Newsletter: In a fair world, the insurrectionist GOP would have been trounced
Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.
Los Angeles had a normal election, unburdened by any 2020 election deniers flirting with power. The same was true for much of California — aside from local races in GOP redoubts, and Orange County Republican Rep. Michelle Steel gets an honorable mention for her brazenly dishonest, anti-Chinese smearing of opponent Jay Chen — a reality made possible by the state Republican Party’s marginalization over its reactionary, anti-immigrant politics. As I wrote in last week’s newsletter, that allowed Californians to put on an issue-driven election where a certain ex-president who retired to South Florida played arguably no role. Hooray for us.
The rest of the country had it worse. Just one state over from us, in Arizona, Republican Kari Lake falsely sowed doubt about the vote on election night and has given no indication she’ll accept defeat, where she appears headed as more ballots are tallied. Also close to us, in Nevada, an election-denying Republican is running about even with the Democrat for secretary of state and could oversee the 2024 vote in that state.
I contrast California with other states to clarify the precariousness of the country’s situation, even if the “red wave” in which Republicans would decisively take the House and even the Senate didn’t materialize. Yes, by historical standards, the 2022 midterm was an aberration — the president’s political party could have done a lot worse. But I’d argue there is no apt historical comparison, with this being the first nationwide vote since the leader of one party incited his followers to violently storm the U.S. Capitol. I know there’s a lot of inertia built into the U.S. political system — that inertia was why our democratic institutions didn’t simply collapse under the weight of Trumpism — but it’s hard to find comfort when an insurrectionist-enabling party isn’t drummed out of power and thoroughly marginalized at the first opportunity. The projected margin of Republican control of the House, if the Republicans do indeed emerge with control, will be razor-thin — but “Speaker Kevin McCarthy” doesn’t exactly sound like democracy protecting itself.
The Times’ Editorial Board similarly threw some cold water on the left’s post-election exuberance by the lamenting Trumpism’s continued influence: “This election offers some signs that Trump’s influence on American politics is waning, but his toxic legacy remains enmeshed in our nation’s governance. It’s scary to think about how that power could still be exploited to determine who wins the presidency in 2024.”
So we’ll either write Trumpism’s obituary in 2024, or steel ourselves for more tumult. Taking the long view, I can only hope the Republican Party’s open embrace of authoritarianism and racism turns out about as well as it eventually did for the California GOP after it pushed the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 on us in 1994. Republicans are still paying for that racist gambit nearly 30 years later, and maybe one day the Trumpist GOP will follow its California faction into irrelevance.
Any day now. ...
This wasn’t the post-election day column he had teed up, but Nicholas Goldberg says he was pleasantly surprised by Tuesday’s results. He was expecting to lament the ragtag bunch of conspiracy theorists and election deniers predicted before Nov. 8 to take control of Washington, but the voters delivered something else: a reprieve. The situation isn’t ideal, but it’ll do for now: “We have to take solace where we can. The big takeaway of the week is that there’s some hope. Trump’s bid to tighten his grip on the GOP, win seats for the hundreds of candidates he endorsed and position himself for 2024 was not terribly successful.” L.A. Times
California’s election results require patience. That’s a good thing. We’re still waiting to find out who will be the next mayor of Los Angeles, and we might not know for a while. That’s a byproduct of mass-enfranchisement in California, where every registered voter is sent a mail-in ballot, and the goal is to increase participation and ensure accuracy, not necessarily quick results. The editorial board advises patience. L.A. Times
This isn’t what solidarity looks like. Erin Aubry Kaplan looks at the fury over racist comments by L.A. City Council members in the context of Latino ascendance in areas of Los Angeles that were once heavily Black: “The moral outrage of the past couple of weeks has been refreshing, the universal admonishing of these Latino politicians for their casual anti-Blackness heartening. But the outrage might be fleeting. The truth is that, until recently, nobody has really seen Black loss — political, but also educational, economic, spiritual— as a crisis that needs to be addressed, even though Black people have been raising their voices about it for decades.” The Atlantic
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Gretchen Whitmer deserves the same attention as Ron DeSantis. Florida’s governor emerged as the Republican Party’s best hope for 2024 after the midterms, but it was the Michigan Democrat who pulled off a more impressive feat: Her party won full control of both legislative chambers, something that hasn’t happened for Michigan Democrats in 40 years. “If President Biden decides not to seek reelection, do not underestimate her chances for the Democratic nomination and the White House,” writes Michigan native LZ Granderson. L.A. Times
The biggest losers? The GOP and Trump. Jackie Calmes chronicles the former president’s unenviable record since squeaking out and electoral college victory in 2016: “After Trump won the presidency in 2016 (despite losing the popular vote), he’s lost in every election cycle since. The 2018 midterm elections were a referendum on his erratic, divisive record and Republicans lost their House majority. In 2020, he lost reelection and Republican senators their majority. Yes, that’s a fact. After that unprecedented record of losses — House, Senate and White House — a normal party would have divorced him. But of course, the Republican Party didn’t and now we have 2022.” L.A. Times
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