio and three-term Congressman Ted Budd in North Carolina. Among Trump’s candidates for governor in nine states, his single, solitary victory was by his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas.
To many voting rights advocates, the most dangerous threat of Trump foxes getting into the election henhouse were Trump candidates running for secretary of state in 11 states with radical, unproven claims of mass voter fraud and vows to fix an unbroken system. Only three of them won – in the red states of Alabama, Indiana and Wyoming. Eight others were stopped cold in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Vermont.
Fiery Trumpists Lose to Cool Opponents
Arizona, a key target of high-voltage Trumpist campaigns, dealt the Trump camp a crushing blow. Voters vetoed the three main pro-Trump candidates – Kari Lake for governor, Blake Masters for senator and Mark Finchem for secretary of state. Incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly easily won re-election and Democrat Katie Hobbs, who as secretary of state in 2020 certified Joe Biden’s victory, won a tight race for governor. Hobbs ran a low-key, common-sense campaign, rebuffing Lake’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and brushing off Lake’s taunts that Hobbs was an invisible candidate.
In Michigan, the entire Trump slate went down in flames – Tudor Dixon for Governor, Kristina Karama for Secretary of State and Matthew DePerno for Attorney General, all running on Trump’s false voter fraud narrative. That story didn’t sell in Michigan where voters returned incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her team to office. In Nevada, the Trump challenge was also intense. But incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto squeaked out a victory over pro-Trump Republican Adam Laxalt and voters emphatically rejected Republican Jim Marchant, a radically comnbative leader of the nationwide Trump bid to capture the jobs of running elections by as secretaries of state.
In Wisconsin, where entrenched GOP domination of state politics has emboldened the far right so much that pro-Trump businessman Tim Michels boasted that if he got elected governor, Republicans ”will never lose another election in the state” because they would control all levers of power. Embattled incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers shot back that Michels’s disdain for rank-and-file voters marked him as “a danger to our democracy.” That pitch resonated and Evers narrowly beat back the Trumpist takeover.
Republican Defections Torpedo Trump Picks
In the East, Pennsylvania was the prime target for Trump. His pick for governor, far-right state senator Doug Mastriano, who took part in the January 6 protests at the Capitol, ran a volatile campaign vowing relentless war on unproven voter fraud and on abortion rights. Fellow Republican. Mehmet Oz, running for the Senate, echoed the Trump line on the 2020 election, though late in the campaign, Oz straddled. Pennsylvania voters rejected them both, Mastriano by a wide margin.
Republican defections hurt Trump extremists. So many mainstream Pennsylvania Republicans were alarmed by Mastriano’s bellicose rhetoric that they formed Republicans for Shapiro to campaign openly for Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, Joshua Shapiro. “They were people who really thought Mastriano was inappropriate as the nominee, They couldn’t vote for him,” said Craig Snyder, the group’s director. Mastriano lost nearly 250,000 voters who cast ballots for his GOP running mate.
In Georgia, Republican voters outright rejected Trump’s candidates for governor and secretary of state in the party primary in May. Then, in the November general election, some 200,000 people who voted to re-elect GOP Governor Brian Kemp refused to vote for Trump’s pick for senator, former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker. On the litmus test of the 2020 election, they were holes apart – Kemp defying Trump and certifying Biden’s victory in Georgia, Walker backing Trump’s claim of a stolen election. Republican defections ultimately cost Walker the election. In the December 6 runoff, Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock beat Walker by nearly 100,000 votes.
To be sure, in deep red states, from Florida, Alabama and Texas to Iowa, Missouri and the Dakotas, roughly 200 Republican incumbents, either in Congress or holding major state offices and publicly supporting Trump’s challenge to the 2020 election, won re-election But their re-election was mainly certification of the status quo in red states.
The essential message of the mid-term election is that outside these red strongholds, there is a high cost to the Trumpist strategy. In battleground states, Trump’s narrative is a loser. It turns off most voters. The evidence is clear. Tens of millions of Americans, defending the democracy they know and believe in, have just voted to block Trump’s attempted power grab in swing states that usually decide presidential elections. And their verdict as already shaping the buildup toward 2024.