As of this writing, the results of our roller-coaster presidential election and several Senate and House seats remain unsettled.
We can, however, already confirm one positive overarching takeaway with certainty: That promised “blue wave” never materialized.
If anything, the blue tide receded. Liberals lost multiple Senate races that they expected to win after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and Nancy Pelosi will actually lose seats in the House. Moreover, minority voters supported President Trump at levels unseen since 1960.
More broadly, it’s important to recognize that reason for continuing optimism remains no matter how the outstanding races conclude. In that regard, a personal story seems instructive.
My first political memory dates to the tight 1976 presidential election between President Gerald Ford and challenger Jimmy Carter. My mother, a Goldwater Republican despite her impoverished rural Arizona upbringing, hissed that she feared that my father had voted for Carter. From that point forward, I considered the Carter presidency an unmitigated disaster, which in many ways it was. But although I lamented his presidency for every minute of its existence, the Reagan Revolution wouldn’t have been possible without it. Had Ford won in 1976, it’s almost inconceivable that Reagan would’ve been elected to bring dramatic change four years later.
In similar vein, no matter how this year’s presidential election settles, a healthy dose of humility and recognition that history unfolds in curious ways is in order.
Optimism should always prevail.
And for conservatives and libertarians, the reasons for optimism abound.
Consider that most had no expectation of President Trump winning the 2016 election. If someone from the future informed them that Trump could miraculously win, with no assurance beyond one term, and would nominate three phenomenal Supreme Court justices, appoint approximately 30% of all federal judges and successfully implement a wide array of substantive policy changes, such as repeal of so-called “Net Neutrality” internet regulations and relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, they’d have taken that offer in a heartbeat.
Perhaps if President Trump and his Senate allies had not confirmed new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in recent weeks, the prospect of a Trump defeat in this year’s election might’ve caused greater gloom. But with Justice Barrett joining the Court in addition to Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh earlier? Label conservatives thrilled however this election plays out.
All of that and more were already achieved in a presidency that most didn’t even expect to happen in 2016. Conservatives would’ve jumped at that prospect without hesitation.
Fast-forward to today. Wasn’t Joe Biden supposed to win a landslide victory, in a thunderous rebuke of Trump’s presidency and governing principles?
Instead, even in a best-case scenario Biden will eke out a razor-thin victory in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that before 2016 hadn’t gone Republican since 1984 or 1988.
Furthermore, the polling services once again were wildly incorrect, providing yet another rebuke to their biased business model.
President Trump is also a singularly controversial candidate who motivates his opposition like hornets, yet he kept the race down to the wire in a year like 2020 that included a sudden worldwide pandemic, a nationwide economic shutdown, widespread frustration, social media censorship and mainstream media bias against him. That’s simply remarkable, and it speaks to the success of President Trump’s broad agenda of deregulation and lower taxes to offset those headwinds. In a year like 2020, any challenger should’ve won on a level resembling Reagan’s in 1980.
And for Republicans to likely maintain Senate control and expand their House proportion? That’s truly remarkable, and again speaks to the offsetting success of their record of confirming judicial nominees and unleashing American prosperity before the pandemic and to bring a V-shaped recovery since.
So no matter how the outstanding unresolved races end, the bottom line is that sometimes your side wins and sometimes your side loses. But most of the smart set confidently anticipated a nationwide blue wave that didn’t come close to materializing. President Trump did not suffer the rebuke that so many hoped would occur after throwing everything they had at him over the past four years. Senator Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina), who led the successful confirmation battles over Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, was not unseated.
Conservative principles endure because they work, regardless of the year and regardless of the particular leaders implementing them. We were told to expect a stinging rebuke of those principles in this election, but that simply didn’t occur, and reasons for optimism continue.