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This morning, I experienced a blitzkrieg of phone calls, text messages, and emails from friends and colleagues, all eager to unload their frustrations after the Georgia Senate disaster of Tuesday night.
“That’s it,” said one friend of mine, “game over. The republic is lost.”
“We’re never going to recover from this,” said another.
“America is done,” said still another, “they’re going to pack the Supreme Court, pass a Green New Deal, change our elections and shut down free speech.”
The commentaries went on and on, but one thing unified virtually everyone who contacted me: they felt that with the losses in Georgia, the Democrats had won some kind of permanent war, and that it was no longer productive to even bother caring about a future that was bleak and miserable.
If you are a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy and you feel like this, I certainly don’t blame you. What happened in Georgia was demoralizing and depressing, and the prospect of Chuck Schumer being majority leader and Joe Biden being able to potentially get some (some) of his legislative agenda through fills me with dread and sadness. I don’t want these people to be in charge any more than you do.
Moreover, when you live your life being constantly told by academia, the media, and virtually every entertainment platform that you are wrong, you are mean, you are stupid, and that your values are backwards, it can be doubly exhausting when a loss like this occurs. I get it.
But with due respect, snap the hell out of it.
Think back to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and remember what happened to the Democratic Party immediately afterward. They didn’t slump into a ball of self-loathing and depression, they got themselves fired up for action. They held marches and protests almost immediately. They canvassed. They fundraised. They founded the supposed “Resistance” and pledged to eternally fight against all things related to the orange man.
In short, they picked themselves up off the floor, got mad and got to work.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Republicans replicate the behavior of the left after Trump won the election of 2016. It is, rather, a source of pride in me that the right does not throw the same kind of temper tantrums that the left does. Throwing hissy fits, saying your opponent isn’t your president, and cloaking yourself in revolutionary (borderline seditious) behavior is not ever something I want to see us do just because the other guy’s in charge.
But what Republicans should perhaps learn from and emulate is the general attitude of the left about activism.
To the left, there is no such thing as the “offseason” in politics. There is no clinical political depression, or self-pity. When they lose, it becomes a motivator for getting more involved, and ensuring that the misery of that loss is not repeated again.
The political winds are always changing, my friends. There is no such thing as a permanent victory. When Franklin Roosevelt won four elections in a row, followed by Harry Truman winning the next term, it was probably a pretty difficult time to see the light if you were a Republican. And yet the Republicans would go on to win eight out of the next 14 elections.
When Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, Democrats swept Congress and then Jimmy Carter was elected, it must have felt pretty depressing to be in the GOP. Yet four years later, the country was given Ronald Reagan.
Speaking of Reagan, in 1984 Reagan so thoroughly destroyed the Democratic Party that he won 49 states. His Vice President George H.W. Bush followed that up in 1988 with yet another landslide victory against Michael Dukakis. At that time, it probably felt pretty lonely being a Democrat. And yet in 1992 Bill Clinton won his first of two terms, and the Democrats again swept Congress.
George W. Bush won a hotly contested re-election in 2004, and added to his House and Senate majority, giving him a comfortable legislative cushion for his agenda. At that time in a post Sept.11 world, it felt like everyone was a Republican. It was only two years later that Nancy Pelosi became House speaker, and four years later that Barack Obama won the presidency.
And of course, after the Obama years, it was a dark time for the right. Yet in 2016, Trump shocked the world and won the White House.
My point? Get off the ledge, my friends. The pendulum swings. Pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.