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This post is a cobbling together of various points I’ve made on posts concerning Donald Trump’s effect on the midterm election.
Upfront, I want to say that I am not a Never-Trumper. I have voted for him twice, praised him during his presidency, defended him from unfair attacks, and will vote for him again if he is our nominee. I am also not an Always-Trumper. When reality hits you in the face, you must address it.
It goes without saying the results of this election were a letdown. All the indicators (economy, crime, direction of the country, etc.) were on our side, and we get this? This is the most mind-boggling midterm election of my lifetime. I don’t understand it. We are not seeing something. I hope this election is a reality check for all conservatives. Humility is the first step to correction.
Now Donald Trump is not the only factor for the negative results. This could be a generational change. The young socialists could finally be coming into power. Or perhaps abortion was that big a deal to people. But I think enough analysis is out there now to show that Trump did have a negative effect. His personally picked candidates generally lost, but more importantly the Democrats ran against Trump and nationalized Trump. He became the brand of the Party, he was the face of the Party, and his persona colored the electorate’s decision-making process.
The Trump negative effect was multi-faceted. Not only was he a drag as a person, but this helped the Dems by (1) fundraising and (2) constantly instilling the negative news of Jan 6th into the election dialogue, and (3) splitting off the Republicans and Independents that would have voted against the direction of the Biden administration. The Democrats certainly played games in our primaries to match up against Trump enthusiasts, and that apparently worked. But more importantly, by nationalizing Trump, they were able to offset Biden’s national negative likability. Trump’s aura hung over the election.
Every politician gets trashed by the other side. It’s a question of whether it sticks. No matter how hard they tried, it didn’t stick to Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, it sticks pretty easily, rightly or wrongly, to Trump. There are reasons why it sticks to Trump. For one, he comes across as an angry man, and angry men can be characterized in a negative way. Another, he’s a very polarizing person. He sets it up that way, like it or not. You’re either in with him or you’re not. Sure, you might like that, but it excludes, and that is not coalition building. Another is his post-2020 election histrionics. If he had been a gracious loser, he might have had a higher ceiling.
Before yesterday’s election, I said if he runs he’s either a 50 +1 candidate or a 50-1 candidate. It’s a flip of a coin on how things break. That was his history in 2016 and in 2020. It broke his way in 2016. It didn’t in 2020. And familiarity doesn’t change that dynamic. Everyone now has an opinion on Donald Trump. No one is changing their minds.
But after this election, I now see him at best as a 40-45% candidate. It’s clear he’s lost ground. Familiarity in politics, especially with politicians with idiosyncrasies, and Trump certainly has those, tends to bring a decline in popularity. In addition, Trump’s constant presence in the news has quickened the decline of his political capital.
Political capital goes down with familiarity. There’s a reason why most President’s approvals go down in second terms. Even Ronald Reagan’s did. The more familiar you are with a politician’s negatives, the less appealing he becomes. Trump has run out of positive capital and at this point, unless you’re a die-hard, the only reason to vote for him is to avoid the other guy.
There is an expiration date on politicians. This is less so for legislative politicians since they can blend back into the mass group of other legislators, but not so for the executive leaders, and especially the President of the United States or whether one wants to be President. Like it or not, and it may be unfortunate, Donald Trump has passed his expiration. I take no glee in it. I will vote for him again if he wins the primary, but I sure hope he doesn’t.Published in