It Ain’t Necessarily So: Midterm Results and Meaning

 

Two days after Election Day 2018, I wrote House Call: By the Numbers. In it, I laid out what was already known, as a matter of wins and losses, as to the House and the Senate. I laid out those indisputable facts with upper and lower bounds for the final results, based on the races that were not yet unequivocally won. Little, in the way of facts, has changed since that posting, and we will not have more indisputable facts until the beginning of December.

Naturally, we all want to roll out our own political points, and can find facts to support our polemics. As Ricochet member @iwe laid out in Making Sense of Anything:

We cannot win when we insist on “the facts.” Facts, like politics, religious beliefs, and schools of scientific thought, are too deeply connected to all the things that we have learned, over the course of a lifetime, to include in our understanding, or filter out as irrelevant to the story we wish to tell.

Skim through the comments in any of the posts here at Ricochet, since 6 November 2018, and you will see the wisdom of this claim. Even when we are completely sincere, early reports (on which we hang our arguments) are almost always wrong. I think back to the wisdom of a family friend in the mid-1970s, an Army chaplain. He refused to read newspapers, nor would he subscribe to a weekly news magazine. Instead, he only paid for, and read, monthly publications. He explained that someone would inform him of an emergency, but all other information needed to be filtered through the lens of writers, who had the time and task, to gather all available information, and carefully digest it.

I took The Wilson Quarterly, from 1986 until it went out of print. It was far more valuable than the weekly news magazines, including several years of The Economist. Likewise, The Atlantic, before the leftists killed it and started wearing its skin, was a deeply informative monthly publication. The Claremont Review of Books is must reading, and provides much more insight than any daily publication, including the Wall Street Journal, to say nothing of The Washington Post. Indeed, we see an endless stream of corrections in the rush to get in front of viewers eyeballs first.

So, why must we wait until the beginning of December for more indisputable facts? Because the states’ secretaries of state will certify the elections between the end of November and beginning of December, in time for federal legislators to be seated at the beginning of January. In Arizona, the law requires:

16-648. Canvass for state offices, amendments and measures; postponement

A. On the fourth Monday following a general election, the secretary of state, in the presence of the governor and the attorney general, shall canvass all offices for which the nominees filed nominating petitions and papers with the secretary of state pursuant to section 16-311, subsection E. [emphasis added]

We are here because we like the political commentary game, so we surely are not going to let a few unsettled elections stop us. I wrote a whole series of essays, starting with Paul Ryan’s announcement of his retirement, without stepping aside to let someone with skin in the game lead the team through the midterms. In the past month, I repeatedly advocated a course of action to Martha McSally, to overcome what I saw as the heavy burden of recent Republican senatorial conduct. Roll Call has run a story giving nationwide credit to a Democrat super PAC. Our editor has offered 5 Reasons Why Sinema Won Arizona. Over at American Greatness, we get Arizona Illustrates the RINO Revenge. Pick your state and your pundit for similar results.

We don’t know jack right now. We don’t even know which party turned out their voters better, and we don’t know how Independents participated, relative to their voter registration rate. We will have that basic information, once all the votes are finally tallied. Nobody knows who voted for who, and we never really will. Instead, we will only have selected exit polls. It’s mostly noise and posturing at the moment.

And…

There is a need to map out and start moving on long-term political strategy, to get inside the decision loop of the Democrats and stay there. I’ll start to post my view on this in a series of essays, starting tomorrow. I’m taking into account Jon Gabriel’s balanced observations about the Arizona Senate race. Hugh Hewitt’s Painting the Map Red and If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat are still worth consulting a decade on, along with Salena Zito’s reporting and Ricochet posts like “Women for Progress.” Axios just published a poll saying Americans hold each other in deep contempt. Take it all in, mull it over, and make your best argument for a viable path to bending the arc of history away from the left.

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There are 14 comments.

  1. GFHandle Member

    EDL–Everything Drifts Left. All that remains is standing athwart. Sad.

    Trump has made it pretty clear that his method was to rattle the Dems and rile them and THEN make deals. We seem to be entering the second phase. He will deal. That drifts us left, but maybe slower?

