By Paul Gottfried
The Nov. 8 midterm election, which was preceded by early voting that invariably favors the Democrats, has come and gone. On the basis of what we now know, the Republicans have a small majority in the House of Representatives and—since their misfortune increased Tuesday through Hershel Walker’s loss to Sen. Rachael Warnock in Georgia’s runoff—a 49–51 minority in the Senate.
Save for a few bright spots like Florida, the non-coastal regions of California, and Long Island, the midterms represented a remarkable achievement for the Democratic Party. Despite failing grades in all polls on inflation, crime, foreign policy, and immigration, and a mostly senile president who keeps putting his foot in his mouth whenever he tries to speak, President Joe Biden’s party more than held its own.
Unlike President Barack Obama and other earlier chief executives, Biden did not sustain the huge losses in his party that one would expect. In fact, the Democrats made significant electoral gains, as in my state of Pennsylvania, where a perceptibly brain-damaged representative of the eccentric far left, John Fetterman, coasted to victory against centrist Republican Mehmet Oz.
Such a turn of events cannot be reasonably attributed to a single cause, whether National Review’s fixation on blaming every Republican setback on its bête noire, Donald Trump, or even dishonest vote counts (which may have occurred in some states). I also don’t question that lots of college students turned out for the Democrats, imagining that Joe would cancel their student loan debts, but because of America’s still-in-force “separation of powers,” it is not the president but Congress that is permitted to take such an unwise step.
Curiously, after the Democrats incited mass protests against the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June, abortion rights became a less electorally charged issue during the following months. By fall, abortion even sank to third or fourth place in polling behind inflation, crime, and, according to some pollsters, immigration. Abortion rights, however, remained a critical issue that Democrats kept alive throughout the election season, although most Republican campaigns, like Oz’s in Pennsylvania and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s in New York, tried to run away from it.
Democrats typically exaggerated the devotion of Republican candidates to the pro-life cause and attributed to them, usually counterfactually, an unconditional opposition to abortion (including for victims of rape and incest). The Democrats pounced on this divisive question and wouldn’t let it go, because, like the so-called Jan. 6 insurrection and the so-called Republican threat to democracy, it resonated well with their base. Given the Democrats’ lack of popularity on most other issues, hammering on abortion rights, even in states where such rights were fastidiously protected, was a convenient tactic to fall back on.
Abortion, as we now know, was far more central to election outcomes than the polls suggested or than I had previously thought. But it was not an isolated social issue in determining votes. Unrestricted abortion rights, which many voters, particularly single women, seem fixed on, is part of a larger package of woke positions. Democratic candidates like Fetterman, Sen. Warnock in Georgia, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin have embraced a wide range of woke causes, from LGBT rights and critical race theory to sexual reassignment, the elimination of bail for violent criminals, and open borders.
Those who voted for Democrats were getting behind a lot more stuff than unrestricted abortion rights. They were endorsing a far-reaching woke agenda, which Democratic candidates had backed for years. Democratic voters, I would submit, were voting for Democratic candidates at least partly because they agreed with their cultural radicalism. Despite rampant crime, galloping inflation, deliberately kept-open borders, and other evidence of a disastrous Democratic administration, those who voted for radical left candidates were placing woke politics, and not only abortion, above bread-and-butter and safety issues.
It seems almost childish to pretend that the Republicans brought this on themselves by not nominating the proper candidates. Next to the Democrats they opposed, Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and senatorial candidate Blake Masters in Arizona, Zeldin in New York, senatorial candidate General Donald Bolduc in New Hampshire, and gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon in Michigan were brilliant, inspirational political warriors.
Did the Democrats really offer anything more impressive than these Republicans in Fetterman, Whitmer, or Sen. Mark Kelly and Governor-Elect Katie Hobbs in Arizona? In my state, the Democrats won handily with an incoherent stroke victim who backs state-subsidized heroin dens and wants to release from captivity violent criminals, up to second-degree murderers. Fetterman’s campaign won decisively because it appealed to socially and culturally radicalized demographics.
Therefore, blaming Republican defeats on Donald Trump’s endorsement of bad candidates, who in most cases were actually able campaigners, is a questionable explanation for what just took place. One can reach this conclusion even without backing Trump’s further presidential ambitions. Noting Trump’s very limited responsibility for Republican defeats and looking for causes elsewhere is, contrary to the opinion of The National Review, Fox News anchor Bret Baier, and Daily Wire commentator Ben Shapiro, by no means an endorsement of the former president’s candidacy.
Republicans lost key electoral contests for many reasons, but a critical one became clear to me while reflecting on the election results. Republicans have not been radical enough on social issues to appeal to those who voted for the Democrats. Moreover, the Democratic vote in favor of unrestricted abortion rights was not an isolated social stance. The same voters would likely be mobilized if the issue of gay marriage were returned to the states. This of course won’t happen because Republicans are joining Democrats in the Senate to nationalize that right (the Constitution be damned!).
This cultural radicalization was at first gradual but then turned viral after the meteoric rise of former president Obama to quasi-divine status. As president, this gushingly lionized celebrity was supposed to help us transcend our racist (and presumably sexist and homophobic) past.
Obama and his cult have helped us overcome nothing more than the remnants of our constitutional republic. They have also been governmental icebreakers for the cultural left. Even before Biden, these revolutionaries started weaponizing the permanent state, particularly the clandestine services and military, against the so-called radical right, white nationalist threat to democracy. The Biden administration has mobilized the same forces against those who reject their leftist programs, and judging by their most recent election, our radicalized Democrats continue to make headway.
But the left has not been alone in leading us astray. Long after the woke left had marched through all our major institutions, gurus from Conservative Inc. were still assuring us that America remains a firmly conservative country. They were woefully wrong and even delusional. The recently concluded election may not have been a fluke but an accurate indication of where we are as a country.