The fall of the Republican old guard

The conventional view on this development is that it’s straight-up bad omens all around for the Republicans, a party riding out a rolling identity crisis over the future of Trump. It’s standard fare for incumbents to lose and lose big in the midterm elections, and no one knows this better than President Joe Biden, who served as principal lieutenant to Obama in 2010 and was in his third decade of senatorial service when President Bill Clinton was walloped in 1994. But Democrats and their allies are feeling hopeful they can buck the trend. Biden is and will be the beneficiary of potentially considerable headwinds: He experiences personal approval far in excess of his own party; the U.S. vaccine rollout is uneven right now but in process; and his lo-fi approach in the White House is, for many Americans, a welcome change in tone.

But from California, to the Midwest, to Virginia, a budding new generation of Republicans see things much differently, buoyed by Trump’s stunning, record performance with minorities in 2020, despite (or because of?) restrictive immigration policies, and despite a presidential term marred by ubiquitous accusations of racism. Because despite a once-in-a-century pandemic, despite his rowdy approach, he almost pulled it off. While Trump plainly embarrassed himself with a vainglorious, disorganized attempt to reverse the election results, and then played his part in embroiling the nation in additional tragedy, moving forward, President Biden may be popular but the Democrats are not. And it is the Democrats on the ballot in 2021 and 2022, starting with the possible gubernatorial recall election in the Golden State (California deadline is next week) and, for Republicans, the tantalizing prospect of recapturing the governor’s mansion in Virginia.