by Joel Kotkin
Monday, 22
August 2022
Analysis
07:15

Why losing the midterms would be good for the GOP

Only defeat can break Trump's hold on the party
by Joel Kotkin
Trump supporters in Ohio. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

In his appraisal of the war between Iraq and Iran, Henry Kissinger famously remarked that “it’s a pity both sides can’t lose.” Increasingly that’s how the upcoming battle between the Trumpian GOP and the woke Democrats seems to many Americans, whose faith the political system, notes Gallup, is at a nadir. Only 7%, for example, express a great deal of confidence in Congress and barely a quarter in the Presidency.

A solid majority of Americans dislike both parties. No surprise here as they continue to alienate all voters outside their base constituency. Under such conditions, a victory by either will simply serve to confirm their political direction ever further from the mainstream and set the conditions for a thumping in 2024.

Instead, it may also be better for each party to take a hit this November. Losing, it turns out, can be the precondition for winning big. Republicans, for example, took to heart the lessons of the Goldwater rout in 1964 and embraced a more moderate, pragmatic Richard Nixon who then won two consecutive elections. Democrats did the same after the 1972 McGovern disaster, shifting closer to the centre and winning big with the original New Democrat, Bill Clinton.

Big victories, sadly, don’t teach anything but hubris. Many Republicans would take a big win — meaning control of the Senate and a big House majority — as a vindication for both their policy agenda and their insane Duce, Donald Trump. Yet the elevation of the widely unpopular Trump, with barely 40% support, may be the best weapon the Democrats have, and is perhaps the one candidate that even the hapless Joe Biden, or even the pathetically ill-suited Kamala Harris, could possibly beat.

A big GOP gain would reinforce their embrace of issues like the 2020 election “steal” or ratcheting up controls on abortion. These are political disasters. The vast majority of Americans favour fairly liberal abortion laws, notes Gallup, with barely one in five Americans supporting a total ban, far less than the one-third who favour no restrictions. Similarly, although most Republicans back the Trump claim, a strong majority if voters feel the 2020 elections were not stolen.

Democrats may face a similar problem if they do better than expected this November, as is seen as likely even among conservatives. The party press — which includes most of the legacy and social media — is all excited about Biden’s new climate and tax bill, as well as the continuing legal travails of Trump. Keeping control of the Senate, with the help of some poorly chosen Trump backed candidates, and keeping losses in the House maybe minimal will be celebrated everywhere from CNN to the New York Times and The Washington Post as a great victory over Trumpian neo-fascism.

But here’s the bad news. If they do relatively well in November, the Democrats will have no reason to reverse the policies that drove their numbers down in the first place. Unchastened, they will tell themselves that the Green New Deal, defunding police, Critical Race Theory in school, open borders are just misunderstood, not flawed policies. Yet very few Americans, roughly 2%, notes Gallup, prioritise climate change while barely a third of Americans, according to another recent survey, support the Biden energy polices. And most Democrats still worry about rising crime and inflation. If they stick with their current policies, expect the Democrats to lose in 2024 if the Republicans nominate someone other than Trump.

Internal cleansing and rethinking after a defeat may not be the most efficient way of reforming politics, but right now the only way for them to reform their ways is to slap them down hard, although they sadly can’t go down together.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

Everybody hates, or is encouraged to hate, Trump. Yet there are plenty of people who believe a populist President will ‘drain the swamp’.
Can’t help feeling that this kind of article is another stab at the elite trying to preserve their status (Democrat and Republican) even as the current lot demonstrate their incompetence.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

As a test of his theory, compare the effect on global poitics those who confidently assert “Losing is good actually” have had versus the bearded gentleman who held that people pick the strong horse over the weak.

