The Real Voter Message: Check Your Pet Cause at the Door & Restore America
Were Tuesday's off-year elections a message to Democrats or a message to activists?
The Question People are Asking
The big question of the week seems to be whether the Democrats heard what the voters were saying. So far, most indications are that they did not.
Leading woke Democrats—from President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and TVs favorite talking heads on down—appear to have concluded that America’s voters are even more racist than they’d previously believed. The only problem they see is their failure to enact their full progressive transformation of American society—a shortcoming that requires them to redouble their efforts.
A subtler, more interesting, and far more consequential question may be whether Republicans understand the message the voters sent to the Democrats.
Republicans, including the victorious Virginia slate, should understand that Tuesday’s vote had very little to do with them. While the irrelevance of the GOP may be tough to see in isolation, a bit of context should make it clearer.
America’s voters produced “change” elections in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. Should a 2021 change election really be that much of a surprise?
From a partisan perspective, the voters appear fickle. Partisan activists have never been able to grok voters who supported both Barack Obama and Donald Trump—and regret neither of their votes. Do most Virginians who backed Biden last year and Youngkin this year wish they could retract their 2020 votes? The answer is entirely unclear, but my guess is probably not.
The Question People Should Be Asking
Perhaps—just perhaps—these voters are sending a message not to Democrats, but rather to partisan activists: Don’t press the slim, temporary advantages we hand you, quite reluctantly, from time to time.
Until fairly recently, these anti-partisan voters thought that they ran the show. Correctly or not, they had long convinced themselves that politics would much not intrude on their lives. For most (28/36 years) of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies, they gave America a divided federal government, trusting the moderates to hold their activists at bay, cut deals, and leave citizens alone.
But Obama’s second term in office was far more radical than his first, and he bequeathed them a choice they considered untenable. With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both fully committed to the battle, these voters felt—for the first time—that they had no voice. In 2020, Joe Biden (or more likely, his handler) was savvy enough to pretend to speak for them. Though it was clear that he was lying and that they were mired in denial, that was far more than either candidate had offered them in 2016.
Which brings us back to 2021. Though the Democrats currently control both Congressional chambers and the White House, they do so with history’s slimmest majorities. The hard left—comprising far less than the entirety of their caucus—is far too small to govern by itself. Yet the other factions operating beneath the Democratic umbrella have enabled their radical leftist restructuring to reach deep into everyday life.
Message: Avoid Controversy
When anodyne messages like “parents deserve a say in their children’s education” or “people shouldn’t be forced to choose between an experimental medical treatment and their jobs” are derided as far-right dog whistles, the problem lies entirely with those doing the deriding. Woke America has so radicalized itself that it can no longer fathom how people outside its bubble operate. No surprise that the pendulum has swung against them.
Looking forward, GOP activists will have a choice. They can insist that the pendulum swinging towards them represents a validation and press their own advantage on controversial issues. Or they can stick to common sense messages, avoid controversy, and effect real change where it most matters—at the structural level.
Consider a simple example. Few issues in America today are more controversial than abortion. Texas has grabbed much of the attention with a novel, cleverly drafted law drawing a line at a six-week fetal heartbeat. Far below the radar is a proposed Amendment to the Vermont constitution permitting abortion on demand until the very moment of live birth.
Without getting into the merits of the issue, Texas Republicans and Vermont Democrats are both playing with electoral fire. There is almost certainly a broad, overwhelming, national majority opposed to killing a healthy, viable, nine-month fetus, for no particular reason, only moments before birth. There is almost certainly no such consensus on a six-week abortion.
That woke Vermont Democrats seek to press their overwhelming statewide advantage on abortion is simply keeping in character. It’s what woke radicals do—and what non-activists detest. But what of Texas? While pro-life activists deeply believe that they are morally compelled to protect every baby they can protect, that doesn’t make the Texas law smart. In fact, if it prevents the sort of structural changes capable of returning America to a culture that affirms and values life, it could easily do more long-term harm than good. It’s the sort of idea that, if rolled out at a national level, will impede the sort of structural changes we need to restore America.
Few doubt that the pendulum is swinging away from the radical left. Republicans will rotate back into power, almost by default. The question is how they will choose to play it. Will they court controversy or stick to common sense and basic decency? Are Republican activists smart enough to play the long game? Will they do the hard work of building a sustainable reform coalition? Or will they grab a few high-profile but narrow victories only to watch the pendulum swing back to the left?
