The Week | National Review

The Week | National Review


(Roman Genn)

At this rate, we’re going to find out that Samuel J. Tilden won, too.

President Trump fired Jeff Sessions and installed Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s former chief of staff and a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, as acting attorney general. Sessions was ill-used by Trump. Democrats who once made absurd accusations about Sessions’s character have suddenly decided that his ouster amounts to a “constitutional crisis” and have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising the special-counsel probe. Nothing in Whitaker’s résumé shows a conflict of interest of the sort that would necessitate recusal, although it is unclear whether his appointment passes muster under the Constitution. Whitaker was also recently a paid adviser to a company that is now under criminal FBI investigation, obviously a blot on his record. It’s best that the White House nominate someone else for the position as soon as possible. Attorney general is a job that requires someone with more stature and experience, especially at such a fraught time.

Democrats are scandalized by Wyoming. After the Senate election, they began to complain that Republicans had picked up seats in spite of Democrats’ winning a larger share of the “national popular vote” for the Senate — something that does not, we feel obliged to point out, exist. The argument is constitutionally ignorant: That smaller, less populous states such as Wyoming get an equal say in the Senate is a fundamental part of our governing architecture. Yes, Democrats lost seats in the election: They held 26 of the 35 seats that were being contested this year. But in those races, they won 58 percent of all votes and (pending recounts) 69 percent of the seats. Math is hard. Understanding the Constitution apparently is harder.

Florida is once again embroiled in a controversial election recount, in Senate and governor’s races, and all eyes are on Broward and Palm Beach Counties, two heavily populated, heavily Democratic, and heavily dysfunctional jurisdictions whose election commissioners seem unable to do their job. In Broward County — the people who brought you Bush v. Gore! — Commissioner Brenda Snipes has confirmed her reputation as an arrogant bungler who represents no improvement whatsoever over her predecessor, who was fired for incompetence. Not only was Broward four days late in counting votes; by refusing to release timely information about its totals it was also in violation of Florida’s strict Public Records Act and of the state constitution. Worse still, when, eventually, the tallies had been completed, Snipes was forced to admit that she had mixed illegal ballots with legal ballots and counted both together. Both counties have said they will be unable to finish their counts on time. Unaware of the issues involved, and partisan as ever, the national press has turned a blind eye to this malfeasance and lambasted the Republicans for criticizing it instead. Reporters say that faith in our elections is at stake — a faith that will no doubt be vindicated if the Democrats end up winning.

Republican secretary of state Brian Kemp narrowly defeated Democratic activist Stacey Abrams, who is black, in the Georgia gubernatorial election, fueling a spate of left-wing attacks on the state’s election system as “neo–Jim Crow.” Kemp is accused, among other things, of shutting down polling places, forcing thousands of voters to stay in registration limbo, and purging voters from the rolls on flimsy grounds. None of the charges has merit. Counties, not the state, make decisions about whether to consolidate precincts, and they usually do it because they are cash-strapped or the locations don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voter registrations in Georgia are put in the “pending” file if they don’t match state records, but this doesn’t stop people from voting; they just need to show up with an ID to verify their information (ID is required regardless). Finally, if voters don’t vote in an election for three years, they are notified, and if they don’t reply or vote in the next two federal elections, they are struck from the rolls. This is hardly a draconian measure. Kemp’s real offense isn’t voter suppression but beating a progressive darling in a high-profile race.

Cesar Sayoc was arrested by federal authorities in Florida and charged with crimes related to sending 13 apparently homemade pipe bombs to high-profile Democrats. None of them detonated, but they contained explosive material, meaning Sayoc may well have meant to kill George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Cory Booker, and others. Sayoc was a registered Republican and, the evidence suggests, an obsessive Trump supporter, leading the media and the Left to blame President Trump for the bombs. But the perpetrators of political violence bear sole responsibility for their actions, and harsh, overheated rhetoric is endemic to our political system. It should not be confused with incitement to violence. No rational person would hear even Trump’s most incendiary line — the media are “enemies of the people” — as permission to mail a dozen pipe bombs all over the country. Still, Trump is president, which should imply an obligation to honor guardrails about what he says about his fellow citizens. We are very glad that no one was hurt and that Sayoc was apprehended quickly — things everyone is grateful for, because we are all still Americans.

