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2023 Blue Wave Takeaways

by David Silverberg

It wasn’t a tsunami but the wave of election victories for Democrats and abortion rights supporters that occurred last night, Tuesday, Nov. 7, certainly hit Florida’s shore with more force than the usual off-year ripple.

The two biggest implications: first, Trumpist, Make America Great Again (MAGA) extremism is not a winning approach in the rest of the country and may not fly in Florida in 2024. Secondly, abortion is a YUUUGGGGE issue and may just rock the Sunshine State next November as well.

Until now Republican primary candidates, presidential and otherwise, have been playing to the extreme Trumpist wing of the Party. But after last night, Republican candidates—in Florida and elsewhere—should be wondering if they’ll be able to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and make the full electorate forget the nastiness, brutishness and extremism they espoused to get their nominations.

A Democratic night

It was a great night for Democrats. In otherwise conservative Republican Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) won re-election with 52 percent of the vote. In Virginia, Democrats took both the state House and Senate. In Ohio, abortion rights supporters won on Issue 1 with 57 percent of the vote.

In Mississippi a Republican governor did hang on. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) kept his seat with 52 percent of the vote.

Florida had no major elections but in a telling vote for Southwest Florida, two Democratically-endorsed candidates for Venice city council unseated incumbents.

Joan Farrell and Ron Smith were both elected to non-partisan seats.

In Punta Gorda, city council incumbent Mark Kuharski was defeated by Deborah Lux, who had the Republican Party endorsement.

Largely overshadowed by the gubernatorial and legislative races was the widespread repudiation of extreme Moms for Liberty (MFL) efforts to dominate local school boards. As reported by The Daily Beast website, MFL-endorsed candidates were defeated in school board races in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina. Only in Alaska did a MFL-endorsed school board candidate succeed.

2024 implications

While these results need to be taken in their immediate context it’s almost impossible not to think through their implications for the 2024 presidential race and the wildly contentious Republican nominating process.

On a national level, it would seem that despite all the denigration and disparagement of President Joe Biden by Republican politicians, to the degree that he influenced local races at all, his performance and positions boosted rather than detracted from Democratic efforts.

A major Republican presidential primary debate will be taking place tonight in Miami and it will be interesting to see how the five candidates adjust their pitches in light of yesterday’s results.

Until now, the entire momentum among the Republican contenders has been to keep trending more extreme, more outlandish and more radical to appeal to ever-more rabid MAGAs. This may have hit a nadir when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) promised in August to “start slitting throats on Day 1” of federal public servants if he became president. However, one never knows how much lower he and the others may go. There may be new depths to be plumbed.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump will, as is his habit, be skipping the debate to hold a rally and harangue in Hialeah.

(Actually, from a purely political perspective it’s not a foolish move: Hialeah is home to a large population of Venezuelan-Americans. It makes sense to speak there to continue his inroads into the Hispanic population and specifically pitch victims and refugees from Venezuelan oppression—although it’s at odds with his well-known hatred of asylum-seekers and immigrants, whom he equates with snakes. It will be interesting to see how—or if—Hialeahans reconcile the dissonance.)

More than defining the likely outcome of that election, last night’s results highlight the challenges to each party, its leaders and its adherents for the next 362 days until the 2024 election. Both sides have work to do.

Democrats have to maintain their momentum, build their base and get more of their partisans registered and to the polls. Biden has to guide the country through two wars, economic challenges, potential party fragmentation, coalition weakening and promote a sense of strong and capable personal leadership.

Republicans have to somehow sell the broad American public a likely Trump nomination regardless of his indictments and even convictions. They cannot abandon their clearly unpopular anti-abortion stance. The party’s fanatical MAGAism and policy positions are marginal and becoming even more extreme as time goes on. As evidenced by the chaos in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, they have shown an inability to govern when in power. They will bear the burden of blame if they fail to keep the government open when current funding expires. They are isolationist in foreign policy except when it comes to Israel and would abandon Ukraine to Russian conquest. They host a significant faction that would demolish the wall of separation between church and state.

All that is a tough sell. As last night’s results show, so far the American public isn’t buying it.

At this point in time it’s almost impossible to calculate how it will all play out in Southwest Florida. As deeply conservative and Trumpist as the region is, as far as it is from the federal government and national considerations, traditional Republicans and non-party affiliated voters, whether of recent arrival or longtime residency, seem increasingly disillusioned with the MAGA program, as evidenced in the Venice election results.

The biggest, baddest issue hasn’t even come into play yet: whether the United States will remain a democracy. Without a doubt, a second Trump presidency will mean a dictatorship that dissolves all checks and balances, allows one very unstable individual virtually unlimited power and potentially imposes a theocratic totalitarianism on a constitutional, secular nation.

Although Biden has long stated that he’s in a fight to save the soul of America, to date the issues and stakes haven’t been framed in clear and stark terms of freedom versus oppression. When they are—and they will—it could tip the electoral balance.

One truism that last night’s elections showed clearly: the only poll that matters is the one counted on election night.

The clock is ticking.

Special to Big Mouth Media from the Paradise Progressive. Originally published on November 8, 2023.

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