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Postmortem 2022

Unlike past elections where certain factors, issues or problems clearly stand out when explaining results, analysis of these midterms feels like assembling a jigsaw puzzle: lots of parts, no clear picture of what happened or what’s coming. Here are the pieces I see at this point:

No. 1: There is a big disconnect between what people say matters to them and how they voted. For months, Americans have told pollsters they were most concerned about inflation, crime and illegal immigration. And then they voted for candidates who will give them more of the same.

No. 2: Abortion was a big winner. That was the No. 1 issue for Pennsylvanians who voted for John Fetterman. Michigan, California and Vermont put virtually unlimited abortion rights into their constitutions. Montanans rejected a ballot proposal that would have required medical care for babies that survive abortions. Ironically, the success of state abortion initiatives reinforces the primary point of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: that abortion should be governed by state, not federal, law.

No. 3: Early voting is problematic. Almost 700,000 people voted in Pennsylvania before Fetterman’s disastrous debate performance. Opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz began gaining momentum thereafter. Historically, plenty of important information emerges as campaign seasons end. It matters when voters don’t have access to it before they cast their votes.

No. 4: There’s a theme emerging here: lack of information; lack of engagement. The Democratic Party is deliberately running candidates who are empty shells, absent from (or disastrous on) the campaign trail and/or demonstrably incompetent.

It works. Joe Biden won in 2020, as did Fetterman, Katie Hobbs, David Scott and Kathy Hochul this week. (Hobbs refused to debate opponent Kari Lake; New York Magazine’s Intelligencer described her campaign as “lackluster.” Scott wasn’t heard from for the last few weeks of the campaign at all. Fetterman’s afflictions are well known. And then there’s former Pennsylvania Rep. Anthony DeLuca, who won in a landslide despite having died last month.)

This suggests three things: First, Democrat voters aren’t voting so much for a candidate as they are voting against another one; second, national party leadership is keeping most issues off the ballot; and third, the real power will rest not in the hands of the elected mouthpieces but in those pulling their strings behind the scenes.

No. 5: It’s not just the message; it’s the messenger. Ron DeSantis’ victory in Florida (and J.D. Vance’s in Ohio) proves that it is not only possible but politically advantageous for conservative candidates to take strong, principled stands. When they do, they can succeed with a broad spectrum of constituencies, leading to actual (as opposed to illusory) red waves. This is no “electable” RINO pablum, either. On “America First” messaging, as well as state sovereignty, parents’ rights and economic vitality, DeSantis is Donald Trump without the baggage.

Trump’s policies as president were immeasurably superior to those of the present administration. Trump continues to draw tens of thousands to his rallies, and he is at his best when his focus is on the issues that concern huge swaths of Americans: crime, illegal immigration, the economy, inflation. But when he attributes a candidate’s success or failure to loyalty to him personally, the message falls flat. His jabs at failed Republican Senate candidates Don Bolduc and Joe O’Dea are examples. This self-absorption is mildly amusing when Trump’s candidates win. But Tuesday has even diehard Trump supporters rethinking the future. Support within the MAGAverse on Twitter was shifting toward DeSantis even before the implosion of Republicans’ midterm hopes. Now the sentiment is spreading that DeSantis’ approach worked; Trump’s didn’t.

Odds are Trump will be announcing his candidacy for the presidency in 2024 next week. A Trump-DeSantis ticket presents interesting possibilities. But if Trump thinks he’s going to parlay “Ron DeSanctimonious”-style barbs into a preordained anointing as nominee, I think he’s mistaken. Trump already faces powerful headwinds from every institution controlled by the Left: the Deep State, the media, academia, woke CEOs, Hollywood. If he fragments his own base into chunks, he’ll go down and take the party with him. It would be an unforced error of catastrophic proportions to hand such a victory to the Left.

