Maybe Republicans Need a Policy Agenda After All?
One of the more illustrative post-election reactions on the political right came from Fox News’ Jesse Watters on Wednesday afternoon—as it became apparent that conservatives’ anticipated “red wave” had failed to materialize in the previous day’s midterm elections.
“There’s just not the hatred for Joe Biden that there is for Barack Obama and for the Clintons,” Watters complained on the air. “There’s not a ‘hate Biden’ vote that’s out there…. People just don’t feel the same passion.”
It’s true. President Joe Biden has many negative qualities. He’s sleepy. He’s a serial fabulist and a lifetime D.C. creature. He’s blatantly overstepped his authority in several ways during the past two years. Despite all that, one thing he’s not is hateable.
Indeed, exit polls show that midterm voters who held a negative opinion of Biden actually broke slightly toward Democrats.
That’s not supposed to happen, and it may have sunk Republicans who had banked on anti-Biden sentiment to power their expected red wave. The election turned out to be a choice, not a referendum, and Republicans simply failed to give enough voters a sufficient reason to choose their side—probably in large part because of how they’ve been blinded in recent years by the politics of personality.
In fact, if you want to trace the roots of Tuesday’s debacle for the GOP, a good place to start would be the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where the top officials in GOP politics decided to dispense with the traditional drafting of a platform—the document that outlines the ideals and policy goals for which the party stands—in favor of a statement pledging allegiance to then-President Donald Trump.
It was, in essence, a codification of the evolution that the party had undergone since Trump descended from a Fifth Avenue escalator to declare his candidacy five years earlier. Personality had fully triumphed over policy.
Even before Tuesday, there were clear signals about the limits of that approach. Trump was an unpopular president who’d lost both chambers of Congress during his one term in office. His chaotic response to losing the 2020 presidential election likely cost Republicans control of the Senate for the past two years.
After Tuesday, there can be no more debate about the diminishing returns of that approach. Even in places where Trump’s favored candidates won—like in Ohio, where J.D. Vance was elected senator—they underperformed non-Trump candidates. Elsewhere, personality-first and policy-poor candidates in Trump’s mold, like Arizona’s Senate hopeful Blake Masters, flopped hard.
This transition within Republican politics has had consequences that go beyond the results of elections. As the GOP elevated Trump and his style of politics, the
Article from Reason.com