A man gunned down eleven Jews, aged 54 to 97, attending services at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. After being apprehended, he told a SWAT officer that he “wanted all Jews to die.” The killer committed the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the U.S., terrorizing the tranquil Jewish community of Squirrel Hill. The attack is a reminder of the potency of the world’s oldest cultural virus, a fungible prejudice under which Jews have been labeled capitalist or Communist, nationalist or globalist, pitiable and degraded or cunning and all-powerful. Anti-Semites are often convinced that they must extinguish Jews because Jews are trying to extinguish them. Nobody in the political mainstream shares these beliefs, but, dismayingly, many rushed to link the murder to Donald Trump and the GOP. Disturbingly, anti-Semites and white supremacists have felt emboldened in recent years, but — we repeat — those culpable for acts of violence are the individuals who perpetrate them. (The killer has actually condemned Trump.) The proper response to the terrible killing in Pittsburgh is vigilant law enforcement, a full-throated denunciation of anti-Semitism, an expression of support for the Jewish community, mourning, and prayer.

The defeat of Governor Scott Walker as Wisconsin’s governor is a great loss. Walker has arguably been the most consequential governor of his time. He had shown himself to be a survivor by besting electoral challenges, a recall effort, riots, and abusive investigations of his allies. Walker oversaw the passage of a right-to-work law in Wisconsin and instituted curbs on the power of public-sector unions that saved the state billions of dollars, much of which was passed on to residents in the form of tax cuts. He also enacted intelligent entitlement reforms that included work requirements for certain welfare beneficiaries. For those successes, Walker could never be forgiven: not by the state-employee unions and not by the Democratic party that is their wholly owned subsidiary. Republicans will miss having Scott Walker’s example in Wisconsin. Wisconsin will miss him more.

One of the losers on Election Day was Carlos Curbelo, a Republican congressman from South Florida. Actually, his district was the loser, given that Curbelo is a good and unusual congressman. Shortly before Election Day, a man on Twitter threatened to kill Curbelo. The man was Pierre Alejandro Verges-Castro, age 19. Rather than press charges, Curbelo met with Verges-Castro, and they had a long talk. The young man apologized for what he did. Then Curbelo held a press conference, with the young man at his side. The theme: a lowering of the temperature in our volatile country. We could use more of Carlos Curbelo in our national life.

Steve King, a congressman from a strongly Republican district in Iowa, barely won reelection after miring himself in controversies. In the closing weeks of the election, he endorsed a fringe candidate for mayor of Toronto who had appeared on a Nazi podcast (apparently Nazis have podcasts these days) and recited and defended a white-supremacist slogan. He then got in a dispute with the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, which reported that he had referred to immigrants as “dirt.” He denied it and claimed the Standard was lying about having a tape of it, so the magazine released the tape and proved its reporter had told the truth. Ohio congressman Steve Stivers, the chairman of the House Republican campaign committee, denounced King, evidently objecting to his remarks and concerned that he hurts the reputation of Republicans corporately. It is getting harder and harder to disagree.

On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson mocked Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw’s appearance — Davidson said Crenshaw looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” before adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — Davidson handed Crenshaw a gift from the political gods. Crenshaw attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: He became an aggrieved victim. He was free to swing away. Instead, he went on Saturday Night Live the next week, accepted Davidson’s apology, and — after making a few good jokes at Davidson’s expense — turned around and paid tribute to Davidson’s father, a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11. It was a rare and powerful moment of grace in American politics, and one that immediately went viral. A former Navy SEAL, Crenshaw already commanded respect for his courage. Now he is also admired for his decency and compassion. Only 34 years old, Crenshaw bears watching.

By a nearly two-to-one popular vote, Florida has restored voting rights to more than a million citizens convicted of felonies. Florida was one of a handful of states with no automatic process for bringing offenders back into civic life. (Felons wanting their rights back had to apply to a backlogged clemency board that included the governor and attorney general.) The new constitutional provision excludes those convicted of murder and sex crimes but otherwise automatically restores voting rights once a felon has served his time, including parole or probation. One could reasonably want a stricter system — say, a longer crime-free time period before voting is allowed, especially for serious offenses — but the new rules are an improvement.

In West Virginia, a slim majority of voters approved a constitutional amendment saying, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The amendment has two main effects. It ends the state’s funding of abortions, something its supreme court imposed a generation ago. And it ensures that, if the federal courts ever allow states to offer protection to unborn children, state courts will not be able to read the state’s constitution to stop them. Passage was a triumph for self-government over a demagogic campaign that pretended it would lead to outlawing abortions with no exceptions for rape and incest — a demagogic campaign that the state’s nominally pro-life Democratic senator Joe Manchin abetted.