    • #1
    • November 14, 2018, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    EDL–Everything Drifts Left. All that remains is standing athwart. Sad.

    Trump has made it pretty clear that his method was to rattle the Dems and rile them and THEN make deals. We seem to be entering the second phase. He will deal. That drifts us left, but maybe slower?

    Except that he also made clear, from Art of the Deal onward, that he understood the public would suss out presidents within 3 years of their election, and that breaking a campaign promise is political suicide.

    So, no, he’s not going all Ahhnauld on us.

    And there is no true “law” of EDL. People work very hard, over sustained periods, to move a polity. 

    • #2
    • November 15, 2018, at 1:28 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. MarciN Member

    I think Republicans have an image problem. I wish they would devote some energy to getting some candidates with some star power, who are well liked, and who are not perceived as extremists. I’m thinking of people like Tom Selleck or Tim Allen.

    I share the concern of others that Trump’s personality is somewhat abrasive, and although I am very grateful he was elected and applaud all of the good work he and his administration have done, I wish we could learn from his political success and use his publicity methods and recruit some people who a bit more likable to young people.

    That’s how we got Reagan, by the way. Jack Welch recruited him to speak to the GE factories across the country. What Reagan got out of the experience was the iron will to run for office. He did as much listening as talking.

    Trump breaks some of the social rules young people have been brought up to adhere to, and they find him hard to read. And we really need a young arm of the party to sustain it into the future.

    • #3
    • November 15, 2018, at 9:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Valiuth Member

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    EDL–Everything Drifts Left. All that remains is standing athwart. Sad.

    Trump has made it pretty clear that his method was to rattle the Dems and rile them and THEN make deals. We seem to be entering the second phase. He will deal. That drifts us left, but maybe slower?

    It won’t work because he is terrible at making deals. What deals has he actually negotiated of substance? The Democrats have nothing to gain by making deals with him. Look at the whole DACA thing. There was an obvious deal to be made, it went no where. 

    Plus do MAGA Republicans really want to cut deals with the “Enemy”? Trump ain’t no Clinton. He can’t Triangulate because he has no real self control. Otherwise he would keep his tweet thoughts to himself. 

    • #4
    • November 15, 2018, at 11:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think Republicans have an image problem. I wish they would devote some energy to getting some candidates with some star power, who are well liked, and who are not perceived as extremists. I’m thinking of people like Tom Selleck or Tim Allen.

    I share the concern of others that Trump’s personality is somewhat abrasive, and although I am very grateful he was elected and applaud all of the good work he and his administration have done, I wish we could learn from his political success and use his publicity methods but recruit some people who are better liked to represent us. That’s how we got Reagan, by the way. Jack Welch recruited him to speak to the GE factories across the country. What Reagan got out of the experience was the iron will to run for office. He did as much listening as talking.

    Trump breaks some of the social rules young people have been brought up to adhere to, and they find him hard to read. And we really need a young arm of the party to sustain it into the future.

    I take your point, however, how do you propose dealing with this:

    Gerald Ford, a college football star, was turned into a bumbling idiot as president.

    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    • #5
    • November 15, 2018, at 5:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. MarciN Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think Republicans have an image problem. I wish they would devote some energy to getting some candidates with some star power, who are well liked, and who are not perceived as extremists. I’m thinking of people like Tom Selleck or Tim Allen.

    I share the concern of others that Trump’s personality is somewhat abrasive, and although I am very grateful he was elected and applaud all of the good work he and his administration have done, I wish we could learn from his political success and use his publicity methods but recruit some people who are better liked to represent us. That’s how we got Reagan, by the way. Jack Welch recruited him to speak to the GE factories across the country. What Reagan got out of the experience was the iron will to run for office. He did as much listening as talking.

    Trump breaks some of the social rules young people have been brought up to adhere to, and they find him hard to read. And we really need a young arm of the party to sustain it into the future.

    I take your point, however, how do you propose dealing with this:

    Gerald Ford, a college football star, was turned into a bumbling idiot as president.

    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    Organizations can sometimes create and promote a positive image of themselves even in a negative or hostile press environment. I read a really terrific book on this subject years ago by Edward Grefe and Martin Linsky (Linsky is a wonderful writer): The New Corporate Activism. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it’s all worth it in the end. 

