“Shpilkes” is a good old Yiddish word meaning “agita” — which is a good old Italian word meaning nerves, anxiety, agitation, butterflies in the stomach. In whatever language, it’s what the GOP (Grumpy Obstreperous Party) leadership is feeling these days. And not just about losing the White House, but about losing the House and Senate for the next couple of rounds.
I don’t much like reading Henry Olsen (though he’s not as bad as Mark Thiessen, the true reactionary at WaPo). But once in a while he has something to say:
Republicans are beginning to gird themselves for a landslide defeat for President Trump that drags the entire party down. It could be even worse than they think.Elections in both the House and Senate are increasingly syncing with broader presidential races. In 2016, every Senate race was won by the same party that won that state in the presidential contest. In 2018, House races largely correlated with Trump’s approval rating, with even the most popular GOP incumbents unable to run more than a few points ahead of the president. Polls for Senate races this year show the same trend, with Republican incumbents’ totals closely matched with Trump’s.This spells disaster for the party.
Actually, it spells relief for the country, but remember Olsen’s perspective. He’s quite sure Democrats will win (excuse me, Republicans will lose) Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina because Trump is so badly underwater. He also laments the possible loss of both Georgia senators because Biden is now ahead there (by 2 points, but even so). Montana is in play because the Democrat, Bullock, is a popular governor and John Tester won reelection in 2018. He even thinks they could lose (we could win) Alaska, given the way the seat has flipped around, and as for Kansas, he’s just quaking at the thought of Kobach winning the primary. And then there are the House and state-level races.
And they can’t escape the Trump albatross because Trump will go after them at whatever cost:
Republicans have little control over their fate, given the polarized and nationalized electorate. They could reprise a gambit from the 1996 election, where congressional Republicans argued voters should split their tickets to prevent President Bill Clinton from having a “blank check.” That is always a risky strategy, but it’s even riskier with the notoriously vindictive Trump. He would likely attack any Republican who dared to cut loose from his sinking ship, rendering such attempts futile from the start.
The impact of a Democratic tsunami goes beyond November.
The 2022 Senate elections are perilous for the GOP regardless of Trump; they have to defend between 21 and 23 seats (depending on how the 2020 elections turn out in AZ and GA), while the Democrats have to defend only 13, almost all safe (I think NV and CO are the only possibly questionable states). Two GOP senators from NC and WI have already announced they will not run in 2022, and open seats are usually easier targets to win.
But it’s 2024 where the Trump stain could still linger: Why moderate Republicans will have it rough in 2024
The most likely scenario in November, Paul Waldman postulates, is a Democratic sweep, nay, a tsunami. And if (when!) that happens, the Republicans may really go into denial:
If it turns out that way, Republicans may find themselves insisting that, because they made such a terrible mistake accepting Trump as their leader, a dramatic change in course — such as rallying around a moderate who has shown an ability to pull voters from the other side — is what the party needs to survive.
. . .But it may be precisely the disaster of Trump that prevents Republicans from moving to the center.Because, to do so, they’d have to decide that, in the post-Trump era, they face an ideological problem that a moderate nominee could solve. While it’s possible, I’d argue that it’s unlikely.
This is because Trump didn’t so much remake the party as push it more in the direction it was already going. GOP officials may not have liked Trump’s habit of stating openly what they were more accustomed to whispering, but his sentiments are their sentiments. After all, they trusted him to pick the judges they wanted — conservative judges who would uphold the “traditional values,” meaning, of course, women in the kitchen (and bedroom), Blacks in their place, LGBTQ in the closet, the poor on the street, Jews on a quota, Christian “piety” blessing their white supremacy. They just wanted to be more subtle about it.
Trump doesn’t do subtlety. His reaction to Charlottesville, to the Floyd lynching and the other atrocities, to the Black Lives Matter protests, has been what much of the GOP would like to do but didn’t want to be so open about. Trump could care less. In fact, the more racist, the more blatant, the more cruel, the more his base likes it.
The rest of the country has reacted in horror — and not just over Floyd, not just over the pandemic. Democrats shellacked the Republicans in the midterms, and that was before we really got mad. Which means, of course, that we have to stay mad, to GET OUT THE VOTE, to so overwhelm the Russian hacks and suppressors and the doomsayers and the “perfect is the enemy of the good” crowd that there is no way they can steal this election from the people of the United States.
Then the Republicans who want to run in 2022 and 2024 will have a dilemma: They can’t win a Republican primary without Trump’s base, who will be mad over having lost power and who, like their Fuhrer, don’t do subtlety. To win them, a GOP candidate is going to have to be openly racist and Trumpie, but to do that means risking a loss in the general — a risk we’ll be there to make sure they lose.
No wonder they’re having shpilkes.