Neither President Trump nor Jim Acosta left their recent spat looking good. As usual, Acosta attempted to turn the press conference into a one-man show — which is always a mistake when Donald Trump is in the same room — and, in so trying, was both rude and belligerent. Contrary to claims made by the White House, Acosta did not “assault” the intern trying to wrest the microphone from him, but, at the very least, he was guilty of pass interference. It is tiresome to watch Trump and Acosta pretend that they cannot bear each other when, in truth, they have become codependent. It presumably won’t be long until they are happily reunited.

There is nothing nastier than a mob. One showed up at the home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson one night while only his wife was home. The mob chanted, “We know where you sleep.” They also kicked his door. These people were from Antifa, which styles itself anti-fascist. They behave exactly like fascists — and more to the point for law enforcement, as criminals.

Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) has announced a ridiculous Rube Goldberg contraption of a wealth-redistribution scheme under which the federal government would seize two-thirds of the property of certain wealthy Americans through an expanded inheritance tax in order to fund “savings” accounts for Americans who have not done any saving. The proposal would raise other taxes as well, including the capital-gains tax and federal income taxes. There are many ways to encourage savings; an enormous new tax on savings does not seem a very promising one. What Senator Booker is proposing is in reality just another entitlement program, one with a price tag estimated by Booker’s own team at tens of billions of dollars. The Democratic presidential hopefuls’ race to the left is well under way. 

Our government’s practice has long been to treat illegal immigrants’ children born on our soil as citizens. Most legal experts, left and right, consider this practice a command of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. There is, however, a spirited group of dissenters. President Trump threw in his lot with them, first going so far as to assert that he could end birthright citizenship by executive decree and then saying he wanted Congress to act. As interesting as the constitutional debate is, though, there’s a higher-priority immigration issue for Congress to take up. Requiring employers to verify the legal status of new hires would reduce illegal immigration across the board — from both illegal border-crossers and visa overstayers, and from both parents and the childless. And over time fewer illegal immigrants would mean fewer of their children to pose any legal conundrum.

The Trump administration announced new policies to distinguish between genuine and bogus asylum seekers. Those presenting themselves between official ports of entry would have to meet a higher standard to get to stay and would not be put on a track that could lead to citizenship; the resulting longer waits at ports of entry might encourage some of them to apply for asylum in Mexico instead. As always, however, the new rules could be tied up in court. And once asylum seekers have made it here and applied, they can disappear even if their claims are rejected. It’s up to congressmen who care about enforcing the law or maintaining a genuine asylum program — or about both, as they should — to act.

President Obama’s DACA program effectively granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who came here as minors. Obama had previously said that he lacked the legal authority to implement this policy. President Trump sought to end the program, in part because he agreed with Obama’s initial opinion. The hard-Left, frequently reversed Ninth Circuit federal appeals court in California has now ordered him to continue the program. The Ninth Circuit believes that DACA’s legality can be defended, and thus reasoned that Trump had made a mistake about the law. But that dubious conclusion should be irrelevant — the amnesty was merely an executive policy. In fact, the Obama administration announced it in an agency memo. Subsequent presidents have discretion to change executive policy. That is what elections are about, as too few judges on the West Coast understand.

The United States has taken an important and overdue step not just to send a message to Saudi Arabia but also to cleanse the stain of participation in an unjust Saudi war. It is ending the practice (begun under Obama) of using American planes to refuel Saudi jets before their bombing runs over Yemen. While there are certainly reasons to counter Iranian aggression in Yemen, the Saudi bombing campaign was indiscriminate and often incompetent, and has contributed to a famine that threatens countless lives. Limiting American logistical support for the Yemeni campaign is also a concrete, consequential step toward imposing real costs on Saudi Arabia for killing Jamal Khashoggi. It’s a proper and overdue use of American leverage against one of our most unfaithful and problematic “allies.”

John Bolton, the national-security adviser, delivered a speech at the Freedom Tower in Miami. He spoke about Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua: “This troika of tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of Communism in the Western Hemisphere.” Bolton went on to say that the Trump administration “is taking direct action against all three regimes to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region.” A threat rightly apprehended, and firmly met.

