By Natalie Chen
Kentucky Governor and Democratic candidate for re-election Andy Beshear, right, greets Owensboro resident Clay Ford while making a campaign stop at the Democratic Party of Daviess County Headquarters, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Owensboro, Ky. // Greg Eans / The Messenger-Inquirer via AP
Republicans suffered an election shellacking in races across the country, particularly in Postindustrial America.
Up and down the ticket, Democratic candidates won key races and scored important victories for women’s rights against candidates and policies backed by Trump.
How well did Democrats do?
Here are the highlights:
- A Democratic incumbent governor in Kentucky beat a Republican opponent endorsed by Trump who also enjoyed the support of FIVE Super PACs trying to unseat him. Yet Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection against Daniel Cameron and is already being mentioned as a potential 2028 presidential hopeful.
- Ohioans voted to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution and legalize recreational cannabis sales. Lots of out-of-town money poured in on both sides of this issue.
- Virginia’s GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin was expected to enjoy Republican victories in the legislature and state senate. Instead, the governor, who some party leaders wanted to run for president next year, will struggle to implement his agenda against Democratic majorities in both houses.
- And in Pennsylvania, Democrat Judge Daniel McCaffery won a seat on the state’s already liberal-leaning Supreme Court, adding another layer of protection come next year when Keystone State Republicans attempt to once again discredit their election losses.
What do these losses mean for Republicans heading into 2024?
Some Republicans recognize the tune their party is singing isn’t as catchy as it sounds on extremist cable outlets and on social media platforms — the increasingly marginalized Mitt Romney comes to mind. They are among but a handful of Capitol Hill Republicans willing to acknowledge the current, ruinous direction of the GOP.
Alas, most outwardly remain enthralled with, and loyal to, the MAGA moment and its master, who cost them yet another election.
And then there’s the insufferably pompous presidential hopeful from Ohio, Vivek Ramaswamy, who thinks “we need to be better about how we discuss this issue (i.e. abortion)” as if some mystical incantation on the topic will make pro-choice Americans OK with losing the right to choose.
Clearly that’s not the case, as Kentuckians have already sought to protect abortion last year after the Trump-stacked Supreme Court repealed half a century of women’s rights.
Ohio joins the Bluegrass State and several others that saw what mayhem Trump’s reign wrought over the abortion issue and have defeated his anointed candidates time and time again.
However, that doesn’t signal smooth sailing for Biden from now until election day. Just the opposite appears true … kinda.
Recent polling shows Biden trailing Trump in five of six swing states, including those in our region that scored big wins this week for Democrats.
This doesn’t make sense in an increasingly polarizing political era, when Republicans and Democrats are so neatly separated into impenetrable, never-intersecting silos that couldn’t possibly agree on anything.
Yet it happened: A Democratic governor in Kentucky won reelection in a state Trump carried by boatloads. Meanwhile, Ohio went for Trump in both of his races, yet rejected the very abortion restrictions he delivered by way of three conservative justices appointed during his administration.
This contradictory affinity for abortion rights in states Republicans dominate tells me what I already knew: most people, regardless of party affiliation, want choice and many aren’t honest when asked about it.
This fatal misunderstanding of their own constituency led Republicans down the destructive path of repealing Roe v. Wade amid an illusory, rockstar high fueled by Trump’s own rally mania and lie-ridden rhetoric.
While Trumpmania is no longer a mainstay in Washington, large swathes of the country still pine for the pre-Jan. 6 elation of “Lock Her Up!” chants and hate speech that propelled Trump all the way to the White House.
But are there enough votes out there to return Trump to Washington? Clearly pollsters we once thought were prescient no longer have a firm read on the American electorate, as the recent polls favoring Trump in next year’s election against Biden didn’t reflect the outcome of the recent races.
Or do they?
Perhaps there are more Trump supporters out there who are also pro-choice than we thought. And without Trump on the ticket, they felt they could vote their interests … for a change.
Beshear seemingly knew they were out there heading into his reelection, which is why he emphasized his support for choice, highlighted his admirable handling of the natural disasters to hit Kentucky, and pointed to the new high-tech jobs coming to the commonwealth under his watch. Also, the guy is really personable, not just popular.
So, what did this election teach us?
We learned that American voters can be a curious, unpredictable lot who refuse to be easily categorized as one thing or another. This is a continuation of the lesson we should have learned in 2016 from all those Obama voters who chose Trump over Clinton. But obviously we forgot since then.
Think we’ll remember the lesson this time?
Probably not, but we should try.
Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets, including The New York Times, USA TODAY, CBS News, and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan. Reach him at email@example.com.
By Carmen Gentile
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