The disappointing results in America’s midterm elections have left Donald Trump in the worst possisible outcome for his presidential plans.
This is the end of Donald Trump.
For radical right-wing Republicans the dream is over. For radical left-wing Democrats the nightmare is over. Either way, it’s over.
It turns out Shakespeare was right about sound and fury signifying nothing: All the social media noise and online activism ultimately amounted to zilch, zero, zip. The real world didn’t do what Twitter told it to.
Poetically this was a fate once handed down to the pontificating left and now it has been delivered to the chest-beating right. And the vast majority of people across the planet who happily exist between these two extremes should be even more happy about that.
So what happened?
The first thing to remember is that Trump was part of a convulsive wave of populist politics on all sides — as well as in the centre itself — that has swept through the West over the past five years or so.
Propelled by people power, social media or fake news — whatever you want to call it — a tsunami of angry disruption toppled the political establishment in the US with Trump, the UK with Brexit and Boris, France with the centrist breakaway Macron and even boring old Canada with the centrist blackfacer Trudeau.
In Australia this phenomenon took shape in 2019 with the victory of the oddly evangelical Scott Morrison against all polls and all odds, while in 2022 what should have been a Labor clean sweep was annoyingly disrupted by the Teals and Greens.
And so all politics aside, the only predictor of politics became that it was unpredictable. And when a revolutionary Red Wave was predicted for the US Midterms it too failed. There was no revolution, nor a counter-revolution.
After all the years in which mayhem unpredictably trounced mediocrity, this time mayhem was predicted and mediocrity quietly reasserted itself. The great disruption was what we used to call normality — a concept so lost in recent years that it is now almost radical itself.
To be clear, Tuesday’s result is no victory for activist Democrats nor their shuffling somniac president. If anything it is a credit to a Spartan-esque rearguard action of sensible Democrats who talked about the economy and cost of living on the ground even as Biden and Twitter drones prated on about the death of democracy.
After I had already published my own apocalyptic predictions, I read a piece by veteran Democrat strategist Maria Cardona on the widely respected RealClearPolitics site that almost made me want to hit unsend.
In a piece titled “Democrats Should Be Optimistic. Here’s Why” Cardona wrote: “Contrary to what we hear from commentators and reporters who have not been out on the campaign trail, Democrats are talking about the economy and how disastrous it would be for Social Security, Medicare, jobs, prescriptions drugs, and student loan forgiveness if Republicans take over.”
In other words, while the big marquee messaging by Biden and others about the end of the great republic may not have been cutting through, local Democrats were doing it for themselves by talking about bread and butter issues.
This uncannily accurate pre-poll prediction seems to me the most rational explanation for the Democrats’ extraordinary defensive bulwark. The excruciating embarrassment of Joe Biden and John Fetterman’s televised set pieces was being offset by the Dems’ legendary ground game.
But none of this gets Trump off the hook.
Another clear factor in the Wave That Wasn’t is that Americans want to see the back of Trump, even if Republicans can’t get enough of him. And this is the great Catch-22 the Grand Old Party faces: You can’t get preselected without Trump’s endorsement but you can’t get elected with it.
This was not only the curse many Trump endorsees faced but the problem that the Republicans as a whole suffered from the sideshow of Trump’s 2024 intentions. It is not difficult to imagine many moderate Republicans or Independent voters holding their nose while voting “D” or simply staying at home in an effort to keep the big guy out of the ball pit.
I have never been one to jump on the Trump-hate bandwagon but the fact is that faced with Trumpian candidates and the prospect of a Trump comeback middle America effectively decided it preferred a guy who talks to pot plants. And no amount of Trumpist spin can change that.
The former president needed a Big Red Wave to wash away his sins in fuelling the January 2021 uprising — in politics victory is its own absolution — and he simply didn’t get it. It was his only shot in the locker and it misfired.
I say this with neither glee nor sorrow, merely as an absolute political fact. The Donald’s goose is cooked. Republicans can take comfort that this means Ron DeSantis is much more likely to win the nomination and subsequent election in 2024 and Democrats can take comfort that the man who triggered their sensitive souls won’t be back in the White House in this lifetime and is unlikely to make it to the next.
So Rest in Peace, Donald J Trump, it’s been a wild ride but it looks like the world is ready to return to normality again. And as much as it’s been fun, sooner or later all parties have to come to an end.