In Vienna, at a talk sponsored by the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, a woman called Mohammed a pedophile, referring to his marriage to a nine-year-old girl. The public prosecutor charged her with inciting hatred, and a regional court convicted her of disparaging religious doctrines. She appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled against her and for the Austrian government. Critics of the decision accuse the ECHR of applying a double standard. They point to cases in which the court recently ruled in favor of entities — Pussy Riot in Russia, an ad agency in Lithuania — that had been prosecuted for mocking a different religion, Christianity. For the same reason that the court’s decisions in those latter cases were right, its decision in the Austrian case was wrong. No bright line separates religious insult from respectful theological disagreement, and courts of law diminish their reputation for impartiality when they pretend otherwise. It remains true that verbal incivility defiles both the speaker and the hearer, but that’s a precept for preachers to preach, and for the observant to observe, not for judges to try to enforce.

If anyone deserves asylum, it’s Asia Bibi, the 53-year-old Catholic mother of five who has spent the last eight years on death row in Pakistan for the alleged crime of blasphemy. Bibi’s accusers were two Muslim women who took objection to her Christian faith and accused her of insulting Islam’s prophet. Bibi denies this but was beaten up in her home, arrested, and sentenced to death by hanging nonetheless. Two politicians who defended her were assassinated, and it is reported that her lawyer, too, fled the country for fear of his life. After the supreme court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s conviction, citing a lack of evidence, a chilling video emerged of thousands of angry Muslim demonstrators calling for her immediate execution. Citizens of Western democracies were rightly appalled by Bibi’s plight, and efforts are being made to move Bibi and her family abroad to safety. Disturbingly, however, the United Kingdom has refused asylum on account of domestic “security concerns.” Beyond the injustice to Bibi, though, the resounding message here is one of a British cultural submission to the worst possible interpretation of Islam. One hopes that Ms. Bibi will fare better in a freer land.

Brazilians elected Jair Bolsonaro president in a runoff against left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad, ushering into office a populist who has praised the old military dictatorship and has a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric. Why would voters make that choice? Because Brazil is suffering through a deep recession, beset by rising crime, and the PT, Haddad’s party, in power since 2003, is embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. Former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office in 2016; her predecessor, Lula, is in prison on a money-laundering conviction. Bolsonaro promises to stop crime, enact pro-business reforms, and rein in corruption. He may fail: He has little administrative experience, and his tenure could well lead to democratic backsliding. Yet his election is no mystery.

In November 100 years ago, the Great War, as they used to call it, came to an end. The anniversary was solemn, if a little mournful. All told, 7 million of the military and some 10 million civilians were dead. Remembrance evidently goes deep into the European psyche. Film and photographs of frightful trench warfare and interviews with people who had lost a family forebear made their point. To Paris came about 60 heads of state or government. The railway carriage in which the 1918 armistice was signed has been preserved outside Paris; French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel went there and made a show of holding hands. London also had its ceremonies. German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier followed Queen Elizabeth at a commemorative service and laid a wreath alongside hers. Until now, there has never been a show of reconciliation between Britain and Germany quite so formal and public. In the Berliner Dom, a church once attended by the German kaiser, a British choir sang. Towns and villages everywhere decorated local war memorials, rang church bells, and held impromptu lectures or parades. Millions will have gone home with the Last Post ringing in their ears.

The Red Roar, a “news and gossip” website, alleged that Sir Roger Scruton, the conservative British philosopher who writes books faster than most people read them, was an anti-Semite after it came to light that he had written the following in a 2016 lecture to the Hungarian Academy: “Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros empire.” When read in context, however, Scruton’s declarative statement is followed by an argument opposing anti-Semitism and stating that Jews in Eastern Europe have legitimate grievances against nationalism. Nevertheless, BuzzFeed, the Guardian, and the New Statesman (for which Scruton used to write a wine column) jumped on board, claiming to have “unearthed” other examples of “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” as well as evidence that Scruton is a rape apologist. Some Labour members of Parliament then called for him to be sacked from his recent appointment as an unpaid government adviser on the aesthetics of architecture. Scruton has nothing to apologize for, unlike his critics. As we go to press, Scruton’s website includes this remark: “Concerned by the intellectual impoverishment of his attackers, Roger has decided to collect as many of his outrageous remarks as he can discover, so as to include them in a folder to appear on this site. . . . This will save Roger’s critics a lot of unnecessary trouble and serve to brighten their lives with a sense of their own righteousness.”

You’re as young as you feel — literally, if a mystifyingly popular European lifestyle guru gets his way. Emile Ratelband, a frisky Dutchman, has petitioned a court in the Netherlands to change his official year of birth from 1949 to 1969 because he feels so young all the time. In support of his application, the age-fluid entrepreneur said it was similar to the practice of allowing people to define their own sex. The parallel between these two cases is way off, of course: One’s birthdate is not variable, but an unchanging fact established at birth, whereas one’s sex is . . . well, actually, never mind.