J Hop
J Hop
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

There are other non-establishment candidates that don’t have the baggage of Trump. DeSantis isn’t a Bush or a Romney. If we don’t get rid of Trump I fear he loses in 2024 and the 2028 Presidential choice is Chelsea Clinton versus Liz Cheney. Only uniparty swamp creatures ever allowed again on the ticket.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
1 month ago
Reply to  J Hop

As crazy as that sounds it does seem quite feasible!
Trump irritated me no end, yet the alternatives were frightening as we can see from this fake sitting in the Oval Office.
I also think he will damage the midterm potential red-wave and lose again 2024, as you suggest!
My bet is he will defer to DeSantis in 2024. Biden’s problems are not going away anytime soon. Not all Democrats are that stupid and they will suffer his minders terrible policies.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy O'Gorman
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  J Hop

If only Jamie Dimon would stand? America would regain global respect in an instant

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago
Reply to  J Hop

I suspect (hope) that you are being overly dramatic. My suspicion is that Trump would much prefer playing kingmaker and have DeSantis actually run in 2024. Trump is anything but stupid and I do think that he probably fully realizes that no matter how energetic he may be, age is soon going to catch up with him. The presidency is a really really tough job, and as is evident from the current incumbent requires somebody who is fully there and whose mind is no inhabiting some far off never-never land.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

That was my feeling. We keep hearing that we need to avoid of Trump without any explanation why. Trump’s speech telling Germany it’s gas deal with Russia is a bad idea sounds pretty solid now. I am not from the US but I wouldn’t have voted for him – or Hillary – in 2016. But I would have voted for him in 2020 if for no other reason that he clearly is considered a threat by the global elite. I hope De Santis is the 2024 candidate – but I would be fine with Trump.

Forbes Tuttle
Forbes Tuttle
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“A pox on both their houses” is a familiar refrain from someone with no grasp of street-level reality. It’s a throat-clearing exercise, except he has no path forward. The Kissinger quip is cliche, not a solution. Partisan politics is a rough and tumble vocation, while Kotkin views it from 10,000 feet.

gary cruse
gary cruse
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Came here to talk sense, see that someone already has. Kudos.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

”Why Losing The Midterms Would Be Good For The GOP”.

There will not be a USA left if the Democrats get another 6 years of hyperinflation spending, open borders, foreign wars, and ‘Green Energy Policy’ coupled with their Post-Modernist Neo-Marxist game of making every group hate the others, then the situational ethics, relative morality, and elastic codes of honour, and having been 100% captured by the Corporate/tech/media/Pharma/Military Industrial Complex.

I do not see how that would be good for the GOP, having the nation, and the West destroyed.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Hyperbole, that’s how to progress a debate constructively!

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

WOW, this is a remarkable article, pathological TDS:

”and their insane Duce, Donald Trump.”

”a great victory over Trumpian neo-fascism.”

”expect the Democrats to lose in 2024 if the Republicans nominate someone other than Trump.”

”Trump, with barely 40% support, may be the best weapon the Democrats have, and is perhaps the one candidate that even the hapless Joe Biden, or even the pathetically ill-suited Kamala Harris, could possibly beat.”

Trump was, and will be again, the best President in any of our lifetimes. His MAGA stance is hugely popular. He is owned by no one, unlike the ‘Uniparty’ Dems and mainstream Repubs – who sold their souls to the Global Corporatocracy, better known as the WEF, Trump is out to save the West, and the tidal wave building behind him will sweep some sanity back into Washington. Next he will go for the ‘Administrative State’, and the destruction of the West may be averted.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

He’s outstanding at campaigning. I just wish he was more competent at governing. The ideas are mostly great. The narcissism, short attention span, and lack of serious intellect is not.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago

I do agree that there were issues in governance. But I don’t think this was due to “narcissism, short attention span, and lack of serious intellect”. That’s especially so since so many of the policies, including foreign ones (keeping us out of wars, the Abraham accords, etc….) were working. I think the real problem is that (a) Trump was naive in a number of his critical appointments (e.g. Fauci and co, Mattis, Kelly, etc….. who were not only disastrous but actively sought to counter Trump’s policies); and (b) the so-called swamp, including the MSM, the entire democratic party and a significant portion of the republican party, was actively working for his downfall (e.g. serial impeachments, Russia, Russia, Russia hoax, etc…,. up to an including the recent Mar-a-Lago raid).

