“America’s vulnerability comes precisely from its strength, its wealth, its power and its modernity. It’s the usual story of the dog chasing its own tail.”
After using Roe as a wedge issue for so long, Republicans finally caught their tail and have no clue what to do with it. It’s a perfect storm! Women motivated by the Dobbs ruling and extreme restrictions on access to healthy abortions appear to be fired up and ready to turn out in historic numbers.
Add in ridiculously bad Republican Senate candidates like Dr. Mehmet Oz, Herschel Walker and J.D. Vance, and watch Republicans tank Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) chances at recapturing the majority and holding onto the Senate.
Republicans couldn’t be in a worse position. They run on whatever Trump tells them and they say whatever he tells them because if they don’t, a twice-impeached dictator, who was the subject of an FBI raid, will somehow destroy their political lives. To them, his staying in office at all costs is more honorable than his willingness to lose an election for telling harsh truths. We see you, Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
Becoming a member of Congress is no small feat. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to do what it takes to win. Anyone who’s had any interaction with members of Congress knows that many of them can be a little bit narcissistic, mixed with a type of insecurity that includes a desperate need for applause.
We’ve witnessed from people like Rep. Elise Stefanick (R-N.Y.) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) that nothing is short of embarrassing. It is because of their politically expedient support of Trump that Republicans now find themselves defending “defund the FBI” or Trump’s coup attempt on Jan. 6, 2021. They know better. They are intelligent people who understand exactly what they’re doing when they peddle falsities and play on the cheap seats because the alternative requires courage. They want to win, regardless of who gets hurt or the damage it does to our democracy.
For decades, Republicans have wanted to overturn Roe. The irony is that now it will most likely cost them the majority in 2022 and the White House in 2024. The Jim Jones strategy isn’t a strategy at all, but more like the rebirth of the now defunct Whig party intent on being relegated to the history books.
Republicans abandoned their ideology, their principles and their common sense, all to end up supporting Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker. What began as a transactional relationship with Trumpism has turned into political hostage-taking, and the consequences couldn’t be clearer. Trump lost the White House and cost Republicans the Senate. Why would the midterms be any different? The cakewalk that was supposed to be the midterms looks more like lemmings jumping off a cliff. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, and even McConnell sees the writing on the wall.
Without a doubt, Democrats have had a strong and productive summer. Passing the Inflation Reduction act was historic in its own right, but coupled with passing gun legislation, the CHIPS bill, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, significant climate actions and the American Rescue Plan, President Biden looks like Steph Curry warming up. Even with those historic successes, this should still be the Republicans’ year to flip Congress. Historically, the out-of-power party almost always outperforms the party controlling the White House. Republicans are doing everything in their power to break that cycle.
If Trump announces early and makes the last month of the race about him, Republicans could be in for a long night. If more indictments of the Trump inner circle — or even Trump himself — come down, the Republican Party’s control will be over, diminished. Given their cultish way of praising the former president and tripping over themselves to be the most clownish in their Republican circus, they risk further alienating those very college-educated and suburban voters who fled Trump in 2020 and cost him a second term.
There’s an irony to it all. Trump was never supposed to win in the first place. The very people who mocked his candidacy and distanced themselves when the Access Hollywood video came out have now tied themselves to the most unpredictable, selfish man in politics — and that says a lot. Trump wouldn’t just burn down the Republican Party, he’s proven already that he will not hesitate to torch the Constitution, our democracy or any and everyone who stands in his way. This is the front runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. This is the man who has promised to seek revenge on his enemies and bring chaos back to Washington.
Republicans got exactly what they wanted. A brash politician who stood for nothing and would say anything for the right amount. They stood behind him and defended him, shamelessly repeating his lies without hesitation. In return, he appointed the justices and a court that is hellbent on fundamentally changing our individual rights. But at what cost?
We’re at an inflection point. A majority of Americans understand that Donald Trump, with the aid of Republicans, attempted to install himself as president after losing a democratically run election. He didn’t succeed but given a second opportunity, who knows what could happen. That’s why voters are scared. That’s why Republicans are breaking away from the party. Evidently, tax breaks may not be enough to support a wannabe autocrat. This isn’t an election about opposition parties or checks on the party in power. This is an election about a party who finally got what they wanted and now doesn’t know what to do with it. It was never about policies; it was always about culture wars and wedge issues.
Republicans are struggling to appease their dear leader, while also failing to make cogent arguments to the actual voters who put them in office. Democrats, however, are seizing the moment. Following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, in at least 10 states, women made up a higher share of newly registered voters. After years of Republicans perfecting the culture wars, Democrats have finally embraced their inner culture warrior and found a winning issue.
Republicans are being taught a tough lesson. Political expediency may result in temporary gratification, but principles are forever. What should be a cakewalk for Republicans, looks to be more like the slow-motion disaster that we expected in 2016.
Republicans got exactly what they thought they wanted, and now they’ll get what they actually deserve. They have caught their tail.
Michael Starr Hopkins is a founding partner at Northern Starr Strategies.