“The single most important result of this election,” writes David Brooks in The New York Times, “was the triumph of the normies.” Common sense took a stand against the threat of wild Trumpkins. Even the polls were only 3 points off. As one candidate, the near Democratic victor over Lauren Boebert, put it, the election was about “the coalition ?of the normal.”
Not that normality will be restored, at least for the next two years of the (wood)shedding of Trump, Samson Agonistes in his Temple, and corralling Republican crazies in the House. But the voters spoke clearly: abortion should be restored, threats to democracy rebuffed, the constitutional republic boosted, and ill-prepared populists scolded. Biden’s approach of quietly legislating for the public good turned out to be the temper of these intemperate times.
As Brooks observes, both major parties are now weak, with the Democrats too elite and the Republicans too Trump. Both could see a path forward, with sensible, more youthful, polyglot coalitionism for the Ds, and a diverse, traditionalist, working-class agenda for the Rs. Some promising signs for the Republicans: the notable drift of Latino and Asian Americans to the GOP; getting 47 percent of Independents.
The triumph of normalcy is a gentle way of noting the continuation of stalemate and stagnation. Clearly the Republican effort at creating a new narrative for voters — furious, loose-cannon populism — has peaked, just as woke urbanism may have reached high tide for the Democrats. But the two parties remain at equal strength, focused on short-term tactics while the big issues (climate, borders, China, inflation, crime) are unresolved.
Speaking of normal, was this past election a reversion to the norm? We are now so locked into partisan identities that each election, even Trump’s winning in 2016, greatly resembles past presidential races. Gender? In 2012, Republicans won 52 percent of male votes — same as in 2016. White votes? In 2012 Romney got 59 percent, while Trump slipped to 57 percent. Hispanics? Up one point compared to 2012. Born-again Christians? Little change, 2012-2016, with 79 percent going to the GOP.
Ezra Klein makes this case in his valuable book, Why We’re Polarized. Democrats are locked into voting for Ds (96 percent), and the same figure for Republicans. We’re stuck. It’s more like the revenge of the normal than the rescue by the normies.
To be sure, the 2022 midterms had unusual features, notably the growing toxicity of Trump, the rousing of women voters by the Dobbs decision on abortion, and the tide of young voters, now heavily Democratic. Less salient was the suburban fear of urban crime, with Portland and Seattle portrayed as sinister places (with a racist undertone).
Even so, we remain polarized and equally matched, even as some states (Michigan and Florida and Colorado) move from swing to clear partisan alignment. There was a little adjustment toward the center in Washington state, but mostly that just meant incumbents and anointed successors prevailed. When will a new weather system blow in? Not for a while, I suspect, with Ron DeSantis at age 44 wisely deciding to wait for Hurricane Don to blow itself out.