Star­tling snap­shot of new po­lit­i­cal land­scape

The Phoenix - - OPINION - Com­men­tary >> Chris Freind Chris Freind Colum­nist

He was a vitriol-spew­ing dem­a­gogue, and no group felt his wrath more than the gay com­mu­nity. Claim­ing pub­lic schools wanted to dis­trib­ute “gay kits” to turn stu­dents into ho­mo­sex­u­als, he also sug­gested that par­ents beat ef­fem­i­nate boys, and said he would rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Yet Jair Bol­sonaro was just elected Brazil’s pres­i­dent. And here’s the kicker: He did so with sub­stan­tial sup­port from the gay com­mu­nity, as at least 29 per­cent of gays sup­ported Bol­sonaro – a num­ber likely un­der-rep­re­sented.

So what does it tell us that one-third of gays sup­ported a can­di­date who slan­dered them? And what should we glean from some­one who prided him­self in go­ing low, yet came out on top?

Easy. Tra­di­tional as­sump­tions no longer ap­ply, and those ad­her­ing to them will reap the con­se­quences. Brazil had 64,000 (yes, 64,000) mur­ders last year, and many gay cit­i­zens cited Bol­sonaro’s com­mit­ment to phys­i­cal se­cu­rity as their mo­ti­va­tion for back­ing him. Oth­ers fa­vored his eco­nomic plan. What mat­ters is that they sup­ported him, prov­ing that vot­ers can­not be neatly “boxed.”

It’s no dif­fer­ent here.

For all the talk of Don­ald Trump be­ing a racist, misog­y­nist, and white na­tion­al­ist, he con­tin­ues to gar­ner sup­port from non-tra­di­tional con­stituen­cies. Blacks, Lati­nos, gays, and var­i­ous other sub­sets sup­ported Mr. Trump at lev­els not seen in decades. He and the Repub­li­cans are still far from gain­ing a ma­jor­ity of such vot­ers, but in­creased sup­port for the GOP will wreak havoc on poll­sters in fu­ture elec­tions.

Let’s put the na­tion’s new po­lit­i­cal land­scape into per­spec­tive:

• With lim­ited ex­cep­tions, the Repub­li­can Party is not a fac­tor in any state that touches salt wa­ter, from Vir­ginia Beach to the Cana­dian bor­der. Throw in Demo­cratic Ver­mont (it’s land­locked for the ge­o­graph­i­cally chal­lenged) and Penn­syl­va­nia (with a sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced GOP Leg­is­la­ture, and crush­ing wins for the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor and U.S. can­di­dates), and you have a solid Demo­cratic strong­hold.

• The Left coast is even more alarm­ing for the GOP, since one can drive from Van­cou­ver to Tijuana with­out pass­ing through a sin­gle Repub­li­can-held dis­trict.

And yet, over­all, the re­cent elec­tion was still a good night for Repub­li­cans, since they beat back the an­tic­i­pated “Blue Wave.” In fact, Mr. Trump out­per­formed his­tor­i­cal av­er­ages (Bill Clin­ton lost 53 seats, and Barack Obama 63).

On to 2020: Repub­li­can pre­dic­tions that “so­cial­ist Democrats” will be the foil that helps Mr. Trump get re-elected are pre­ma­ture. First, Mr. Trump may not even run. Sec­ond, while there may be an el­e­ment of truth as it re­lates to the pres­i­den­tial race, over­all GOP en­thu­si­asm may not rise to the level re­quired to re­take the House. It will be harder to rally the base be­cause of the “boy who cried wolf” stigma. It re­mains to be seen whether anti-Demo­crat fer­vor can trump dis­ap­point­ment with a party that promised big, but de­liv­ered lit­tle, de­spite solid ma­jori­ties: no bor­der wall, sky­rock­et­ing deficits, and in­tact Oba­macare.

That said, the U.S. Se­nate map in 2020 fa­vors the GOP. They could lose a few seats, but will surely win Alabama. The big­gest ques­tion will be whether me­dia dar­ling Beto O’Rourke (who lost a close race to un­lik­able Ted Cruz) will flip Texas against in­cum­bent John Cornyn.

The main rea­son that Repub­li­cans lost lies in their in­ex­cus­able fail­ure to mes­sage. This au­thor has been a lone voice for a decade, beat­ing his head against the wall in ad­vo­cat­ing that Repub­li­cans run mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ad cam­paigns year-round, not just dur­ing elec­tion sea­son when ev­ery­thing is lost to white noise. The ads should be pre­dom­i­nantly non-par­ti­san – i.e., not slam­ming Obama and Hil­lary, but out­lin­ing what they’ve done, and their vi­sion, a la Rea­gan, for the fu­ture.

Had they ar­tic­u­lated such a plan, Oba­macare would have been re­pealed, fund­ing for the wall would have been ap­pro­pri­ated, and a ma­jor­ity would have sup­ported the travel ban, cor­po­rate tax cuts, tar­iffs, and even the nom­i­na­tion of Brett Ka­vanaugh. But they didn’t. In­stead, the in­side-the-Belt­way co­coon pre­vented GOP lead­er­ship from see­ing the for­est for the trees. The re­sult was los­ing close races that should have been won.

Lastly, at least we have pun­dit Dick Morris keep­ing things con­sis­tent. From stat­ing that Mitt Rom­ney would win in a land­slide in 2012, to say­ing Repub­li­cans would keep the House this year, he pro­vides con­stant en­ter­tain­ment in an all-too-se­ri­ous world.

On­ward to 2020!

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