Since the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Democrats have been giddy, while Republicans have tried to conjure some reason—any reason—why the PA-18 result is a fluke.
Such people point out—not incorrectly—that Conor Lamb is a highly implausible hero for Democrats and arguably belongs more in President Trump’s Republican Party. This is as much true for his liberal positions as for his deviations from the Left’s intersectionality-obsessed playbook.
Sure, Lamb was personally opposed to abortion, though legally on the side of Roe v. Wade. But Trump has never been exactly fluent on behalf of the pro-life cause. Sure, Lamb favored expansions of gun control, but so did Trump during his televised negotiations with Democrats. Yes, Lamb was in favor of universal healthcare, and so was Trump, once. Naturally, Lamb was pro-union, but so is Trump. The one area of serious departure between Lamb and the president is, indeed, the Trump tax cuts, and since those formed the cornerstone of Lamb’s opponent’s campaign, he could hardly be expected to endorse them. Unlike Republicans, Democrats understand the problem with aping their opponent’s platform with no strings attached.
Get Ready for Pain
Given that Lamb was such an improbable candidate, the defenders of Republican prospects in November tell us, his victory is not repeatable. After all, Lamb didn’t have to face a primary that would have dragged him to the Left, whereas most other Democrats will. Surely that’ll immunize us, right?
Wrong. Lamb won in a district that voted for Trump by 20 points, and that was rated R+11. Democrats don’t need to beat that kind of uphill climb in most places to take back the House majority.
Face it. November is probably going to hurt. A lot.
Why? Not because the United States has suddenly decided to embrace the finer points of polysexual queer POC feminist theory. The #woke paradigm is still a loser for Democrats when it comes to attracting independent and crossover votes, and if they run on it, they may well snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But the reason why the #woke paradigm is such a loser is not the disastrous nature of its philosophical underpinnings. Rather, it is that practically speaking, it will only exacerbate the very state of affairs that will turn many otherwise Democrat-skeptic voters into drops of water in the blue wave. To summarize that state of affairs, allow me to remind the reader of one little-remarked-upon statistic that I believe holds the key to Republican weakness and Democratic strength.
In November, the American Psychological Association uncovered an extraordinary statistic: 63 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about politics, a more significant figure even than those who were stressed about money. Further, this number had gone up since the last time it was measured, in February 2017, when 57 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed.
With today’s political conditions, this circumstance, this would have been unthinkable in years past. The economy was, and is, roaring. Jobless claims are coming down. Consumer confidence is at an all-time high. On paper, the past year and change looks like the dawn of a new golden age. Many seem convinced that this is what will blunt the blue wave. “But tax cuts!” they yell.
Yes, the tax cuts probably got us some goodwill. But as I have already noted, the economy was roaring in November of last year, too, and Americans were still stressed about politics more than they were stressed about the usual problems. What do people do when something is causing them distress and anxiety? Simple. They vote to change it, and they vote to change it in droves.
Given that a majority of both parties reported the stress, but a much larger majority of Democrats than Republicans, we can expect those change votes to come disproportionately from the Left.
“A Return to Normalcy”
Unlike a lot of the NeverTrump types, I’m not going to lay this at the feet of President Trump’s rhetoric. The cultural Left has also given people plenty of reasons to feel hounded and terrified of humiliation or disgrace for taking one step outside the #woke party line. But far from encouraging this, it is all the more reason why Democrats in the Conor Lamb mold are likely to crush their opposition effectively: because when both parties seem to suffer from a fever, Americans will vote for the people who seem best positioned to break one party’s fever. Given that this is, as Henry Olsen continually points out, still a Democrat-leaning country, one suspects that a majority of Americans are glad to see their preferred political party begin to recuperate by nominating Lamb-esque figures.
But the Democrats have no message! Yes, they do, and it’s the same one Warren G. Harding used to crush Woodrow Wilson: A return to “normalcy.” Come to that, it’s the exact mirror image of the message the Tea Party ran on to crush Democrats in 2010. “Vote for us, and we’ll slow everything down. We’ll stop everything changing so fast. We’ll stop the car rather than let one party go on taking it for a dangerous joyride.”
In fact, President Trump himself capitalized on this sentiment. His 2016 campaign message amounted to, “The world is scary and America is getting weaker, but I will stop it and make America rich, great, and safe again.” When you get right down to it, the Tea Party, President Trump, and the #Resistance were all arrayed against what they see as radical, destructive change. Small-c conservatism is fickle, and this time, it is working for the Democrats.
All the whataboutism and finger pointing in the world will not blunt the desire of Americans to live in a world where the volume is turned down, and where every day is not a constant battle with stress. Which is why President Trump and the Republicans need to figure out a way to steal the mantle of what’s normal from the Dems.
Trump has already shown he knows how to do this. In the closing months of the 2016 campaign, he delivered speeches from teleprompters and mostly steered clear of controversy. Contrary to what NeverTrump and the “Stop the tweeting” brigade would have you believe, this had nothing to do with his handlers controlling him. Bannon and Conway had been put in charge of the campaign by that time.
No, the reason Trump reverted to being interesting, but safe, was that he trusted his handlers to keep the heat on his opponents, rather than having to do it himself. He felt safe delegating the pyrotechnics to others, which freed him to focus on saying the things America wanted to hear in the way voters wanted to hear it, rather than in the way that would make the biggest splash. Trump followed this strategy to similarly devastating effect in the immediate few weeks following his State of the Union address, as well.
With any luck, now that Trump seems to be finally getting the White House aides he wants, this pivot is soon to come. It most definitely is needed. Trump is fighting for his political life. To his credit, his policy choices have improved and become more Trumpian, thus blunting the ability of Democrats to run against the GOP as the party of Paul Ryan the granny slayer. Working against him is the fact that his administration and communication with the American people has looked erratic—hardly the image to project to a country already on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
President Trump needs to offer America a Prozac, and show that it is the Democrats pumping stimulants and bath salts into the national bloodstream. If he does not, the Left will have pulled off the greatest case of Munchausen’s by proxy in American political history.