There are a lot of folks who like to watch the NFL on TV. Maybe not as many as there were before the whole kneeling thing started, but it’s still a big number. And many of those probably find it irritating to no end when one of the commentators says something like—and it’s almost inevitable that they will—”It’s all going to come down to which team can put the most points on the board.”
For the people who, like me, make a living writing about politics and elections, the onset of primary season produces for us the same kind of annoyance. It’s maddening when someone who is presented as an expert on the ins and outs of the electoral process says, as you can safely bet someone eventually will, that “it’s all going to come down to turnout.”
There are times when there is a real urge to smack some of these analysts in the face. This is what comes from eliminating high school civics programs and news organizations deciding that those who at one time or another covered local government are now well-suited to explain how and why politicians get elected.
The 2016 presidential election is a perfect example of this phenomenon in practice. Many of the nation’s top political reporters, as well as those in the middle and many of the bottom-feeders, missed what was going on. They bought into the spin that Hillary Clinton‘s election was inevitable. As such, they regarded the October 2016 leak of an audiotape in which Donald Trump could, to put it gently, be heard speaking unflatteringly about women, as a death blow.
Admittedly, in many races and almost any other year, it probably would have been. But the choice between Clinton and Trump was unlike any presented to the voters in some time.
It takes experience in the electoral process to generate the level of sophistication regarding the many nuances in American politics. It takes more than subject-matter expertise to get it right. So many of my colleagues missed it so totally that I—who saw Trump’s chances of getting to the White House growing while Clinton’s were contracting, even after the release of the infamous audiotape—was either onto something or had simply become a cheerleader for whichever candidate the GOP chose to nominate.
The reason I bring this all up is that I now see it happening again. The dominant political media’s obsession with Trump, the candidates he’s endorsed and whether or not they’re winning contested GOP primaries is only a small part of the 2022 midterm election story.
It’s a popular subject because it’s easy to cover and people seem interested in it. It doesn’t, however, tell us much about where the GOP is headed or what’s now happening among the Democrats. The next election, as much as the mainstream media won’t like it, isn’t going to be a referendum on Trump. It’s going to be about President Joe Biden and how the Democrats have run the country for the last two years, even though—and this is something else that’s been overlooked—the GOP is in charge of more states now than at almost any time in history.
The Biden presidency is failing. At least that’s the perception people have. His approval rating, which started in the low- to mid-60s when he took office, has now sunk below 40. That’s not good for him, and it’s not good for his party. Democrats are getting the blame for things that are happening as a result of policies Biden has put in place, as well as for things harmful to the interests of the United States over which he has no direct control. That’s created a positive political environment for the GOP, which has amassed a nearly double-digit lead on the crucial polling question of which party voters want to control Congress after the next election.
How people feel, and why, is what ties all this together. The environment drives turnout and, right now, GOP voters are energized and engaged. A Rasmussen Reports national survey released May 26 found that of the 79% of likely voters who are excited to vote in the midterm election, Republicans led Democrats by an eight-point margin. Among those who said they were “very excited” (49 percent) to vote this fall, the GOP lead grows to 16 points. “These findings are consistent with the generic congressional ballot,” the polling firm said, “where Republicans held a nine-point lead last week.”
The challenge for those writing about elections is to figure out why that is. To be blunt, they need to set aside their personal biases—left and right—long enough to get in touch with what the American voter is thinking, while also abandoning their propensity to judge whether those thoughts are “right” or “wrong.” Only then will they be able to report competently on the contest for control of Congress this fall.
By Daily Caller•
The left loves to hate on those who speak truths they’d rather not hear. Elon Musk was once their darling until he came out for free speech. Extremists also hate Tucker Carlson, the popular news and opinion host at Fox News, because he has been particularly effective in pointing out the hypocrisy, inconsistency and outright insanity of the far left. They want his show cancelled and him silenced. They’ve even staged protests at Tucker’s home in hopes of intimidating his family. That is how the left works — notice the recent protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices.
Despite all the hate from the left, Tucker Carlson and the ideas he advocates had a very good night this past week in Ohio. One doesn’t have to agree with every opinion expressed by Tucker — he’s expressed literally thousands and thousands of opinions, so it would be normal to have some differences with even like-minded people. But no one can deny that Ohio’s primaries showed that Tucker is on to something big and that conservative, America-first ideas are popular.
