Political prognostication is a tricky business. Even the experts with every resource at their fingertips can be very wrong—the Presidential election of 2016 being the most dramatic recent example—so now we armchair political gurus perhaps have a little more credibility should we want to engage in an educated guesstimate prior to an election.
So far I am “batting a thousand”. Immediately prior to Election Day on 2016, I published my prediction that Donald Trump would win. At the risk of screwing up my perfect record, I am going to hazard some thoughts regarding the critical midterm elections that are only weeks away.
First, regardless of the actual outcome, we are still going to remain a divided nation. Fundamentally irreconcilable ideas regarding government regulation, foreign policy, law enforcement, LBGTQ rights, immigration (both legal and not), abortion, gun control, economic policy, entitlement spending, public education, military policy, public aid, and a host of other issues often make it difficult to find common ground. This election is apt to further harden these battle lines and further thrust our nation’s courts into the impossible position of acting as the moral and cultural arbiter for America. Given the desire of so many to forcefully and continually assert their uniqueness and individuality at every turn, it is sometimes difficult to discern what truly binds us together as one nation.
However, our present state of despair and dissension is what drives my electoral prediction: It will be a good night for the Republican Party in general—and President Trump in particular. Why? I believe we are about to see an eerie rerun of the 1968 elections.
Richard Nixon won the Presidency in 1968 despite being a deeply divisive figure who was reviled by the D.C. political establishment (Sound familiar?), and the Republican Party picked up seats in both the House and the Senate. The country was deeply divided politically, violent political rhetoric and actual political violence plagued our nation, upheaval at all levels was the order of the day, and calls for a “revolution” to restructure America echoed through the culture and our pre-digital media world. Words were wielded as weapons, liberals demanded action to improve systems they deemed unfair, and the signs of change seemed everywhere one looked around our nation and the world. The stars seemed lined up for a Democratic night at the ballot box.
However, Richard Nixon and the Republican Party—positioning themselves as the party of law and order, traditional values, and the protectors of “real” Americans—waded through the morass and did just fine.
There are, of course, many differences between today and fifty years ago, but the single most important and salient similarity is the Democratic Party found itself aligned with forces that, either rightly or wrongly, were associated with chaos and a lack of respect for both our nation and “real” Americans.
Just think back over the past two years. Many on the left seem willing to brand those who disagree with their views as bigots and cretins—you know, “deplorables”—which means it is necessary impeach public officials with differing views, remove the President from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, drag Republicans into court and pummel them, censor conservative opinions on social media they find objectionable, shut down campus speakers and professors who are not liberal, dox government officials, harass politicians and their families in public, and generally display the emotional maturity of sugar-infused eight year olds in all their public and private communications. Although the obvious retort by those doing the ranting and raving is that this is all the fault of Donald Trump and his itchy Twitter finger, the reality is that many Democrats have been quite willing to pump up the volume of their “resistance” in order to energize those voters whom they believe will be their margin of electoral victory. Incivility and confrontation are thought be a winning combination.
This brings me to my reason for predicting a good night for the Republicans. Although standing at the barricades and screaming at your opponents garners lots of media attention and self-congratulations for being brave and “woke”, the reality is that most people aren’t much into revolution and are going to default to voting for candidates who speak quietly and with a minimum of incendiary rhetoric. The mistake that Democrats made in 1968 is analogous to the mistake that Democrats are making today—just because you are marching doesn’t mean everyone else is anxious to fall into line behind you. The basic American character is evolutionary and not revolutionary, so voters—except for the loud and partisan few—are innately suspicious of those who excitedly promise to circumvent the deliberately slow and pokey mechanisms of government in order to right all the wrongs of the world. Given the cacophonous clashes that have become cable news and social media staples over the past several years, the body politic is weary and will cast their votes for whomever seems to promise some much needed peace and quiet.
Injustices, of course, still abound, but a general respect for our laws and institutions still abides—and most would prefer reforms over revolt. Although well-timed ambushes and clever insults sometimes succeed in the short term, voters will inevitably opt for those candidates who seem to exude stability and evince some degree adult behavior. Provocation gets attention, but conciliation wins elections.
The dark genius of President Trump is that he knows how to needle his opponents into inflammatory words and behavior that work to his advantage. Perhaps the greatest political counterpuncher to ever occupy the Oval Office, he continually starts fights in order to goad his opponents into madness or stupidity—or both. If you doubt this, I hold up the recent spectacle of Senator Elizabeth Warren shooting herself in the foot regarding the matter of her Native American DNA. If ever there was a dumber and more pointless political stunt that managed to both amuse opponents and infuriate allies, one would have to look very hard to find it. Well played, Mr. Trump.
Therefore, my midterm election predictions are thus: Republican gains in the Senate and a near stalemate in the House. This will drive President Trump’s opponents madder still—and further strengthen his hand looking toward the elections in 2020.