US Midterm: These Firsts Shall Be Our Last

US Midterm: These Firsts Shall Be Our Last. By David Cole, who examines four “firsts” of the recent midterm elections.

First No. 1: Abortion.

This was the first national election in fifty years in which abortion wasn’t protected by Roe. …

There were seven — seven — ballot measures where abortion was in one way or another on the line. And in all cases pro-life lost. …

With the 2022 midterms, we’re looking at the very real possibility that, to some extent, fear of losing abortion rights may have trumped fear of crime or concerns about immigration. Voters who may have otherwise supported law-and-order and anti-immigration candidates hesitated because those candidates were tethered to antiabortion.

The smart move — for now — for GOPs would be to untether from antiabortion in all but the safest markets. But that isn’t gonna happen. It just isn’t. Pro-life’s not going anywhere, and with every new state-level defeat, pro-life will amplify its demands for a national law. From their perspective, that’s the right move; they’re saving babies.

And killing a party. For a worried GOP, there’s no cure, only harm reduction, only mitigation. Perhaps in 2024 the party can find a way to minimize pro-life without sparking a full-blown revolt from the lobby. …

First No. 2: Mass mail-in votes:

This was the first midterm (not the first election, but the first midterm) to be held under Covid vote-by-mail-or-drop-box rules. I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on this one, because I think, among rational rightists, there’s a realization that the late wins by GOPs in states like California and Arizona disprove the notion that slow ballot-counting of mail-ins is a rigged game that only favors Democrats. And those wins prove that the best strategy for GOPs going forward is to work the system as Dems do. …

First No. 3: Jan 6:

2022 was the first national election since a bunch of cretins and lunatics stormed the Capitol with some unformed half-witted notion of stopping an election from being certified. To be clear, 1/6 was not at the top of any voter list of concerns this year. But among independents, 1/6 is hugely unpopular, and yet, even in the face of that, prominent rightists have never been able to admit defeat and move on. There’s a compulsive need to keep justifying 1/6; rightists revisit it just as much as leftists.

The retards of 1/6 committed an act that was itself a first. And this is something you can try to explain to MAGAs again and again, but it’s like trying to teach a dog to code: What sets 1/6 apart was that it was action. Yes, plenty of Democrats have bitched about elections being stolen. Words. 1/6ers were the first people to, as a group and with the vague blessing of a president, take action. Violent and illegal action. It’s not the same as words, and the public understands that. …

I’m not saying 1/6 made a huge difference. But of all the things that didn’t elevate the GOP’s standing in 2022, it’s the most irritating because it was the most stupid and unnecessary. …

First No. 4: Trump and re-litigating the 2020 election:

The 2022 midterms were the first national election in which a former president tried to turn the entire thing into a referendum on his loss.

Past presidents knew better. Nixon strongly believed that the 1960 election had been stolen from him. But he took the L and shut the fuck up about it. And voilà, he lived to not only win eight years later, but he lived to score one of the biggest landslides in history four years after that.

LBJ was livid that Nixon might’ve engaged in treasonous election interference in 1968. But he chose to keep the matter out of the 1970 midterms, and the Democrats held the House and Senate (to be fair, LBJ’s motives were not exactly noble, but still, he was in possession of information that could’ve been used to relitigate 1968, and he chose to keep quiet).

Regardless of how wronged Trump felt, once his loss was certified, once it was in the books, he could’ve just accepted it with dignity, with an eye toward repeating Nixon’s post-1960 trajectory. But Trump doesn’t have dignity in him, so he had to make “stolen election” an essential element for his lackey candidates.

Imagine if W. Bush had made WMDs an essential element of the [2006] midterms, just out of sheer egotism of not wanting to admit he took a loss (as in, the loss of going to war over WMDs and then having to admit you found none). W. handled that loss the smart way; in 2004 — an election year — he said “oopsie,” made self-deprecating jokes, and moved on. And it worked; he won 2004 handily. …

Don’t repeat them:

The GOP (1) is associated with the criminalization of a now-vulnerable right that most Americans have grown up with, (2) stubbornly refused to make use of new avenues for vote-casting, choosing instead to attack the Dems for being more skilled at it, (3) faced voters for the first time since MAGA extremists violently assaulted the U.S. Capitol, and (4) was saddled with an unpopular ex-president who demanded that candidates relitigate his loss and declare it invalid.

Take all that into account, and the fact that the party didn’t do as well as it could’ve is less of a mystery than a Scooby-Doo episode.

The Republicans still won 52-47 overall.