Ohio is broadly seen as a bellwether because the state has historically been representative of the nation’s voting patterns in several ways. So what do the Ohio GOP primaries tell us? Twenty-two out of 22 candidates who represented a conservative, America-first political approach won in the primaries. Additionally, GOP voters outnumbered the opposition by 2 to 1 in the US Senate primary. Simply stated, the Make America Great Again (MAGA) approach batted a perfect one thousand and energized voters, proving that the MAGA agenda is far more supported than the Left is willing to admit.
Tucker was also the first major supporter of J.D. Vance’s Senate candidacy — a political newcomer who easily won the GOP primary. While Vance garnered other endorsements, including Trump’s, most came at the last minute, and Tucker’s early support helped build Vance’s support and credibility. Tucker’s endorsement of Vance not only hit back at the left but also dealt the more establishment, anti-MAGA Republicans in the state who had endorsed more moderate candidates a stinging defeat.
The left continues to contend that a conservative, America first economic and foreign policy doesn’t represent what most Americans think and that while Donald Trump may have been the president from 2017 to 2021, he only won because of the so-called Russian collusion. And as a result, he wasn’t that popular and his MAGA agenda was illegitimate. But Ohio’s GOP recent primary proves the lie of the left’s absurd propaganda.
While President Trump on occasion alienated voters with his brusk no-nonsense manner of speaking, his policies were actually widely supported. The economy was strong, wages were growing, America and its friends were safer and less threatened by totalitarianism and terrorism.
And while some voters may have assumed that the economic boom and safer international climate were just good fortune before the COVID pandemic struck, the last 15 months have provided a sharp contrast to the good times that the MAGA agenda brought. The evidence has been mounting that while Trump may have offended some, his policies benefitted everyone and made the country freer, more prosperous and more secure. Ohio’s primary results — with record turn out and a strong and consistent showing for MAGA oriented candidates — prove that Americans have woken up to the destructive mischief caused by the left.
Virtually every night, Tucker Carlson is exposing the left and showing that they seem more interested in expanding their power and prestige than in helping make America stronger, freer and more prosperous. So we should expect the attacks on MAGA candidates and Tucker to become ever more shrill and intolerant. The extremists on the left are losing the political debate — being beaten on the airwaves and at the ballot box.
These are very difficult times for the extreme left. Tucker Carlson will continue to draw their ire as one of the most articulate proponents of America First principles. Anyone who effectively advocates for American values can expect to be the target of increasingly shrill attacks and demands that these “dangerous people” with “dangerous ideas” must be silenced.
The extreme left sees time-tested truths and basic facts as dangerous to their political aims. And since they cannot win the debate, they hope to silence their opponents. If you disagree with Tucker or with an America First agenda, that’s your right. But it isn’t your right to silence those with whom you disagree.
Those who seek to silence others are admitting the inferiority of their own ideas and their ability to advocate for them. Those the left seeks to silence are typically the most effective and fact-based advocates of conservative principles. So watch who the extremists on the left attack most vociferously and seek to silence, and you will know who is advocating most effectively for making and keeping America strong, prosperous and free. I suspect that Tucker will continue to be one of those at the top of their list.
Glenn Youngkin's victory and the Republican future
Consensus forms quickly. Within hours of winning the Virginia governor’s race, Glenn Youngkin was identified as a model for GOP candidates. The argument ran as follows: The former businessman and political newbie figured out how to hold Donald Trump’s hand—as one Republican senator put it, under the table and in the dark—and still win big in a blue state. He ran on kitchen-table issues: rising prices, schools, crime. He tailored his message to his locality and avoided national debates. None of his television advertisements featured President Biden and none mentioned illegal immigration. He defined himself as a basketball-playing, dog-loving dad from the suburbs before his opponent was able to portray him as Trump in fleece. He built coalitions with parents, veterans, and minority groups. Republicans who follow his path might enjoy similar success in 2022 and beyond.
In truth, Youngkin might not be as replicable as he appears. The reason is candidate quality. For a political rookie, Youngkin has mad skills. He has a preternatural ability to stay on message. He is positive and optimistic without coming across as treacly or sentimental. I have yet to see him frown. He has what Reagan adviser John Sears called “negative ability”—the power to deflect, repel, and ignore personal attacks. Nothing seems to get under his skin. Politicians who have this quality drive the opposition nuts. You could sense the Democrats’ frustration when Biden told a Virginia audience that extremism can come “in a smile and a fleece vest.” Maybe that’s right, but the average Virginian doesn’t look at Glenn Youngkin and see a neo-Nazi or a Proud Boy. The average Virginian sees an approachable and energetic father of four with commonsensical plans to improve the quality of life in his home state. That’s the type of profile any candidate, Republican or Democrat, ought to aim for. But it’s easier said than done.
