Not too long after the Republican party fell under the influence of Donald Trump, I’ve been hearing a voice in my head. It sounds a lot like Joseph Welch, the lawyer who confronted anti-communist Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Those hearings turned the tables on McCarthy and were the beginning of his downfall. Within the year, the opportunistic witch-hunter was censured by the U.S. Senate and his popularity plummeted.
The voice I’ve heard in my head since the rise of Trump says this: “Have you no common sense? At long last, have you left no common sense?” I could never truly understand how Republicans would anoint a man so callous, so disingenuous, so obviously self-serving, as their de facto leader. Surely the Svengali spell he cast over the party would be revealed at some point and his popularity would nosedive.
Perhaps that time has arrived. The so-called “red wave” never happened in last week’s election. What’s more, many of the Trump-backed candidates lost their races, and the current thorn in Trump’s side – Republican rival Ron DeSantis of Florida – won re-election in his state by nearly 20%.
Could it be that the Election of 2022 was the tipping point for Trump’s popularity, the time when Republicans would finally say, “Let’s drop the Donald like a bad habit”? Put another way, isn’t moving on from Trump just a matter of common sense?
Trump’s popularity since his ascension to the pinnacle of national politics in 2016 has certainly defied common sense. Even before the 2016 election, an alarming “hot-mic moment” surfaced: a video of Trump explaining that “when you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything…” As you might recall, that’s not the worst of the clip. Yet, his base was unmoved. They continued to support him. It defied common sense.
Among Trump’s most consistently supportive voters, in fact, are white Americans who regularly attend church, to the tune of 59% who voted for him in 2020. At the same time, Trump does not attend church, pray, tithe, or read the Bible on a regular basis. It defies common sense.
Here in Connecticut, the opportunity for Republicans to make inroads into the state’s key political positions seemed ripe. To that end, many GOP candidates tried to harness the national popularity of “MAGA,” a fact I outlined before the election. Given the state’s history of moderate conservatism, that strategy also defied common sense. Even so, several GOP candidates tried it.
In the middle of Election Day, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski sent out this tweet, accompanied by no evidence whatsoever:
If someone didn’t know any better, they might have thought the Trump camp itself designed this boastful and baseless proclamation. We all know how the race ended: Bob lost by more than 12 points and unlike The Donald, he even conceded the race – but not until “sleeping on it.”
None of the GOP candidates in Connecticut running for national office won. Leora Levy, a Trump-endorsed candidate, lost the U.S. Senate race to Dick Blumenthal by 13 points. George Logan, another GOP candidate, actually came closest to winning, but even he eventually lost by a slim 1,842 votes. Still, he actually conceded within hours of learning the result – not exactly a move one might expect from a candidate who had received the blessing of a Trump acolyte and election denier.
As my CT News Junkie colleague Terry Cowgill asked, will Connecticut’s GOP learn any lessons from these results? Will Republicans here return to their traditionally moderate ways? The state’s nickname, after all, is “The Land of Steady Habits,” another way to define “conservatism” itself. In short, adopting MAGA-style campaign tactics did not work for Connecticut’s Republican candidates, and now the national GOP is facing the same come-to-Jesus moment after an election that failed to produce a Trump-backed red wave.
It’s much too early to tell; anything is possible. But whatever does transpire, you can bet that Trump will stick to his own nonsensical methods. Said the former president before the election regarding the candidates he backed: “Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit, and if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”
Will people continue to support a man who says things like this? If they do, that voice in my head will remain: “At long last, have you left no common sense?”