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GOP lesson from Virginia: Hillary had a LOT to do with your 2016 victory, so you'd better start succeeding - now.
Are you listening?
You've seen the headlines. Last night, in Virginia, Republicans were (to quote a certain former President) "shellacked." I'm not going to get into who lost or how bad the loss was. Suffice it to say that it goes deeper than "Gillespe blew it." The defeat stretched all the way down the ballot, while voter patterns and turnout offer some troubling signs for future elections. That information is all over the web, contained in any one of a thousand articles. If you want number-crunching, it's out there. I'd rather talk about the bigger picture, and the lesson the GOP must learn if it's going to avoid 2018 and 2020 meltdowns.
First, Republicans - Trump voters in particular - had better acknowledge that Hillary Clinton had a lot to do with Trump's victory.
For many on the right - myself included - voting Republican in 2016 was a noxious experience. Here was a party that had failed, spectacularly, for two decades. Almost without exception, it had broken its promises, refused to fight for its alleged principles, and chosen the path of least resistance over a full-throated defense of the Constitution. We wanted strict constructionists, we got McCain and Romney. We wanted border security and a solid anti-terrorism strategy, we got a quagmire based on non-existent WMDs. We wanted strong fighters, and we got the Bush dynasty.
Many of us were about ready to jump ship altogether. Then, the DNC primaries presented the world with two socialist candidates - one honest about their intentions and one not - both of whom were eager to shred various parts of the Constitution. The GOP offered a morally-dubious man who could stop both of them and who carried a list of strict constructionist Supreme Court nominees in his breast pocket. So, once again, we held our noses.
Many of us cast that ballot based on the inarguable fact that the fates of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 10th Amendments would be determined in the next four to eight years. So far, that bet has paid off. Gorsuch is on the bench and President Trump is poised to get one or two more bites at the SCOTUS apple. That's good news. ...But no one should mistake the reaction to Gorsuch for a massive display of confidence in the President, or in the Republican party. They have total control of the government and, aside from that one win, they've done next to nothing with it legislatively.
In the 2018 midterms, the GOP will face an energized, angry, Democrat base. Unless things change radically, by next November, conservatives will have born witness to two full years of Republican inaction and failure. If you think voters will show up to support that, you're mad. Turnout will suffer, and Republicans will face a bloodbath.
In the 2020 presidential race, Republicans will no longer be able to run against Hillary. Judging by the reaction to Donna Brazile's memoir, Democrats have finally figured out that the Clintons are an anchor that's no longer worth dragging around. Their party may be struggling right now, but rest assured they'll find someone to replace their dead weight. I've previously argued that even a mildly competent Democrat (and no, that's not Bernie) could have beaten Donald Trump. The Dems' bench may be paper thin but, eventually, a figure will emerge and pick up their banner. If that person is even somewhat charismatic, Republicans will be facing a serious threat.
...And if recent history is any indication, they'll be facing it without any accomplishments to their name.
So, here's the lesson of Virginia: Republicans are out of time. They need big wins, big bragging rights, and they need them yesterday. Bickering and squabbling over their failure to repeal ObamaCare isn't going to do them any favors - and they absolutely have to nail tax reform. It can't be some GOP small-ball affair that might make things a little better for some of the middle class. It’s imperative that it be an unarguable, undeniable, win ...for everyone.
Trump sailed to victory thanks in large part to - as Michael Moore once said - voters who wanted to give a massive "F.U." to the political establishment. The problem is that if the middle finger they sent to Washington fails to get results, or is ignored by the party they put in power, it won't happen again. They'll walk away, and all those states that Trump managed to flip will instantly revert to their former shade of blue.
The GOP needs to deliver something amazing, and it needs to do so immediately.
The more they dawdle, the more they fail, the more they doom themselves.