So, the Midterms are being tallied, and where are we? Several things to understand from the get-go.
First, while Republicans in this cycle are voting chiefly for the economy, border security and traditional conservative values, much of the left-lurching Democratic Party continues to be consumed by emotion, and is unapologetically venting and voting for their favorite shadow candidate – anyone but Trump.
What this means, before we know results, is that the motivations have been very different in this midterm cycle. Historically, a first-term president losses an average 28 seats at the midterm, mostly because disaffection builds as promises are not kept and reality supplants an idealist vision of the onetime candidate.
In this cycle, things are plainly different. First, the prior election was fraught with emotion, ending with an extraordinary, emotional and arguably personal rejection of the Democratic candidate, if not her policies and personal ethics.
Second, the sitting president’s promises – with which some differ – have, rather surprisingly, been largely kept. National security leadership, international affairs engagement, a push for trade parity and border security, significant tax cuts, reduced regulation, and a swing back toward more traditional social policy, cultural norms and patriotic themes.
This does not sit well with those who rode the Obama social and socialist-leaning juggernaut, but is an indisputable fact – and reassuring for those who dared to believe that promises might yet be kept by a presidential candidate.
To this add a third factor distinguishing these midterms from others. The prior presidential cycle produced a candidate that many understood was neither a typical political leader nor perfect. The idea that idealism is now disappointed, that heavy scales are falling from eyes that wore rose colored glasses, is not likely.
Trump supporters – and even those who voted for him reluctantly – are realists. What they wanted and got was a disruptor of momentum building toward more centralized and controlling federal government, diminished individual liberty and usurpation of America’s traditional pride, patriotism and core (some would say Constitutional) values.
So, they are not suddenly disappointed; indeed, most are pleased – not just with the direction but with leaders in the cabinet and their direction, for example four-star general and now Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, along with Secretary of State Pompeo, who successfully led CIA and graduated “number one” in his West point Class. To these leaders add Gina Haspel at CIA, John Kelly at Chief of Staff, and the iron-willed and soft-spoken Vice President Pence.
So, if the election cycle is close and may yet tip toward Democratic control of the US House, why would that be? The answer is not hard to find. This has not been a policy or principle-centered election, but a passion-centric election. Democrats – especially the activist wing of that historically policy-anchored party – have gone all-in for emotion.
What is more, mainstream media outlets – where is Walter Cronkite when you need him? – have literally banded together to promote emotional hoopla, in a more capitalist sense defaulted to “marketing outrage.” Why, you may ask, are they marketing outrage, and seeking to undermine a US President?
Nominally for profit, but mostly because the vast majority of these self-impressed, carefully-coifed media personalities, editors and reporters are self-styled liberals themselves. They are mostly not well-schooled in political philosophy (e.g. liabilities of Marxist-Leninism), deep in American history (e.g. sacrifices required to create America), former combat veterans, law enforcement officers, business leaders or up-by- bootstraps sorts.
More than not, members of the mainstream media live vicariously – never having run for office, fought on foreign soil for liberties they enjoy, volunteered to be a member of law enforcement, suffered what it takes to run a town, manage a payroll, or operationalize a major program either overseas or in the United States.
Many media elites are simply professional detractors, which is to say, content to live an unexamined life, so long as paid well – even if that means, paid to speak about things of which they know nothing, know they know nothing, and are mere armchair critics of those who take daily risks for the country.
So, this election cycle – and perhaps this is the Republic’s majesty and frustration – we are seeing blind lead the blind, self-important and emotional media elites blithely spinning up emotional voters, many of whom simply do not like the fact that a flawed candidate lost the presidency two years ago.
What should a rational, thoughtful American then do – if Republicans win the House? If you are a Democrat, honor that process, be happy we have such a process. If Republican, be content and support those who took that bold risk in troubled times, who entered what Theodore Roosevelt once called “the arena” of public service – in hopes of preserving, protecting and making America better.
And if the reverse? What should you do if Democrats win the House when all votes are counted? Exactly the same. Republicans should continue to honor the process, be glad we live in America, where such things as a fair election occur. Think about the future, eyes on 2020, and toward what is possible.
If a Democrat, just take a deep breath, then try to remember that emotions can be stirred to win an election, but make a poor foundation for big decisions, personal and national. The possibility exists, and it would be nice if some generation of congressional leaders saw it, of realizing what Alexander de Tocqueville treasured about Americans – that they used to embrace “the uncomfortable face to face,” in order to work together and get things done.
In any event, history does not end with this election, whichever way it turns. What ends, we may all hope, is the post-2016 period of intense, overly emotional and seemingly unguided – often misguided – default to mutual recrimination among Americans. Let’s put that behind us.
We are lucky, every one of us, to live in this great and good land. Time now to pull ourselves together, spin down, straighten up, and mean it. To recognize and reinforce our traditional good nature as Americans, love our unique history, precious Constitution and very air we are privileged to breathe.
In the end, to paraphrase one of our Founders, it is quite simple: If we do not start to care, we will lose to chance. If we do not hang together, we will hang separately. We are “One Nation under God,” so let’s hope that whoever is elected, that simple measure of humility – still attaches to their service.