I’m a chronic pessimist—to the point that my family only half-jokingly calls me “Eeyore” after the sad-sack donkey in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. My response: pessimism has this advantage: you go through life pleasantly surprised.
And so it was with this year’s elections. Beforehand, I was convinced there would be a Republican blowout that brought into power scores of 2020 election deniers able to deliver victories to Republicans regardless of actual results for years to come.
I thought Republicans–riding history, President Biden’s low approval ratings and inflation, crime and the border–would gain 30 or more House seats, would take over the US Senate and elect Trump allies to governorships and secretary of stateships all over the country.
I was so pessimistic I agreed with Bill Maher’s mordant prediction on his (must watch) HBOMax show that Donald Trump would return to the White House in 2025 and that American democracy would end.
So, as you can imagine, Tuesday’s results, in the main, were a pleasant surprise: there was no “Red Tsunami,” not even a Red Wave; the GOP will only narrowly take the House and Democrats could hold the Senate if Raphael Warnock can beat Herschel Walker in the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff. More important, Donald Trump’s handpicked candidates seem to have lost more than they won.
In Washington, I feared that ultra-MAGA Joe Kent and Maga-lite Matt Larkin would win in the 3d and 8th Congressional districts (they were trailing Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Kim Schrier this morning). I thought Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley could pull an upset victory over Patty Murray.
So, as in 2020, democracy has narrowly survived this year. Trump remains deeply unpopular with the American electorate (40 percent positive, 55 negative) and may be weakened in the GOP while rival Ron DeSantis has been strengthened.
Ah, but Eeyore is back: Looking ahead, Trump is going to announce for president soon, probably brushing back federal criminal indictments (though not in Georgia’s Fulton County or in New York State).
Even if Trump isn’t the 2024 GOP nominee, DeSantis is no small-d democrat. Joe Biden, though somewhat vindicated by this year’s surprising results, will be nearly 82 in 2024. If he doesn’t run, the Democratic bench contains no Bill Clinton or Barrack Obama.
The Republican party remains authoritarian—Kevin McCarthy plans to rehabilitate Marjorie Taylor Greene in the next Congress. And Democratic leadership is mostly octogenarian and uninspiring.
So, America is likely to remain, at best, divided by savage, debilitating tribalism and faced with enormous problems still-untackled: climate change, unchecked social media; deep inequality of incomes, wealth and access to good health care and education, in perilous debt and faced with aggressive adversaries in Russia adversaries in Russia, China and Iran.
It’s a dismal future.
But I yearn to be pleasantly wrong again.