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

He’s a bampot of the first order, king bampot, the Duce of Bampots.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago

I’m not sure. I think US politics has moved beyond politicians’ perceived virtues or shortcomings and on to deep-seated cultural issues that undermine the very identity of average Americans. The Democrat party has become irrevocably tainted with radical race theory and trans-conversion issues in schools. A record number of parents are removing their children from public schooling, while the Democrat party continues to lambast them as right-wing extremists. They have basically instigated psychological warfare on ordinary citizens by ‘problematizing’ every activity they enjoy doing and labelling such as a vehicle for forwarding white supremacist ideology: sports events, heterosexual marriage, church-going, outdoor hikes, maths etc, etc.
Smart Democrats know that their party is infected by a fearful, and hopelessly out-of-touch elite who are rapidly going insane by the mere idea of Trump coming into power again in 2024. Due to a record drop in viewing numbers, the CNN broadcasting channel is purging its newsrooms of opinionated far-left anchors who have abandoned their journalistic duties in favor of disseminating left-wing fear and propaganda. I think it’s probably too little too late. The damage has already been done. The Democrat party along with its education and media arms have bullied the citizenry for too long.
Trump was correct when he tweeted that ‘it’s not me they’re after, but you’. The January 6 show-trials, the ‘truth-and-reconciliation’ committees, the raid on Mar-a-Largo, the $79 billion used to increase the IRS – these aren’t about serving justice to Trump or making society fairer, this is about sending the message to mainstream America that their institutions will be used against them if they ever dare vote the wrong way again.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago

The Democrats are going to tell themselves their policies are “misunderstood” no matter what happens. They don’t care what the voters say. When they win, even a 50-50 Senate is an “overwhelming popular mandate”. When they lose, it’s because the voters are racists, sexist, homophobic bigots — deplorables who don’t deserve to work, to vote, or really, to exist at all.

For progressives, elections can never be referendums on their policies, since all their policies are universal human rights that are not up for debate.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

Another whiny centrist complaining about the age of the extremes. It’s no longer 1999. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Agreed. He doesn’t understand “what time it is.” We’re facing the extinction of Western civilization within less than generation. All other disagreements must be subordinated to that.
Of course, I don’t think Donald Trump knows “what time it is” either. He’s a stopped clock that managed to get lucky once.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Snore.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

All one has to view is the photo under the title in order to understand the point of view. Someone searched for hours in order to find that perfect depiction. And that is because there are so many to chose from on both sides of the aisle, but somehow, only idiotic red hat wearers get plastered onto these articles.

ron kean
ron kean
1 month ago

This author must be unaware of the prosperity Trump brought to the United States. This author seems to be ignorant of the appreciation the majority of Republicans have toward Trump’s policies, accomplishments, family and America-first patriotism.
It’s precisely his ignorance or delusional thinking that may ruin America. The border, energy, employment, economic policy and so much more gave promise and happiness to all who know how close America is to Communist, authoritarian, lawless, dictatorial takeover.
Rather than hubris, when a majority votes legally and there’s a lot of evidence the last election was corrupt, it’s called ‘will of the people’. It’s called Democracy. It’s called Freedom. But this author would rather the bad guys win. This author is the problem.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

The author is completely missing the point. America wants divided leadership. Nothing is better for business than a division of power in America, which results in nothing getting done. But no one views this as a sign that the American people just want government to stop encroaching into every aspect of our lives!

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago

Yet another member of the elite intellectual class (or so they think as they always believe they are right thinking) with Trump Derangement Syndrome. Get over it Joel Kotkin. Like or hate Trump, nobody can deny that his policies were by and large successful while he was president.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 month ago

