November 6th was a bad night for President Trump, no matter what he says. He now has to deal with a newly empowered opposition party with a mandate to check his myriad abuses and scandals. The rebuke wasn’t as harsh as it needed to be, though.
Trumpism, which is essentially short for “espousing racism,” continued to score well with the president’s base. Paired with the flaws in our democracy that help maintain white political power, it diluted a Democratic victory that should have been more absolute. Trumpism likely helped some Republicans hold off insurgent candidacies that would have otherwise taken them down.
Catering to bigotry gave these candidates something to run on in lieu of a policy platform. That approach may work for Trump heading into 2020, because he’s Trump and there’s an unshakable cult of personality around him. But is his brand of racism a sustainable strategy for the Republican Party?
“I think it was a 55-45 night in the direction of the Democrats,” says Anand Giridharadas, journalist and author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. “A sizable part of the country repudiated racism, demagogy, sexism, corruption, the abuse of power and demi-competent authoritarianism. The other way to read the results is that 45 percent is too damn high. A wanna-be tyrant like Donald Trump should not poll in the double digits in American life, and we’re not safe until he doesn’t anymore.”
“It worked, I suppose, but not really better than the more mainstream Republican campaigns that worked before it,” Princeton historian Kevin Kruse tells Rolling Stone. “Meanwhile, look at all the candidates who were incredibly Trumpist and had horrible nights.”
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known for cloaking voter suppression in quests to root out nonexistent voter fraud, lost his race for governor. Scott Walker lost the governor’s seat in Wisconsin. Longtime Iowa Congressman Steve King, who has repeatedly been associated with groups with white-nationalist sympathies, was almost too bigoted to get reelected. Almost.
But as we move toward 2020, the vitriol and discriminatory policies are likely to get worse before they get better.
“One of the fundamental lurches taken toward the far right was the deployment of the military in a domestic election,” says law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw of Trump gratuitously sending troops to defend the border from an immigrant caravan hundreds of miles away. “His ability to do it without significant political costs — and with virtual silence from Republicans — is a terrifying development. What happens when the inevitable unrest and protest against Trumpism grow? There’s little question in my mind that the lines between legitimate uses of force for security and the use to suppress dissent has been crossed.”