You would have thought that after the more than $16 billion in campaign spending, the $4 billion in internet advertising and the zillion speeches about the midterm congressional elections, the political class would give it a rest for a while. You would be wrong.
Let the recriminations begin. Let the next presidential campaign begin.
Let the divisions widen.
Actually, all those things already have happened. Send the children into hiding.
The polls had hardly closed when the fights began over election fairness. The results had hardly started pouring in when the commentators transformed their tentative predictions to ardent analyses. The candidates had hardly declared victory in their 2022 races when their focus turned to reelection. The losing candidates had hardly offered their concessions when the consultants and pollsters began blaming each other for their failures.
The permanent campaign, indeed.
And now, in a day or so, the contours of the 2024 presidential election will begin to take shape.
Not that anyone lusts for this. Indeed, of the 332,403,650 people who live in this benighted land, only two people want this. But Donald Trump, never far from the next newscast or social media blast, is about to announce his candidacy to retake the White House. Joe Biden, who says he relishes a rematch but who would profit from taking a breather, already has said he intends to run in 2024. At least the two could have waited until after Thanksgiving. Then again, I saw Christmas decorations being hung on a house in my neighborhood the other morning.
So into the acid bath of politics we plunge again.
We may have ever-shortening attention spans, but there are ever-growing demands for our attention. (Attention Ph.D. candidates: There’s a thesis in this.)
It pleases no one that the Georgia Senate race, which has produced drama — abortion claims and denials, family feuds, questions about the suitability for the Senate of a running back who first mesmerized the state with his initial touchdown, against Tennessee, 42 years ago — will go into overtime.
We thought this ghastly election would end Nov. 8. Instead it will stretch to Dec. 6 — a lifetime in politics, to adapt a familiar phrase. Breathes there a soul who wants to hear another word about the running back (Herschel Walker) and the reverend (Raphael Warnock)?
And yet a nation now turns its weary eyes to Georgia.
Tune in to the 6 p.m. news and you’ll see bloodshed, fires and car crashes. Tune in to C-SPAN and the scene might look no different, though the principals will be better dressed. That’s because, with apologies to T.S. Eliot, April no longer is the cruelest month. November is.
Already exaggerated Republican claims are flying like feathers from a down pillow split at the seams: We are the future. We now are the natural party of governance. Taxes and spending will be cut, coal will be restored to its proper place in the energy kingdom, Obamacare is on oxygen, abortion is a dead letter, the president will be impeached, his son is heading to the Federal Correction Complex in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.
Already the Democratic accusations are being tossed like beanbags — actually, like grenades — at a backyard garden party: Even though the party did far better than expected — no red wave, hardly a red rivulet — there remain worries that there was no cogent argument for progressivism, not enough emphasis on job creation and infrastructure improvements, that the party’s pitch remains too moderate, or maybe it remains too leftist.
The only sane remark issuing from the political class in the last fortnight came from the Sununu family of New Hampshire, which quietly has created a formidable dynasty — 10 years as governor, six in the House, six in the Senate, two as White House chief of staff. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” two days before the election, Gov. Chris Sununu pronounced Trump’s pending presidential announcement “a terrible idea.” “Announcing you’re going to run for office between an election and Christmas is a terrible idea. Because one thing I can say for America is, we’re all going to be really happy one way or the other that the election is over come Tuesday. And everyone’s going to want to take a breath and reengage with their families and deal with some really serious issues.”
Hooray for him. Maybe he should be president. Actually, maybe he will run, though it would spoil the New Hampshire primary. He won reelection Tuesday with 57% of the vote. I’m not sure Trump wants to compete in a first-in-the-nation primary against that guy.
But don’t be too sure that no one wants to compete against Trump, who perhaps had his hardest day since the 2020 election. He and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are conducting a range war where the governor, with his hefty victory Tuesday, may have gained the upper hand. That warms the hearts of Democrats, who for a while may enjoy the former president’s “De-Sanctimonious” crack but who may live to regret the ascendancy of DeSantis.
Did you notice that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted in support of DeSantis the very day that Trump unloaded his newest nickname? (Also: Did you notice that Pompeo was in New Hampshire in September? He just happened to be in the area to speak at the Hillsborough County GOP fundraising dinner. Remember who was last year’s speaker? Why, it was former Vice President Mike Pence!)
But let’s not let the Democrats off the hook. Just last week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who might have won the New Hampshire primary in 2020 if she had had an extra week to campaign, was in the state. Also there — what a coincidence! — was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the onetime mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who came within 1.1 percentage points of winning the New Hampshire primary in 2020. They’ll almost certainly be back before pitchers and catchers report for spring training in February in Arizona, which, along with Pennsylvania, rapidly is emerging as the new battleground of American politics.
But there actually is some sensible political rhetoric coming out of New Hampshire. Those who heard the Rev. Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, speak there the other day are still talking about his remarks. He urged his audience to vote — and then to have a conversation with someone from the opposite party. It would do them some good, and it would do the country good, too. From his lips to God’s ears.
David M. Shribman is the former executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.