Optimism? Why?

Daniel Henninger:

Pessimism is to conservative politics what pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving: It’s always on the table. Not long ago about this time of year, liberals would post articles with titles such as, “How to talk to your Uncle Jim at Thanksgiving.” Those pieces had one valid premise—that Uncle Jim would say over his turkey that the world is going to hell, yet again. And on the evidence around some tables, Uncle Jim was right.

In that grumbling spirit, let many of us who are to the right of the 2020 edition of Joe Biden admit that in the runup to the election, we thought a left-wing idiocracy was about to sweep into power. More than a few arch-pessimists believed the curtain was finally falling on Ben Franklin’s warning that the U.S. is “a republic, if you can keep it.”

At the risk of arousing the dark side, we are here to posit that the 2020 election results are reason for optimism. (For those who disallow optimism on principle, the diminished election expectations of the Democratic left offer the consolation of schadenfreude.)

Let me count the ways.

Some thought the Senate next year might have a Democratic majority of 54-46, a wipeout. You knew something was up election night when Maine’s “vulnerable” Susan Collins wasn’t swept into the Atlantic. Then Iowa’s Joni Ernst won, as did North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. It will take Republican (or presidential) malfeasance to lose the Senate deciders in Georgia Jan. 5.

After the Democrats rolled up House seats in the 2018 midterms, they expected to ride an anti-Trump wave to a bigger majority. But their majority narrowed, and the tides of history look likely in 2022 to push Nancy Pelosi into retirement. Two years into Barack Obama’s first term, the Democrats lost 63 House seats. They shed 54 seats in Bill Clinton’s first midterms. By all means, the Democrats should push BidenCare.

Mrs. Pelosi has explained away the Republican House gains as the result of President Trump at the top of the ticket. A more fine-grained explanation would look at intriguing efforts such as New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik’s E-PAC project to recruit Republican women this year.


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