Russians are known for their brooding, and understandably so. Spend a winter or two on the frozen, barren steppes under a brutal authoritarian government and you’ll start brooding too. But Antarctica is even worse, at least if the behavior of a Russian polar scientist is any guide. Sergey Savitsky, an electrical engineer at Russia’s Bellingshausen station, has been charged with stabbing a welder, Oleg Beloguzov. At first the crime seemed random, but Savitsky was later discovered to have a motive: He spent a lot of time reading books (as one does in Antarctica), and Beloguzov infuriated him by revealing the endings. The least surprising sentence in the news report: “Alcohol is believed to have been involved in the altercation.”

Billed as one of the largest NATO exercises since the Cold War, Trident Juncture 18 successfully deployed 50,000 troops from 29 NATO allies and 65 warships near the Arctic Circle for intensive amphibious training. There was collateral damage, however: Iceland’s beer supplies. When 7,000 U.S. sailors and Marines landed in Reykjavik for a night on dry ground, they nearly drank the country dry. Eirikur Jonsson, a local blogger, described pub owners desperately attempting to refill their stock and “fighting an overwhelming force” of thirsty Americans. “We had to send people out of the bar to our warehouses to bring beer back as quickly as possible,” bartender Ingvar Svendsen told Stars and Stripes. “Other bars ran out of beer altogether.” As beer cellars went empty, the Marines and sailors boarded their ships and sailed away. “It looked like they were having a lot of fun,” a bemused and partly shell-shocked Svendsen said. “It was fun for us, too, having them here.”

Matthew and Alexis Delcambre of New Iberia, La., were visiting Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England, when the fire alarm began to sound. It was a ruse, set off deliberately by a hooded, hammer-wielding thief who then attempted to smash through the glass protecting one of four original copies of Magna Carta. Through the centuries, it had been kept in the cathedral, brought there by the priest Elias of Dereham shortly after King John’s barons forced him to place his seal on it at Runnymede in 1215. The Louisiana man did not hesitate, and confronted the would-be bandit before tackling him and holding him down until help arrived. Magna Carta, foundational to British and American liberty, was saved, in another shining moment for the special relationship. “Back home,” Mrs. Delcambre later said, the would-be thief “would have been hog-tied on the ground.” We have no doubt.

Beloved comic-book writer, editor, and larger-than-life personality Stan Lee (né Stanley Lieber) passed away, at age 95. A native of Washington Heights and the Bronx, he grew up in the poverty of the Depression and worked a series of odd jobs before joining Timely (later renamed Marvel) Comics as an assistant. Possessed of an active imagination, he soon started producing his own stories. (Believing he had the Great American Novel in him, Lieber adopted the Stan Lee pen name for his comic work.) At only 18 he was installed as editor, a position he held for 31 years. It was in the 1960s that Lee’s most famous contributions hit the scene. With the Fantastic Four, the Amazing Spider-Man, the X-Men, and so many others, Lee and a series of brilliant artists devised deeply human heroes who were relatable to audiences of all ages. The very atmosphere of entertainment today is built on Stan Lee’s foundations. R.I.P., and excelsior!

With runners on second and third and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, his team trailing by one, the batter, a “harder hitter” than anyone his first manager in the majors had ever seen, needed a clean single, that’s all, to achieve baseball’s version of the Beatific Vision. He pulled the ball and sent a screaming line drive — straight into the glove of the second baseman. That most famous of Willie McCovey’s at-bats, in October 1962, remains a source of endless meditations on what might have been, although the memory of it has softened in light of what ensued: a Hall of Fame career that spanned four decades and included six All-Star Game appearances, a Most Valuable Player Award (1969), and 521 home runs. McCovey joined the Giants the year after they moved from New York to San Francisco, and from the beginning he was the face of the club’s West Coast incarnation. Left-handed sluggers dream of launching rockets that splash down into the blue Pacific water of the affectionately named McCovey’s Cove. Splashed down, gently, at age 80. R.I.P.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt was one of the most widely read writers in the world. From 1969 to 1995, he was senior book critic of the New York Times. Later, for several years, he was the paper’s chief obituary writer. He was graceful, learned, and judicious. He was also splendid company, as WFB and many other friends could testify. He has now died at 84. Chris Lehmann-Haupt was entrusted with great power, in light of his positions, especially chief book critic. He was worthy of that trust. R.I.P.