    I think this public relations work should be taken up by the local, state, and national Republican organizations. The goal would be to create a positive image of Republicans generally. The effort should be ongoing–especially in between elections, when people are little more open to hearing about the party generally–its history and accomplishments–because they are not so focused on individual candidates. This is not about fund-raising. It’s about creating a long-lasting positive relationship with open communication channels. 

    I would work through storytelling, stories about individuals who were helped by Republican policies and philosophies. Another book, Powered by Storytelling, that I read recently talks about this and how to write the stories. The author Murray Nossel has enjoyed a great deal of success working with organizations of many types. I would recommend this book to any organization that wants to create a positive public image. 

    • #6
    • November 15, 2018, at 9:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. RufusRJones Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think Republicans have an image problem. I wish they would devote some energy to getting some candidates with some star power, who are well liked, and who are not perceived as extremists. I’m thinking of people like Tom Selleck or Tim Allen.

    I share the concern of others that Trump’s personality is somewhat abrasive, and although I am very grateful he was elected and applaud all of the good work he and his administration have done, I wish we could learn from his political success and use his publicity methods but recruit some people who are better liked to represent us. That’s how we got Reagan, by the way. Jack Welch recruited him to speak to the GE factories across the country. What Reagan got out of the experience was the iron will to run for office. He did as much listening as talking.

    Trump breaks some of the social rules young people have been brought up to adhere to, and they find him hard to read. And we really need a young arm of the party to sustain it into the future.

    I take your point, however, how do you propose dealing with this:

    Gerald Ford, a college football star, was turned into a bumbling idiot as president.

    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    I wish it wasn’t so, but this is all a very, very big deal.

    • #7
    • November 16, 2018, at 3:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. JuliaBlaschke Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    Reagan fought back with dignity. He said “there you go again” and people got it and were with him. We need someone who can fight like a grown up. Not Trump. 

    • #8
    • November 16, 2018, at 4:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    Reagan fought back with dignity. He said “there you go again” and people got it and were with him. We need someone who can fight like a grown up. Not Trump.

    “People” get it and are with President Trump. “There you go again” was a prepared line in a debate. He had no answer for “Bonzo” or “Raygun,” and did not face 90 to 94% negative coverage. Further, the negative stories on the old networks were subverted by Michael Deaver’s careful crafting of visuals, controlling the camera angles so the media ended up conveying Reagan’s desired visual message. That no longer exists.

    • #9
    • November 16, 2018, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. JuliaBlaschke Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    Reagan fought back with dignity. He said “there you go again” and people got it and were with him. We need someone who can fight like a grown up. Not Trump.

    “People” get it and are with President Trump. “There you go again” was a prepared line in a debate. He had no answer for “Bonzo” or “Raygun,” and did not face 90 to 94% negative coverage. Further, the negative stories on the old networks were subverted by Michael Deaver’s careful crafting of visuals, controlling the camera angles so the media ended up conveying Reagan’s desired visual message. That no longer exists.

    Lots of people who voted in the mid terms are NOT with Trump. That’s a fact.

    • #10
    • November 16, 2018, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Reagan became, simultaneously: Bonzo the chimp’s dumber sidekick, an “amiable dunce,” and Ronnie Raygun, the nuclear cowboy who was going to blow up the whole world. Nancy was treated with the same catty, nasty, contempt as is Melania, and for the same purpose—taking away women’s support for the Reagan Presidency.

    Reagan fought back with dignity. He said “there you go again” and people got it and were with him. We need someone who can fight like a grown up. Not Trump.

    “People” get it and are with President Trump. “There you go again” was a prepared line in a debate. He had no answer for “Bonzo” or “Raygun,” and did not face 90 to 94% negative coverage. Further, the negative stories on the old networks were subverted by Michael Deaver’s careful crafting of visuals, controlling the camera angles so the media ended up conveying Reagan’s desired visual message. That no longer exists.

    Lots of people who voted in the mid terms are NOT with Trump. That’s a fact.

    And lots of people who voted in the mid terms ARE with President Trump. That’s a fact.

