Trump surfs on ‘blue wave’

The Citizen (KZN) - - OPINION - Wil­liam Saun­der­son-Meyer

Jaun­ti­ness in the face of ad­ver­sity is a ba­sic trait in all politi­cians. They might be mor­tally wounded, in­nards spilling onto the floor, but the in­stinct is to in­sist it’s merely a flesh wound. So, let’s be a lit­tle scep­ti­cal of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s as­ser­tion that this week’s midterm elec­tions were “a tremen­dous vic­tory”. Tight­en­ing one’s hold on the Se­nate but los­ing con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and shed­ding gov­er­nor­ships in key states is, at best, a draw.

Democrats talk­ing of their “his­toric vic­tory” is sim­i­lar hy­per­bole. Win­ning back not quite half as many House seats as were lost in Barack Obama’s midterm elec­tions – af­ter all that op­ti­mism and me­dia hype – is a psy­cho­log­i­cal blow.

That the Democrats were so gung-ho be­fore­hand is un­der­stand­able. Midterms are tra­di­tion­ally an op­por­tu­nity for vot­ers to give the in­cum­bent a chas­ten­ing wake-up call.

Trump is a racist misog­y­nist. Many within the Re­pub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment are anti­gay, anti-Mus­lim and anti-Semitic. That’s a lot of vot­ing blocs to lose.

All the Democrats needed was a coali­tion of those nat­u­rally an­tipa­thetic to­wards Trump and get them to the polling booths.

The re­sults would be a “blue wave” tsunami, the Democrats thought. As we now know, it wasn’t.

The post-mortem un­doubt­edly will throw up a dozen im­me­di­ate causes. They should also con­sider an un­der­ly­ing dis­ease that weak­ens their body politic.

If the Democrats are go­ing to thwart Trump in 2020, they are go­ing to have to stop think­ing that they have a God-given patent on the truth. There is an odi­ous, sneer­ing self-right­eous­ness in the Demo­cratic Party that is ul­ti­mately coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to their cause.

It is en­cap­su­lated in the rage with which Democrats re­spond to “their” nat­u­ral sup­port­ers not vot­ing for them. For ex­am­ple, as in 2016 when white women “failed” in their ap­par­ent duty to vote for the fe­male can­di­date, white women are now again be­ing ex­co­ri­ated as “gen­der traitors” for not turn­ing out for Demo­crat can­di­dates in large enough num­bers.

Such ar­ro­gant rhetoric from the “pro­gres­sive” move­ment, com­bined with talk about “re­sis­tance”, is as in­her­ently an­tidemo­cratic as is the ra­bid in­tol­er­ance of the alt-right.

But Trump is un­doubt­edly in for a rough ride over the next two years. There will be a re­newed vigour for the probe into Rus­sian med­dling in 2016, he will face tax in­ves­ti­ga­tions, im­peach­ment moves and hav­ing the bud­gets of pet projects stalled.

But Trump comes out of the midterms marginally stronger. His ral­lies clearly gave Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates an edge in key bat­tle­grounds. Re­pub­li­can wa­ver­ers, once dis­tant from him, have been forced to hitch their wag­ons to his.

In con­trast, the Democrats have a grow­ing di­vide be­tween the young rad­i­cals who flooded into the party af­ter 2016, and an old guard with a con­sid­er­ably more cen­trist agenda. If this left­wing gains as­cen­dancy, the Democrats may find 2020 more dif­fi­cult than 2016.

Let’s imag­ine Trump learns some­thing and be­comes a lit­tle less con­fronta­tional and a lit­tle more cen­trist. Let’s imag­ine he faces a Demo­crat with Bernie Saun­ders’ ide­ol­ogy, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s smug­ness, and who ticks the mi­nor­ity boxes nec­es­sary for me­dia adu­la­tion.

Hmmm. Much though it pains me to ad­mit, my money would be on Trump.

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