Herbert London was a giant in the conservative policy world. His early life showed immense promise but little sign of what was to come: He was born in Brooklyn in 1939, had a pop hit 20 years later (“We’re Not Going Steady”), and was drafted to the National Basketball Association at the end of college. But when injuries kept him off the court, he earned a doctorate in history from New York University, where he soon thereafter created and led the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. His career lurched upward, and he never lost momentum: He wrote 30 books; created television shows; ran for mayor, governor, and comptroller in the late 1980s and early 1990s; co-founded and served as chairman of the National Association of Scholars; rose through the ranks of the Hudson Institute, eventually heading the think tank from 1997 to 2011; became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; established the London Center for Policy Research at King’s College; advised leaders in the Middle East; served as a fellow at the Manhattan Institute; wrote countless articles — and also raised three daughters, including fashion-TV star Stacy London. We’re exhausted just writing it all down. London has passed away at the age of 79. R.I.P.

Brent Taylor was the mayor of North Ogden, Utah. He was also a major in the Utah National Guard. He was called to Afghanistan, for his fourth deployment. As the New York Times reported, he said goodbye to his wife, Jennie, and their seven children, and turned over his mayoral duties to someone else. In Afghanistan, he was killed, at 39. This was “an insider attack,” reported the Times, “apparently by one of the people he was there to help.” A resident of North Ogden, Clark Skeen, said something simple about Brent Taylor: “I just don’t know of a finer man.” R.I.P.


Loss, and Denial

A week after the elections, the Republican National Committee tweeted that President Trump was responsible for all the party’s success in them. Maybe someone at 310 First Street SE has a dark sense of humor. Republicans lost more House seats than they have in any election since Watergate. They picked up at most two seats in the Senate, notwithstanding an extremely favorable electoral map. They even lost the governorship of Kansas. They lost ground in the Midwest and the Sun Belt, in suburbs and rural areas, in districts that went for Hillary Clinton and districts that went for Trump, among college graduates and those without college degrees.

There were some bright spots. Republicans held on to swing-state governorships in Florida, Iowa, and Ohio. Progressive heroes, especially those backed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, mostly lost their races. The Senate Democrats’ assault on Brett Kavanaugh seemed to backfire, contributing to the defeats of incumbent Democratic senators in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. President Trump’s raising of immigration as a top issue, while sometimes demagogic, may have helped in some places as well. While Republicans lost a Senate seat in Arizona, the Democratic winner, Kyrsten Sinema, felt compelled to endorse sending troops to the border to assist in enforcing the immigration laws.

Overall, though, the results were bleak, and grew increasingly so as more of them came in. For at least the next two years and probably longer, Republicans have lost the governing majority they briefly enjoyed in Washington, D.C. Government will get worse in many states — especially in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker narrowly lost his bid for a third term as an effective reformer.

The day after the election, the president attributed the defeat of some representatives — Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Carlos Curbelo of Florida, and Mia Love of Utah (whose race had not actually been called as a defeat even a week later) — to their failure to embrace him. But Trump had lost most of those congressional districts in 2016 and his polling was deep below water in all of them. His unpopularity with suburban college graduates pulled each of them down, and to condemn them for not tying themselves more firmly to his anchor was delusional as well as dishonorable. Some of Trump’s biggest boosters also went down to defeat. Katie Arrington defeated Trump critic Mark Sanford in a House primary in South Carolina and then lost the general election; Dana Rohrabacher was shown the door in what had been a solidly Republican House seat in California; Kris Kobach failed as the gubernatorial nominee in Kansas.

The point is not that Republicans should jettison Trump, even if such a thing were possible. Republicans who distanced themselves from Trump got no credit from voters who oppose him. And a lot of candidates ran behind his 2016 showing in their districts, suggesting that Republicans have not closed the sale with a lot of voters who found him appealing (or at least more appealing than Hillary Clinton). For that matter, Trump could very well win in 2020, especially if the economy holds up.

But if the midterms do not foretell certain doom in the next elections, they should nonetheless be heeded. Republicans have to build a coalition that includes Trump-loving working-class voters who are lukewarm at best about the party’s economic agenda and college-educated voters who can’t stand the president. That will mean doing things a lot of Republican politicians have not been willing or able to do, such as standing for an immigration policy that is at once tough and humane, or becoming conversant enough on health policy to defend a position, any position, on preexisting conditions. And they will have to do all of this while being led by President Trump: a man with great political talents and successes, but also a man who either does not know or does not care that the Republican party is getting weaker.

NR Editors

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.


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