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OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: The GOP won … really!

by Bradley Gitz | November 28, 2022 at 4:24 a.m.


It's only human nature to try to seek consolation in the face of disappointment, in this case the disappointing performance of the Republican Party in our midterms.

If you believe, as I do, that the GOP, despite its many flaws, remains the primary political vehicle for upholding the classical liberal values of the American founding and thereby preventing a woke-left transformation of America, then you also believe that the health of the Republican Party is of some significance to the health of the nation.

As such, taking the long view and first impressions to the contrary, the Republican Party might actually be healthier now than it was a few weeks ago, and certainly healthier than if it had achieved that red tsunami it had hoped for, in at least four respects.

First, by taking the House of Representatives, even by the narrowest of margins, the GOP should be able to somewhat effectively obstruct whatever is left of the Biden administration's toxic agenda.

As has been amply demonstrated over the past two years, one-party control of both the executive and legislative branches is a formula for great mischief. The stalemate and gridlock that will now prevail will be appreciated by those of us more concerned about preventing federal government action than facilitating it.

Our ingenious system of checks and balances, manifest in this case at the federal level in the form of separation of powers, will once again prove beneficial to the nation by frustrating radical ideologues with transformative agendas.

The second and still more obvious way in which the GOP is healthier is that the albatross it has been carrying around its neck, otherwise known as Donald Trump, suddenly got much lighter, perhaps lifted altogether.

Had Trump-endorsed candidates won across the country on Nov. 8 rather than lost and the red tsunami actually occurred, Trump would have taken all the credit and thereby cemented his status as the overwhelming favorite for the GOP nomination in 2024. His ridiculously premature announcement of his candidacy would have resembled a coronation instead of the pathetic ploy for attention it came off as, and you certainly wouldn't have seen the headline "Florida Man Makes Announcement, Page 26" in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.

Third, if we didn't know it before, Nov. 8 made it abundantly clear that there is a vastly superior replacement for Trump already in place in the form of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It is difficult to think of any election in recent decades that has so efficiently propelled a politician to national prominence as DeSantis' nearly 20-point win, coupled with the manner in which he has almost single-handedly turned his state from purple to dark red in only four years.

DeSantis' landslide will likely turn out to be the historically most important result from last Tuesday, akin to but with even greater consequences than George W. Bush's victory in Texas in 1998, another midterm year in which the GOP otherwise came a cropper.

DeSantis is all those things that Trump isn't, including mentally stable, articulate, and effective, and in possession of both firm ideological principles and a sense of party loyalty. He has also provided the GOP with a governance model that can ensure success if taken nationwide in the post-Trump era.

There is now finally a way for Republicans to get off the Trump clown car, if they have enough wits about them to take it (and if they refuse to, will richly deserve all the defeats that follow).

Last but not least, the Democrats' unexpected victories last week more firmly tie them to their own albatross, Joe Biden (exit polling had Trump's favorable/unfavorable at -19, Biden's at -15). Again, if the GOP had done as well as expected, Biden would have been the scapegoat in the same way Trump now is for Republicans. The chance that Democrats would have advantageously schemed to push him into early retirement would have almost certainly increased.

But Biden is now going to be sticking around, with no midterm shellacking to compel any kind of beneficial course correction. He's going to keep pushing the same destructive, unpopular policies, only now perhaps with even more enthusiasm because of a misleading sense of wind behind his back (when asked after the election if he would do anything differently, Biden accordingly, and ominously for Democrats, said "nothing").

As woke as the Democrats are now, they are going to become more so in the next two years.

There is thus a certain symmetry heading into 2024--the Republicans want to further saddle the Democrats with Biden, and the Democrats want to further saddle the Republicans with Trump.

When looked at with this in mind, the 2022 midterms have made it harder for Democrats to get rid of their biggest liability (Biden) and much easier for Republicans to get rid of theirs (Trump).

On this latter point, Republicans are now more aware that Trump is a sure loser than they were three weeks ago, while Democrats are less aware that the only Republican Biden could conceivably beat is Trump.

Biden effectively neutered but still glued in place, Trump significantly diminished, DeSantis significantly elevated.

What's not to like?

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.


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