The frustrating thing about ethics is that the best and most ethical decision can, though what my father called “the vicissitudes of existence,” result in very bad consequences, and, similarly, unethical conduct can have results that benefit us all. This is what gulls human beings into consequentialism, or the natural tendency to judge the rightness and virtue of human actions according how events turn out.
Democrats are cheering, even gloating, about the fact that the “Red Wave,” almost universally predicted to sweep their party far from the levers of power in the House and Senate, and render Joe Biden the crippled duck he ought to be, never materialized. Nobody seems to agree why; I’ve read many theories. Republicans are dispirited and disillusioned, even though their “Red Ripple” will surely be enough to eject Nancy Pelosi from the Speaker’s chair. Still, surely they did something wrong to fail to meet all historical precedents for mid-term elections when a President is in the dumps, and the economy as well.
But here’s the funny part: the GOP disappointment may have solved a massive problem for the party and the country that just a little while ago appeared beyond a solution. The election results are being widely, and I think fairly, blamed on Donald Trump. His hand-picked candidates lost races that should have been won. His endorsements were generally toxic. He allowed the Democrats and the media to make the election about him when it should have been about President Biden. Worst of all, he couldn’t restrain himself from slipping into bully mode to attack Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s most likely rival for the 2024 Presidential nomination, right before the election. Then DeSantis answered by scoring the biggest victory of the night.
It sure looks like November 8, 2022, marked the end of Donald Trump’s strangle-hold on the loyalty of conservatives and Republicans. I am reading many pundits on the conservative side who are furious about Trump’s election day shots at DeSantis, and his inflicting weak candidates on races that needed to go Republican. Trump is, and has always been, an untrustworthy narcissist lacking filters and self-control, a human ticking time bomb. Against all odds he got through four years in the White House without a disastrous detonation, until the last possible moment when his tantrum over losing re-election led to a riot, a series of embarrassing court cases, an impeachment (though a contrived one), and the loss of two winnable Senate run-offs in Georgia, flipping the U.S. Senate to Democratic control. Amazingly, he maintained most of his popularity and hold over the party anyway, in part because Biden’s two years have been so disastrous. Trump even gained sympathy by the relentless effort in New York and by the House and the Justice Department to find something, anything, to justify indicting him.
But Republicans, conservatives and a lot of independents passionately wanted a GOP sweep, and Trump being unable to harness his inner asshole while abusing his influence to pick losers in crucial races around the country was a tipping point for many in his throng. Now it isn’t just Never-Trump establishment types (like Mitch McConnell) who have concluded that Trump is a detriment to the party’s chances at success going forward. Former supporters see it now too, and, just in time, there seems to be a heir apparent who is younger, a better politician, more savvy, less obnoxious, and far from volatile.
Still, you never know. Trump is nothing if not resilient and persistent. It was said of Richard Nixon that he rose from the dead more often than Dracula; some political figures can never be comfortably written off. If, however, the disappointment of the 2022 fizzle is the tipping point it appears to be, Tuesday’s GOP face-plant will benefit the party and the nation far more than a Red Tsunami would have.