Sketches of the Future

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Perhaps it was inevitable that Reverend Warnock would win the Georgia runoff.  Reverend Warnock was by far the superior candidate.  Warnock did not discuss the relative merits of being a vampire or a werewolf on the campaign trail.  He had no stench of hypocrisy.  He did not have the backing of Donald Trump.

Whoever persuaded Trump to stay away from the Georgia runoff did the GOP a service.  It has been forgotten: however, Trump showed disrespect to the state of Georgia after the 2020 election. During that now infamous phone call to the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, he poo poohed the notion that anyone would move back to Georgia.  Anyone who felt the least amount of pride in their state would have been offended. Perhaps they were not angered enough to vote Democratic, but maybe they were sufficiently outraged to stay away from the polls.  This contributed to Warnock and Ossoff’s victories in the January 2021 runoff.  Had Trump come back to Georgia to help Herschel Walker, what was just a victory for the Democrats may have been much more emphatic.

Herschel Walker is an outlier in a state that largely remained Republican. Governor Kemp cruised to re-election victory as did Raffensperger. What Ji made them different? Trump did not endorse them. Indeed, Brian Kemp’s advisor Jay Walker promised a “scorched earth” strategy against a Trump backed challenger in the gubernatorial primary. It worked. It can be argued that Trump’s opposition helped Kemp because it provided distance. Kemp could appear sane and moderate to voters in places like the Atlanta suburbs.

This pattern was largely repeated elsewhere. Look beyond Georgia: Kari Lake, Mehmet Oz, Adam Laxalt, Blake Masters, all endorsed by Trump.  They all lost.  Trump’s advice to Masters was to keep doubling down on election denial, like Kari Lake did.  Mark Kelly defeated Masters convincingly. Kari Lake’s opponent Katie Hobbs is not conventionally charismatic and in the end, eschewed debating Lake. Most political strategists thought this was insane. However it shows how much Trump repels that a candidate who wasn’t there was preferable to one that Trump backed.

The Republicans are now in a terrible bind. Trump has enough support to win the Presidential nomination in 2024, but it is unlikely he can win the Presidential election.  The constituency which nominates the candidate is so out of synch with the wider electorate that they are baking in future failure.

The Democrats should take limited comfort from this. Winning because you are less terrible is not an endorsement for your policies.  Being better is, of course, better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are good or are communicating well.  I feel frequently exasperated by Democratic commentators who reel off lists of legislation passed by Biden and the Democratic congress.   Voters’ eyes glaze over. They see expenditure as a use of their taxation, not as a gift. Unless they feel or see it, it does not register.  No Democratic candidate should mention the  infrastructure bill again. They should take shots of a local road or bridge which was falling into disrepair. Then, they should show the brand new one as a contrast.

Despite these flaws, 2024 sees the Democrats in a good position. Hopefully they will not be complacent. If they are not, the future is likely to unfold this way: first, I suspect De Santis will keep his powder dry and run in 2028. He is young, he can wait: he can gain even more credit by serving out his full second term as governor of Florida, then dip into the fundraiser circuit for a time. Furthermore, by 2028, perhaps the Trump fever will have broken. Given this, it’s highly likely Trump will win the nomination in 2024. Biden will run again. Biden will win because he will talk about the present and future and Trump will go on about his grievances from 2020: he simply cannot help himself. His self-obsession is turning off voters in droves, and key states like Michigan are unlikely to be available to him.

If the GOP focus on investigating Hunter Biden rather than tackling inflation and crime, they will lose the House of Representatives in 2024: again, focusing on the past rather than the present will likely prove lethal.  I believe on present form the Democrats will also hold the Senate in 2024.

Of course, it’s never wise to underestimate contingency.  If the situation in Ukraine turns particularly nasty, or the economy worsens, then Biden is vulnerable, even to Trump.  However Trump is probably the easiest GOP candidate to beat; this highlights the dysfunction in the Republican Party, as the candidate most likely to lose is the one they are most likely to select. 

If the future unfolds in this way, then all focus will shift to 2028.  De Santis will definitely run then; he will probably be tanned, prepared, and relaxed after two full terms and two years of preparing to run.  The Democrats will need to think very carefully about who they can pick to counter him.  

Perhaps we should take another look at Reverend Warnock.  In 2028, his first full term will be coming to an end.  He will have had 8 years in the Senate.  He is eloquent.  As the Guardian newspaper stated: 

“Every candidate needs a story and he has one, telling how his octogenarian mother used her “hands that once picked somebody else’s cotton” to “cast a ballot for her youngest son to be a United States senator”, adding: “Only in America is my story possible.””

He preached at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same that once had Reverend Martin Luther King at its pulpit.  De Santis may offer more combat and struggle; Reverend Warnock can offer a pastor’s messages of healing and reconciliation.  It is difficult to assess what America will prefer in 6 years time, but at the time of writing, this sounds good and in tune with the national mood.

December 6, 2022 may be more consequential in hindsight.  It could have sealed not just Trump’s fate and the outcome of the 2024 election. It may also have set in motion what happens in 2028, and perhaps beyond.  There is reason to fear, there is a lot of work ahead, but there is reason to be hopeful too.

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