Both his opponent and the national environment helped Youngkin. Terry McAuliffe learned how difficult it is to win nonconsecutive terms—something that may be of interest to the ruler of Mar-a-Lago. And McAuliffe clearly believed that demographics are destiny and that Virginia was irrevocably blue. He ran on airy evocations of a pleasant past and fiery denunciations of Youngkin as a Trump-like threat to institutional stability and social peace. McAuliffe’s inability to find a galvanizing issue led him to run an idea-free campaign based on mobilizing Democratic interest groups. His accusations of racism and nuttery turned out many Democrats to the polls. Just not enough to win.
The general deterioration of Biden’s presidency hurt McAuliffe. The inflation, incompetence, and cultural radicalism dragging down Biden’s job approval rating are taking other Democrats with him. The red shift in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere on election night hints at bad things to come for the incumbent party. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy speculates that another 2010, when the GOP picked up 63 House seats, may be in the making. For that to happen, McCarthy has to find plenty of candidates who aspire to be Glenn Youngkin, match them against clueless incumbents, and pray that Biden’s approval rating next November is the same as or lower than it is today. This is a possible scenario, and perhaps even the most likely one. But this is also the Republican Party we are talking about. Things can always end in disaster.
It’s less as a candidate than as a governor that Youngkin can be a model for the Republican Party. He’s been given the opportunity to govern, and to govern well. His coattails brought in a Republican lieutenant governor, a Republican state attorney general, and a Republican House of Delegates. The Democrats control the state senate by two seats—but this narrow margin is pliable and open to compromise. Youngkin is in a unique position. He’s the first high-profile Republican chief executive elected in the Biden era. He has the chance to demonstrate that Republicans can address parental revolt, public safety, and economic insecurity in responsible and effective ways. He has the chance to define that agenda in the coming year, and even to broaden it, so that Republicans in 2022 have an example to point to and a lodestar to follow.
This agenda starts with education. Parents became the centerpiece of Youngkin’s campaign, the lynchpin of his victory, after McAuliffe’s career-ending gaffe of September 28, when the former governor said that parents shouldn’t be telling teachers what to teach. In a post-election interview with Hugh Hewitt, Youngkin mentioned charter schools, high curricular standards, and more spending on teachers and on special education. On the trail he pledged to ban “Critical Race Theory,” or “CRT,” from public school instruction—though he has to find a way to do so without revising or omitting the history of slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement. My American Enterprise Institute colleagues Brad Wilcox and Max Eden suggest that Youngkin promote “academic transparency” by requiring parental review and opt-in for hot-button curricula, prioritize educational savings accounts, and align school-board elections with the national political cycle.
Youngkin also has said that he will place public safety officers in schools. This initiative should become the basis for a more wide-ranging effort to bolster state and local police forces, with an eye toward community policing and the reassuring presence of cops on the beat. Youngkin’s “game plan” includes firing the state parole board to discourage early release of violent offenders. He wants to reform the state mental health system. He might also want to combat drug trafficking and opioid abuse—with the understanding that it is better to do several things well than many things poorly.
As Henry Olsen observed in October, Youngkin’s economic agenda fits well with the emerging Republican coalition of non-college-educated voters. Rather than cut marginal tax rates, Youngkin would double the state standard deduction, eliminate the grocery tax, and suspend the gas tax, easing the burden on lower- and middle-income taxpayers suffering from a rising cost of living. He says he’d like to encourage innovation and job creation throughout the state. One way might be to take the lead in “strategic decoupling” from China and incentivize manufacturers of critically important goods to reshore facilities in the commonwealth. Over a decade ago, I accompanied then-senator George Allen (R.) on a tour of a Virginia-based semiconductor plant. Let’s make room for more of them.
The danger for the governor-elect is that he will entangle himself in national debates over vaccine and mask mandates. I expect the next state attorney general to join the legal challenges to President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private-sector employers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the incoming state government attempts to end public school masking requirements. In general, however, Youngkin ought to be wary of intruding on local control and private-sector decision-making, even if it might win him fans among certain parts of the right. It ought to be remembered that Youngkin’s populism was actually popular and commonsensical—unlike some of the anti-elitism and suspicion of expert opinion that one encounters in politics these days.
It would be a missed opportunity if the governor-elect frittered away his resounding victory on cultural squabbles that generate headlines and score likes but do not improve life for Virginians in the real, not virtual, world. Still, I have a feeling—maybe it’s just a hope—that Youngkin will be a serious governor in demanding times who shows his fellow Republicans not just how to win, but how to govern. All with a smile and a fleece.