The midterm congressional election campaigns are about to be upon us. Labor Day is when campaigns get serious, and this year we still don’t have a name for the Nov. 6 elections.
The feminists are calling it the Year of the Woman, and it’s true, after Tuesday the aroma of estrogen hovers over the land like the gentle scent of honeysuckle and magnolia on a balmy summer’s night. Democrats are gleefully calling it the Year Trump Stumped His Big Toe, still other Democrats dream that it’s the Year That a Remote Congressional District in the Bronx Ate the Election (though Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Socialist miracle worker, had a bad night with her endorsements).
So many women are running this year that it might be called the work of a “Pink Wave.” There’s an epidemic of distaff Democratic winners in Michigan, including the first Muslim woman to win a primary there, becoming the heavy favorite to win the seat in November. A woman of the LGBTQ persuasion won a Democratic primary in Kansas and her sisters won Democratic nominations for governor in Kansas and Michigan.
The record for female Democratic congressional candidates is 120, set two years ago, and that was broken this year with 143 women winners. Together with 42 Republican nominees, that’s a record of 185 for women of all flavors. Quite a haul, especially for a party trying desperately to get back in the game.
“More women running in primaries begets more women nominees which hopefully begets more women office-holders in November,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, with more “begets” than in some of the books of the Old Testament.
Despite the impressive numbers, it might be less the Year of the Woman than the Year of the Great Oceanographic Disaster, when Donald Trump’s Red Wave crashes into Maxine Waters’ Blue Wave. We haven’t seen so many WAVES since World War II. But there’s actually no “wave” at all, just hundreds of House elections to be fought out inch-by-inch. In a nation so closely divided along partisan lines, where everybody seems to despise everybody else with a ferocity unseen since the cruel War of Northern Aggression, it could hardly be otherwise.
This is not good news for the Republicans. If present trends hold, and if nothing unexpected happens — two very big “ifs” — the Grand Old Party won’t feel so grand on the morning after Nov. 6. The president’s blustering presence, which has accomplished some good things, threatens to distract voters with more bluster.
The Donald just can’t help himself. With an ego the size of a barn he can’t imagine that anyone doesn’t share his opinion of himself. He can’t resist making a comment on whatever strikes his eye from the morning news, and worse, he expresses it, whether a poke in the eyes of a basketball player in Cleveland or a jibe at an insufferable CNN talking head. He steps on the good things he has accomplished. This frightens the men and women putting together the campaign to hold a skittish Congress on whom his agenda depends.
One pollster, Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, says his surveys find that perhaps 33 percent of the electorate is solidly in the president’s corner, and another 11 percent supports him, despite doubts, for the good things he has done. This adds up to his approval rating of 44 percent (Rasmussen puts the approval rating at 50 percent). This is impressive but it’s not enough to win a national election or to help others.
The Senate is the last line of defense of the Trump presidency, and it should be safe, barely, even if present trends continue. But Republicans earlier thought they would pick up seats (which would assure the restoration of a Supreme Court and a judiciary dedicated to the Constitution — as written).
The good news for the Republicans is that a growing number of them, though reluctant to give up the comfort of thinking, like Dr. Pangloss, that everything will turn out all right no matter what, seem finally coming to terms with the reality exposed in the elections this week. The president has been talking about a “red wave” to protect Republican fortunes. But if there’s a red wave lurking out there in flyover country, no one else has seen it.
The president’s reliance on his vast reserves of self-confidence encourages ignoring the evidence of “trouble, trouble, right here in River City.” The election of 2016 was stunning in its surprise, and it had been building for years, perhaps decades. Some people think the result was a divine gift, and perhaps it was. But the Scriptures tell us that “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” No wave can stand against that.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times
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