By MARK SOUDER
FORT WAYNE – Every election results in individual and categorical winners and losers that impact the longer-term future of politics. Here are a few of my selections.
Indiana winner: The Pence/Coats establishment. It directed the quasi-slating of the victorious state ticket: Todd Young for Senate, in part by moving Eric Holcomb out and into position to become governor; Suzanne Crouch as lieutenant governor; Curtis Hill as attorney general; and Jennifer McCormick as superintendent of education. In political years, especially by Indiana standards, they are “fresh faces” ready to ready to rejuvenate the brand.
Indiana loser: An exhausted Democrat re-tread brand. Evan Bayh is one of the most decent men to represent our state, but coming back after clearly moving to Washington and becoming Big Bucks Bayh was a huge mistake, and his biggest mistake was trying to deny those changes. John Gregg had a detailed list of what he wanted to accomplish, and is generally considered “affable” when not nuking his opponents. The problem is that Gregg’s solutions, and Bayh’s, were the same liberal re-tread ideas that Hoosiers had passed up long ago. Superintendent Ritz no longer had Superintendent Bennett to kick around. In fact, the Democrats really missed Richard Mourdock as well. They were hoping Trump would drag down the ticket. At some point, the Democrats will have to develop a strategy that appeals to Hoosiers, and not just try to scare them.
National winner: The Congressional GOP. For a year of “draining the swamp” there was very little water seepage. From the earliest primaries until election day, 80-year-old incumbent Republican senators were clobbering outsider rivals. For a number of election cycles we have been hearing Republican victories being attributed to a grassroots rebellion, then to a desire to maintain the status quo, then – repeat. At some point, since Republicans have been prevailing in both the House and Senate, there needs to be an acknowledgement that voters prefer conservative Republican policies and tend to prefer the incumbents over the opposition. Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endure a lot of abuse but are positioned rather well; they expressed their concerns about President-elect Trump but did not totally abandon him. They control the legislative branch to the degree that it can be controlled. President Trump will now be heavily dependent upon senators he personally attacked, including John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and many others.
National loser: See Indiana reference, insert “Pelosi” and “Clinton.” Reelecting Nancy Pelosi minority leader would not help the re-tread image. Nor would making Joe Biden head of the Democrat National Committee. New Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, because he is so much more media savvy, is a short-term bridge to the new radical, more socialist wing of the Democrat Party.
National winner: President Barack Obama. Donald Trump did what the President, his policies and the Democrats could not do; they pushed Obama to over 50% popularity. The President (and his family) were also what conservatives had always thought Bill Cosby was, a real-life example of an American dad (and family) that happened to be African-American and a role model that success in American can come regardless of your background. Furthermore, in the critical first week after the Trump victory, the President stood nearly alone among national Democrats as a towering reminder of the importance of a smooth transition of power, this with a man who had questioned his citizenship.
National winner: Bernie Sanders and the Socialist wing of the Democrats. Elizabeth Warren is set up to be the new Bernie. The general feeling in the left wing of the Democrat Party is that Bernie would have defeated Trump if he hadn’t been cheated out of the nomination. This faction will be almost as important to Republicans as Democrats. “Socialists” will replace “Clinton” as the new voter mobilization word. Selecting leftist, Muslim-American Congressman Keith Ellison would cement that socialist trend, with the goal of also highlighting not just white liberal socialists from the East Coast. The question is this: After years of calling every liberal a “socialist” will it work as a scare word when faced with the real thing (though actually American socialist politicians are sort of “socialism lite.”)
National loser: Evangelical conservatism as a political movement. The political evangelical movement is now deeply divided. Many, many church leaders were shocked that so many Christian leaders not only voted for Trump, but defended him. They will likely step back from direct politics for the foreseeable future stressing religion, not politics. Evangelical Mike Pence as vice president is emerging as a likely power in critical administration staffing and policy decisions, but the evangelical political dominance within the Republican Party has been destroyed. Donald Trump buried the issues related to gay marriage. Not that many years ago Dr. James Dobson was blasting gambling. This election he was pushing a casino man for president. Jerry Falwell and others who backed Trump seemed morally lost. “Success” trumped character. Abortion is the last moral issue standing, in part because it was not identified as primarily evangelical.
National losers: Small government conservatives. Donald Trump the nationalist is more statist than any of the Bush family. To be honest, I am more like Trump on certain economic issues (i.e. trade, business support) that resulted in me getting primary opponents every election but, compared to Trump, I’m a libertarian.
Media Winners: Brian Howey, Megyn Kelly, Jeffrey Lloyd, Chris Wallace, and especially social media.
Media Losers: The Big Three TV networks, Fox News, pollsters, the top 100 daily newspapers (only the Las Vegas Review Journal endorsed Trump and he lost that state).
Biggest media winner: Brad Parscale. His media coverage will explode, just as it did about the Obama digital world advances. He ran Trump’s alternative strategy of messaging. His firm in San Antonio had proven success in brand management. He demonstrated it could translate to politics. Check out the article in Wired magazine.
Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.