    • #11
    • November 16, 2018, at 2:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. RufusRJones Member

    This guy goes on Larry Elder and Dennis Prager. He’s really good. 

    Why California Republicans lost it all, even in Orange County (Hint: It’s not Trump)

    A convenient narrative has formed: California Republicans are a casualty of President Trump. Yet, the party’s problems have been around longer and run much deeper than any one person. From money to grassroots organization, California Republicans are completely outmatched.

    There’s no point in quoting this more, because it’s so short and every word is important. Basically, Soros and Styer threw staggering money at it and they have a problem of Republicans leaving the state. I think it’s pretty congruent with what Victor Davis Hanson says.

    Along those lines, this is from the guy that uncovered Jonathan Grubers’s videos. His name is Rich Weinstein. He’s freaking brilliant in multiple ways especially as a researcher. Ivy league. If the GOP had any brains, they would give them a ton of money and cut him loose.

    For a few weeks I’ve been wondering about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and just how she emerged as a politico. Her path to Washington is shocking, at the very least. My first question was: What were her campaign positions BEFORE she became a national figure? 

    So many people think it’s naïve to support Trump. That may be true, but naïveté and excess idealism it’s going to kill the GOP. That is just reality. Everything moves left. The left keeps the ground they seize. 

    • #12
    • November 17, 2018, at 3:47 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Duane Oyen Member

    The most clear point made, just about anywhere, is this one from the post:

    We don’t know jack right now….

    To quote the (just barely) late, great William Goldman, “nobody knows anything”, or its political punditry corollary, “Everybody knows everything and was exactly right in predicting Nov. 6” The election results were precisely in that sweet spot where every commentator can support a pre-established view- a glorious pastiche of Russ Roberts Confirmation Bias:

    1) Dems won high-’30’s House seats- a) they took control; b) it is not a huge majority like 2009 and fewer than 40 flipped
    2) Republicans have 53 Senate seats- a) kept control, and even gained! b) lost two former Republican seats and the ones they picked up were obvious due to a favorable map, they should really have 55 seats (Montana and Arizona)
    3) Republicans lost 7 gubernatorial seats and some legislative houses- a) losses in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania spell trouble in the upcoming reapportionment; b) but coming off an unsustainable high after Obama’s overreach, now just regressed to better-than-mean for a 50-50 country
    4) Democrats picked up all the historically Republican Romney-Bush suburbs, the vital core (well, historic Reagan, but Clinton won them, partly GW Bush, but Obama won them mostly, partly McCain, partly Romney, partly Hillary, long term purpling trends, blah blah- “blah blah” is Curmudgeon-speak for “yada yada”), meaning that the Judis-Texeira theory of Democrat future domination by demography is now reality, just delayed by two years, as us old white guys die off and the Obama rainbow coalition inheres robustly, the voting base becomes all female and “of color”- a) but the avowedly leftist candidates in competitive races lost, and b) are Latinos “white”?

    The point about the suburbs is repeated over and over- but actually, suburbs are, like North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, perpetually swing areas. Lefties lock in urban control, bluish-purple voters move to the suburbs to escape the consequences of their votes, and generally do their best to bring equivalent blessings to their new suburban homes. This has been going on since the 1960’s, at different rates in different areas. David Bahnsen is correct about Orange County- but B1 Bob Dornan won 53-46 in his best years, and lost to Loretta Sanchez (now considered right-wing by the Dems) in 1996 as Latino voters increased, the rest of the county began to follow. Will women who can’t stand Trump- but supported TEA Party prudence, abandon family, fiscal responsibility, and religious thoughts when the choices are different? When Dem House members spend all of their time and energy on subpoenas and “social justice”, not governing responsibly?

    Not everything is because of Trump, and “not nothing negative” is because of Trump. We have no idea how the Republican party will emerge after Trump- but the Dems post-Obama are not Obama, nor were the Republicans perpetually Reagan starting in 1988.

    Nobody knows. Stop pretending that we do.

    • #13
    • November 17, 2018, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. ctlaw Coolidge

    McSally’s loss reminds me of Kelly Ayotte’s in 2016.

    • #14
    • November 20, 2018, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 2 likes