I’m reading this morning’s post-election analysis from the US Midterms, and as a Canadian looking in from the outside, my general take is this: Trump sort of won. Democrats sort of won too… and the Republican Party lost big time, but they don’t know it yet.
A Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress would have been a defeat for Trump… but the US Electoral system is so jerrymandered against Democrats that this was extremely unlikely. The Democratic party went into this race with bricks tied to their ankles… and they still gained. If you look at the popular vote compared to the seat count, it’s clear the Democrats enjoy a support base that is both diverse and deep… and one which is being systematically disenfranchised. They made advances despite that, and are now more politically relevant than before. But it’s a long time to 2020, and they need to get their shit together. More on that later.
Trump… sort of won. He didn’t get drowned in the “Blue Wave” that never really materialized, but I don’t think he won as big as he’s claiming. With the Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives, he’s lost the ability to quash investigations against himself and, should he make the effort, there will be real, immediate consequences of any such attempt. Trump is now politically vulnerable in a way that he wasn’t before the midterms… and he’s too stupid or too arrogant, or both, to comprehend his vulnerability. That’s going to make the next couple of years noisier and more chaotic than the last two… which is an absolutely exhausting thought, but there we are.
The Republican Party… lost. Big time. Yes, they maintained control of the Senate, but in both House and Senate moderate Republicans were ousted in favour of right-wing extremists. The GOP, as a big tent party, as the “Party of Lincoln”, is dead. Period. It is now the Party of Trump. The moderates and undecided voters have been driven out. For a generation, at least, the face of the Republican Party will be one of populist white supremacy and nativist paranoia. In the short term they may remain strong, but the trend of history has always been towards liberalism, and young people are voting like never before. The GOP has doubled down on positions that will not — cannot! — win in the long-term.
Which brings us back to the Democratic Party. Long term, I believe that progressive ideas will win out. Short term, the Dems need to get their shit together. They need to come up with a progressive, inclusive platform for a popular, bridge-building leader for the 2020 presidential campaign. They have no shortage of potential candidates, so what they need is an open, respectful and positive primary campaign to present a candidate who can do for America what Obama did… provide hope.
Which might be difficult, considering that the same Old Boys Network of white, wealthy Democrats that put Clinton to the fore is still calling the shots. In fact, it’s been floated recently that Clinton might run again, which would be an even bigger disaster the second time around. During the last election the entrenched privilege structure within the Democratic party anointed Hilary Clinton as the next President and treated both the primaries and the election itself as irritating formalities. It was hugely disenchanting display of public arrogance and contempt for the electorate and I honestly believe that’s what cost them the election.
(Yes, Clinton would have done a better job than Trump. A small lump of green putty would do a better job than Trump. Who could do a better job wasn’t really the point: The Dems treated the 2016 election as a victory lap and they got beat. Hillary Clinton needs to accept that she’s not going to be President. Ever. It’s not fair. It’s not just. But it’s reality.)
What the Democrats need to do is find a young, fresh candidate, probably male and white(ish), pair him with a more radical female person of colour as a running mate, and then run them on an openly progressive platform with more depth than simply “Screw Trump.” Sure, Screw Trump should be a plank in the platform, but they need to be deeper than that. They need to offer the American electorate real, progressive choices. They need to address real, important issues. They need to be aggressive in shutting down GOP mud-slinging and insinuations and attacks. They need to shut down and call out GOP lies. And they need to be able to fight down in the gutter, which is where Trump and the new GOP will drag them.
Most of all, they need to humiliate Donald Trump.
And I mean humiliate him. Not only with investigations and committees and charges, but also in debates. Face to face. If I were GOP strategists, I’d be looking very hard at ways to keep Trump from having to talk to his opponents for the next election, because if the Dems are even half awake they’ll pick someone smart enough to run rings around Donald Trump in a debate. It’s not enough to beat him — Clinton won every debate, after all — you have to beat him in a way that emasculates him. He needs to be shown to the electorate and the world be petty and weak. And stupid. And incompetent. And a coward.
Donald J. Trump is all of these things, of course. He is a national embarrassment and a disgrace, utterly unsuited to be President of the United States, and he proves it every day. The next Democratic candidate for President has to be willing to take the gloves off and whip Trump like a rented mule on national television. Trump has to be beaten so badly as to be made a public spectacle of contempt. He needs to be shown as a worthless, stuttering wretch; to stand naked, blinking and blustering in the harsh light of his own corruption, dishonesty and failure; so glaringly exposed in his disgrace that he is not even worth pitying. Trump has lived his life creating a larger-than-life image of himself… almost a self-parody. That needs to be torn down and the real, lonely and pathetic loser at the heart of it exposed.
It’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be harsh. It’s going to be one of the lowest points of the American Republic. And I genuinely wish it wasn’t necessary… but people are dying. People are dying. Children are being held in cages. The most powerful democracy in the world is gravely ill and the Trumpists are already dancing on its grave and scalping tickets for the funeral.
The midterms are over. The Democrats are in the fight in a way they haven’t been for two years. The Republicans have doubled down on the cancer that’s going to kill them. Trump… remains Trump. Everyone is predicting an ugly fight leading towards the next Presidential election.
The Democrats need a platform with the courage to offer hope and real change, and they need a Presidential candidate who can fight in the gutters if need be and not get too dirty doing it.
It’s going to be the Democrats’ election to win or lose… and the fight starts today.