Factions and Coalitions
Though partisan activists are loathe to admit it, no faction has ever represented a majority of Americans. Governance requires a coalition. Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney do not belong to the same faction, but they are part of the same coalition. The same is true of Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin. For GOP activists, the feel-good play is to berate Romney’s faction as RINOs.
The smart play would be to make Manchin’s faction feel welcome in the Republican coalition. The growing number of Democrats who recognize just how vile and anti-American their woke partners have become will never rethink their alliance unless the GOP makes them feel welcome. Internal attacks on RINOs—even if fully warranted—send the worst possible message. Why would anyone leave an existing arrangement that has become uncomfortable when promised only an equally uncomfortable alternative? (Note that this question is not really about Manchin. It’s about the likely sizable number of far less prominent Democrats who share his views).
The Smart Play for the Long Game
If the next Republican majority is smart, it will broaden its appeal, avoid high-profile controversies, and achieve its greatest successes off the radar. As with many things, Donald Trump has already pointed the way. In less than a year, the Biden Administration has been able to undo nearly all of Trump’s controversial policies. What remains from the Trump years is an altered judiciary and significant deregulation—structural changes that barely registered with most voters living outside the Beltway.
The challenges facing America today are extreme. The very fabric of our republic is unraveling. The Administrative State—unanticipated in the Constitution—has essentially taken charge. We live today at the whim of experts whose self-restraint is on the verge of disappearing entirely. Our electoral processes lack credibility; though Youngkin was able to surpass the margin of fraud in Virginia, a late-breaking vote dump from a Democratic stronghold was once again able to hand Murphy a slim victory in New Jersey.
A smart Republican majority would focus on restoring America. Electoral integrity would be at the top of its agenda. The public has already bought in. In a stunning move that has received far less than its share of attention, New York City’s voters shot down three radical leftist moves designed to ensure that the City would never again experience a free and fair election. To appreciate just how stunning that rejection is, it’s important to note that Democrats won landslide victories in every citywide race, from Mayor on down. Voter who went to the polls voting a straight Democratic ticket shot down three of three Democratic voter-fraud proposals.
Electoral integrity, however, would be but the first stop of a smart, pro-America, pro-common sense GOP majority. Such a majority would recall how, during the government shutdown of 2013, President Obama shut down only the parts of government most visible to citizens—and invert his actions.
A smart GOP would preserve every part of the federal government with which citizens interact on a daily basis. It would then gut the rest—eliminating vast swathes of the regulatory code and reducing the majority of the federal workforce that exists only to enforce those regulations. In doing so, it would reduce favoritism, patronage, corruption, and compliance costs. Activists would scream. Few voters would notice.
It would reform the Administrative Procedures Act—the law defining the relationship among elected officials, the judiciary, and bureaucratic agencies. Activists would scream. Few voters would notice.
It would enact legislation against public sector unions, rework the relationship between the government and universities, and reform the incentives that have enabled the woke takeover of so many of our most important institutions. Activists would scream. Few voters would notice.
In short, a smart GOP majority would effect the structural changes necessary to restore the American republic, promote good governance, and shift government back where most Americans want it to be—in the deep background. Activists would scream—and though few voters will applaud, many will be grateful.
When all of that is done, GOP activists can turn back to courting controversy and promoting an agenda. By all means, affirm life, preserve arms, promote faith, cut taxes, rebuild the military, and do all of the other things necessary to improve life in the United States. But first, shore up the bases of the United States itself.
The message America’s voters have been sending for the past fifteen years is far clearer than anyone in Washington is willing to let it be: Park your pet cause at the door and restore the American republic.
While GOP activists may not love that message, they should be able to work with it. That’s a clear advantage they have over the woke radicals out to transform America rather than restore it. It’s an advantage America’s voters want the GOP to press. The open question is whether the next Republican majority will be smart enough to listen.
For more information about Bruce D. Abramson & American Restorationism, visit: www.BruceDAbramson.com
To learn more about how America’s elites destroyed the republic, see: The New Civil War: Exposing Elites, Fighting Utopian Leftism, and Restoring America (RealClear Publishing, 2021).
To learn more about the ideology driving today’s anti-American leftism, see: American Restoration: Winning America’s Second Civil War (Kindle, 2019).