It would seem that Jennifer Brooks has now joined the long list of scolding Democratic journalists who want to shame or frighten Republicans into believing that this past election is a repudiation of the path the Republican Party has been on since President Donald Trump was elected (“GOP must learn from past, look to future,” Dec. 6).
To that end, Brooks invoked the bitter (for Republicans) memory of Richard Nixon, the “disgraced President” and suggested a parallel with Trump’s defeat. Then, in the name of reviewing history, she ignores the history to make her point, which is that Republicans should join Democrats in making Trump stop his current “rage against the machine” or risk the consequences, whatever those might be.
The lesson of the history Brooks invokes, though, is very different from what she suggests.
To begin with, those of us involved in Republican politics in the 1970s will never forget the brutally punishing electoral consequences of Watergate at all levels, state and federal. Even though Republican support of impeachment was a crucial element in bringing about Nixon’s resignation, voters pushed Republicans into the deepest minorities they had ever experienced in federal and state governments, including here in Minnesota. Not since the end of the Civil War or the Depression had voters so punished a political party at all levels.
Nothing of the sort has happened this year.
Brooks wants to apply the brutal consequences of the post-Watergate elections to the “stinging defeat” suffered by Republicans in this election and what she views as culpable silence in not trying to tamp down Trump’s current antics.
To begin with, as has already been noted by others in the Star Tribune, the loss of the presidency was the only dark note in an otherwise very good election for Republicans last month. This is very different from what was seen in 1974.
It appears that Republican prospects in Georgia make it probable that the Senate, notwithstanding hundreds of millions of dollars spent to unseat the Republican majority, will remain in Republican hands. Moreover, in the House, where Nancy Pelosi and others were widely predicting a pickup of 20 to 30 seats, Republicans succeeded in flipping enough Democratic seats to leave Democrats with a razor-thin margin of only 10 in that body and an odds-on likelihood that Republicans will take the House back in two years.
It is likely to be extremely difficult for Pelosi to shepherd those numbers toward any kind of effective majority on major issues with the same highly partisan tactics she has used in the past.
Down ballot, Republicans picked up governorships, as well as a substantial number of legislative races. Democrats, confident of a blue wave, spent hundreds of millions of dollars all over the country to flip legislative bodies in an important redistricting year. They didn’t succeed even once.
Here in Minnesota, for example, millions were spent to flip the Senate. The effort failed. And in the House, the DFL majority also shrank so significantly that Minnesota Speaker Melissa Hortman is in the same predicament as her federal counterpart, Pelosi.
Overall, Republican confidence has been bolstered by the fact that these gains came in the face of a record turnout where Joe Biden won more votes for president than anyone else in history. Normally, experience shows that such high turnouts are toxic to overall Republican chances. Not so this year.
Trump garnered far more votes than he or anyone else ever had until Biden this year. A loss, yes, but hardly a punishing one, particularly in light of the positive collateral consequences for Republicans everywhere else. Not a Watergate-type repudiation, but exactly the opposite: an affirmation.
Many of us in the Republican Party who disagreed with Trump on any number of issues or, more commonly, were annoyed at his tweeting antics and insensitive comments, are nevertheless appreciative of the strength we are currently seeing in the party after his term of office. While I don’t particularly like his current antics, in particular his ongoing assertions of fraud where there clearly is none, our country’s robust election system has proved itself again and has certainly faced far worse.
The issue of how to deal with the surge of absentee voting can now be dealt with where the Constitution places the responsibility: in the hands of the (mostly Republican) legislatures. If there is a historical lesson to be learned here, it should be the Democrats and their apologists like Brooks who need to get over their Trump fixation and to learn and understand how a country that awarded their candidate the presidency, so thoroughly rejected them virtually everywhere else.
Frederic W. “Fritz” Knaak is an attorney in North Oaks.