No. 6: As the saying goes, politics is downstream of culture. Americans now realize that they’re fighting a battle against institutions that are shaping (and corroding) our culture. Pushback against policies implemented by leftist school boards is a good start. Next, higher education should be called to account. Far too many of our young people leave college miseducated and indoctrinated. Days before the midterms, The Nation predicted that Gen Z would deliver for the Democrats. Post-election data reveals the truth of that. If the next generation believes in collectivism and censorship, winning this or that odd election is just bailing water.

State governments are more important than ever. There is a huge (and growing) divide in this country. We have fewer shared values and lack a consensus about the kind of country we want to live in. Blue voters elect people who defend unlimited abortion and infanticide, crime, homelessness, drug abuse, open borders, high taxes, inflation, censorship, pornography in schools and the chemical castration and surgical mutilation of the youth. Red voters want individual liberties, free speech, school choice, parental rights, age-appropriate curricula, clean streets, reduced crime, firm law enforcement, secure borders, a strong economy and low taxes. These views are irreconcilable. More Americans may find themselves relocating to states more hospitable to their worldview.

Finally, smaller federal government is critical. It’s one thing for New Yorkers, Illinoisans, Pennsylvanians or Californians to elect corrupt or incompetent politicians to state leadership positions; it’s another thing altogether when they’re sent to Congress and foisted upon the rest of us. The focus of the Republican Party moving forward needs to be shrinking the size of the federal government, not just gaining control of it.

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Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a native of Champaign, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in English and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Hollis' career as an attorney has spanned 28 years, the past 23 of which have been in higher education. She has taught law at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has nearly 15 years' experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her scholarly interests include entrepreneurship and public policy, economic development, technology commercialization and general business law. In addition to her legal publications, Hollis has been a freelance political writer since 1993, writing for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine, Townhall.com and the Christian Post, on matters of politics and culture. She is a frequent public speaker. Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they live in Indiana with their two children, Alistair and Celeste.

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One Comment

  1. Excellent analysis except for the idea that there should be a Trump/De Santis ticket for 2024. De Santis and the overwhelming Republican victory in what used to be a “swing state”, is the brightest spot in an otherwise underwhelming midterm election. De Santis is clearly the future for the party.

    I voted for Trump twice and consider him one, if not the most, accomplished Presidents in our history; especially considering the lying, unhinged opposition he faced for four years.
    However, that said, he doesn’t know how to pick his battles and his ego is so big that he engages in snarky or even vicious attacks whenever anyone has the slightest disagreement, or even for no reason. His recent dig against De Santis was totally uncalled for and has erased my support. Earlier this year his attack on Kelly Ann Conway (for an imagined sleight), who was one of his most trusted, ardent, and persuasive spokespeople for four years, is another case in point. He immediately alienates half the country, will never win the support of Independents, and now is attacking the greatest Governor in the U.S. and alienating half of his supporters.

    His other “blind spot” has been in picking the right people in key positions, not just on the basis of their expressed allegiance or who most strokes his oversized ego. His pick of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and then Bill Barr are the most glaring examples. Imagine what accountability and house cleaning could have happened at the DOJ and the FBI with a “Lion” as Attorney General, instead of two “get along” RINO’s.

    DeSantis has displayed none of those issues. He fights with the ferocity of Trump, but is far more articulate and persuasive in his speech and never wanders off track or off point as Trump has the propensity to do. His sending of 50 illegals to Martha’s Vineyard has brilliantly shone a national spotlight on the libs hyperbolic hypocrisy. There is no other governor that has had the cojones to fire a Soros prosecutor for not upholding the law, or has had the strength to take on a Goliath “woke” corporation like Disney and he did so flawlessly. Further, his cabinet in Florida has been rock solid; especially his Attorney General and Surgeon General; who always spoke against the Draconian COVID hysteria. DeSantis has a Military and Legal background which will be invaluable in fighting the now entrenched treasonous Democratic opposition. So in 2024, it’s time for Trump to pass the torch to a much younger fighter, avoiding any party infighting. Clearly DeSantis is the better choice.

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