Um, I’m really surprised at this article.
Actual Trump supporters–those who like his angry, narcissistic, misogynistic tirades–don’t care about losses of midterms. They’re not rational.
Populist independents, Republicans, and former Dems (that’s me) will vote for the populist, non-woke, non-DNC candidate, because we think that their totalitarian leanings are more dangerous than even that loathsome fat-plasm, Trump.
Trump will NEVER stop trying to “run” until he drops dead, because he has no larger vision than the next 5 minutes of noise he tells himself in his head about status, as well as lower mammalian urges to mount young women and eat high fat, high salt foods.
I don’t know y’alls party very well, but the serious populist leadership needs to get together and make the case for DeSantis–with a large dose of Rand Paul-type libertarianism, including supporting first trimester abortion. You’ve GOT all suburban white families, and plenty of Black conservatives and centrists, on CRIME, on CRT, and especially, on TRANSGENDERISM.
The Dobbs decision was the dumbest thing to do, because you had it in the bag. DeSantis and others take a much more openly libertarian stance on abortion, focusing at the national level on PREVENTION and REDUCTION, sending the message that while particular states might have strong laws, the FED agrees with the majority of Americans that this is a choice for women to make. BUT, the abortion-as-birth-control approach needs to be called out, as it is, with men with several baby mamas in particular simply getting vasectomies because otherwise they need to face a lot more immediate consequences for serial child-siring.
Americans want stronger borders, with humane exceptions; less interference in foreign wars; investment in well-paying jobs for fathers so that moms can spend more time with their kids when young; a stop to this horrid public school grooming, and transactivism in general; reforming/better engaging the police to reduce crime; reformed welfare that incentivizes poor teens not to reproduce before they’re out of high school; and less tax burden on small businesses and entrepreneurs and more accountability for global corporations who outsource jobs and avoid taxes.
And someone like DeSantis who calls out bullsh-t when he sees it.

ron kean
ron kean
1 month ago

DeSantis is unproven on a national scale. Remember how great Scott Walker was? You’ll get exactly the outcomes you want if you vote against ‘woke’ and vote for Trump. Your derogatory statements about Trump only hurt the possibility of receiving the ends you want. The future of law and order is at stake. It would be best if you promote the best way to get to the ends you want and that means Trump.

Bruce Mendrikis
Bruce Mendrikis
1 month ago

“You see, Democrats have a preset win limit. Knowing their weakness, I let them win wave after wave of elections until they reached their limit and shut down. Kif, show them the medal I won.”

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago

I follow a pro-Trump site so I am quite familiar with their views. A very general overview of their views is:

– Traditional Republicans and Democrats are the same party. Politicians who are bought and owned by the powerful and serve them.

– Globalism mostly via trade – is destroying local economies and enriching the global elite.

– the USA should stop interfering in the world – particularly in wars. It is their kids and families that fight these wars and they are sick of it. The only reason these wars are fought is to send tax dollars to military contractors. For example – they do not want their taxes to support Ukraine.

– the 2020 election was stolen using mail in ballots.

– Trump wasn’t supposed to win in 2016 but the deep state miscalculated his popularity and failed to fix that election.

– Covid – the War on Terror – the War on Drugs – the Climate Catastrophe- are all the same thing. Artificial crises meant to scare people into submission.

– Critical Race Theory and Social Justice are a disease destroying society that are promulgated through the education system. Their goal is to undermine western and Christian values.

– The Mainstream Media and Big Tech are corrupt and controlled by the global elite.

– the FBI, CIA and other ‘three letter agencies’ are corrupt and have a goal to subvert democracy

– there is probably going to be a civil war or balkanization in the US

– the WEF has significant influence over global leaders. It’s goal is to subvert western and Christian values and impose some form of global socialism that controls ordinary people.

– the Democrats truly want to replace current – mostly white – Americans with immigrants who will be easier to control. This is why they refuse any border controls.

Overall Trump supporters are conspiratorial in their thinking – but they resemble a 1990s anti global trade activist who loves Noam Chomsky more that they resemble what most people think of traditional Republicans. I don’t think getting rid of Trump is going to get rid of this movement.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gunner Myrtle
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Jeez there are a lot of Unherd commenters who speak up for Trump. Amazing to see intelligent people cling to a representative who is so divisive and probably narcissistic to the point of psychopathy. It does remind one of the hysteria of the German intelligentsia convincing themselves to support Hitler, despite his obvious extremism and narcissism even in the early 30s; and the useful idiots of the intelligentsia supporting Stalin in that period too.

Are the right really that desperate to scrape the bottom of the barrel?

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Ian – there is a difference between the individual and his policies. I don’t really care what people say – I care what they do. In any event if you are applying a personal moral virtue test – neither Clintons or Biden would pass it. They are all rotten corrupt individuals. But it is Biden’s policies – not his lack of virtue – that would make me not vote for him.