Those of us old enough to remember when television was dominated by just three networks can remember as well the opening sequence of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” promising to chronicle “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

All through this bizarre and bitter election cycle, it has been occurring to me that the most likely outcome for our country is one people might not have recognized in those olden days — “the agony of victory,” a win which contains the seeds of a greater loss ahead.

I think it is almost certain that the Nov. 8, 2022 elections will in fact be remembered as a “red wave,” with the GOP, now Trumpified from top to bottom, capturing the House of Representatives, most likely the Senate, and a number of key governorships (though, thankfully, not in Pennsylvania. More on that later.) Win or not, Republicans will also come very close to winning governorships in deeply blue states like New York and Oregon as well.

READ MORE — Craig Snyder: What a shame

Whether or not the Republicans do take the Senate, new senators in the GOP caucus, like Herschel Walker and J.D. Vance, will make the pro-McConnell caucus in power during the Trump administration seem like a bunch of enlightened statesmen.

As everyone reading a site like this no doubt knows, it’s hardly going out on a limb to predict substantial losses for the president’s party in a midterm year, especially not when the president has an approval rating as low as President Biden does. It’s actually historically the norm.

Still, in the hugely volatile politics of our country in the last generation, these midterm turnovers have gotten bigger and more regular than the longer-term historical average. We’ve had true “wave” elections, with the voters sending a strong message of disapproval of the party in power, in 1994, 2006, 2010, 2018, and, I believe, during the 2022 elections.

Decisively large groups of American voters simply don’t like the two choices they have and don’t like the performance of either of our two parties in office, so they keep flip-flopping between them.

So the results I anticipate this year are really no surprise, but that doesn’t mean these results aren’t far more consequential than I think the deciding voters fully understand.

Likewise, the reasons these voters are deciding the way they are — in favor of the GOP — remains bizarrely and dangerously mysterious to many Democrats.

A couple days ago, a dear friend of mine — someone who was raised in a progressive home in Philadelphia and has been living and working in Hollywood for decades — called me in his usual state of desperate confusion about how the country is about to give so much new power to the MAGAs. 

“What the hell is wrong with these people?” he said. “Even if they disagree with the Libs on most things, can’t they see the threat to democracy these election-denying, coup-supporting loonies pose?”

“John,” I said, “have you been to a CVS lately?” (The fact I correctly assumed that his CVS experience in Los Angeles is basically the same as mine in Philadelphia speaks volumes.)

“Did you go with a list of stuff you needed, deodorant and shampoo perhaps, only to find…

  • Half the shelves were empty, like a scene from a disaster movie. The brands you have always bought weren’t in stock.
  • The substitute products you decided to buy were locked behind glass. You had to wait for an overworked and understandably annoyed employee to escort you to the separate aisles and unlock the cases in which your fallback items were secured — because apparently, the United States has decided to pay reparations for every national sin from 1619 until George Floyd in the form of a pass to anyone of any race who steals anything not locked up at the CVS.
  • Then, finally, you realized the two things you thought would cost $13 will actually be $27.”

“Yes,” said John, “that’s about right.” 

I said, “That’s reason number one the Republicans are going to win this election, bigly.”

Reason two is about violent crime and homelessness.

The average voter in a swing state like Pennsylvania isn’t an urbanite and many never step foot on the sidewalk of a big city. But they are also older, not digital natives and still watch the local news.

The local news brings the post-pandemic horrors of city life to the burbs, exurbs and even rural areas. It shows a degree of social disorder — shootings, carjackings, and people living and pooping on the streets — that is unimaginable and unacceptable to ordinary Americans. National conservative media, especially Fox, magnify these realities, like people pushed into oncoming subway trains, for many millions who will never ride a subway.

Reason three is about our schools. Typical parents in Pennsylvania and many other states across the country can’t decide if they are more angry about how long the Democrats kept schools closed and the kids masked, or more angry that when they finally reopened the schools, it seemed to be for the main purpose of teaching kids the latest racial and gender catechisms of the Left.

There you have it. There’s nothing “wrong” with these people. They are voting based on the observation that the party in power has either caused or at least been unable to stop an obvious and serious erosion of the quality of life in our country. While many of “these people” don’t want the Constitution abrogated by an American Caesar (as explicitly advocated now by the “thinkers” of the “National Greatness Conservative movement,”) they don’t see or feel that threat as clearly and immediately as these other pressing concerns.

But this is how we get the agony of victory.

The cancer of anti-democratic thought and action on the Right will, as of the final tallies in these elections, be given an enormous opportunity to grow between the 2022 elections and 2024, for reasons having nothing to do with the actual support of this fascistic agenda by perhaps a third of the population. The country may therefore face a reckoning just two years from now which could make its current state look like paradise by comparison.

Amidst all these legitimate reasons for despair, the decisive victory of Josh Shapiro over Doug Mastriano for Governor of Pennsylvania will be a bright light of hope.

Ever since Karl Rove first propounded this strategy, working to reelect George W. Bush as president in 2004, American politics has come more and more to be only about energizing a candidate/party’s base voters, rather than what had before been the historically normal way to try to win elections — by forming coalitions of different kinds of voters, often with different opinions on various issues.

The Shapiro campaign, as far as I know, made more of an effort — a very successful effort — to run on behalf of a coalition, representing a large majority of the voters, than any campaign in the nation.

Josh Shapiro didn’t run away from the progressive base of the modern Democratic Party, but he was in no way owned by it. He sought and welcomed voters of different ideological perspectives and demographics.

That model is the only way to break down the blue versus red struggle in our country before it becomes something more like the blue versus gray struggle of the Civil War — before the thrill many will feel having sent this message to the Left turns to agony for Left, Right and Center alike.

Craig Snyder, former Chief of Staff to Senator Arlen Specter, was a GOP Senate candidate and directed Republicans For Shapiro during this election cycle.

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