So let’s be a little sceptical of President Donald Trump’s assertion that this week’s midterm elections were “a tremendous victory”. Tightening one’s hold on the Senate but losing control of the House of Representatives and shedding governorships in key states is at best a draw.
Democrats talking of their “historic victory” is similar hyperbole. Winning back not quite half as many House seats as were lost in Barack Obama’s midterm elections, after all that optimism and media hype, is a psychological blow.
That the Democrats were so gung-ho beforehand is understandable. Midterms are traditionally an opportunity for voters to give the incumbent a chastening wake-up call.
Trump is a racist misogynist. Many within the Republican establishment are anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-semitic. That’s a lot of voting blocs to lose.
Then there are the demographics. The Republican base is less affluent, rural or urban blue-collar voters. The Democratic base is more affluent, well educated, and suburban.
All the Democrats needed was a coalition of those naturally antipathetic towards Trump and get them to the polling booths.
Substantially outspend the Republicans. Rely on a mainstream media and an influential entertainment industry, both of which are unabashedly, stridently and virtually uniformly anti-Trump.
The results would be a “blue wave” tsunami, the Democrats thought. As we now know, it wasn’t.
The post-mortem of the mediocre Democrat performance undoubtedly will throw up a dozen immediate causes. They should also consider an underlying disease that weakens their body politic.
If the Democrats are going to thwart Trump in 2020, they are going to have to - to start with - stop thinking that they have a God-given patent on the truth. There is an odious, sneering self-righteousness in the Democratic Party, as well as its many claquers in the media, that is ultimately counter-productive to their cause.
It is encapsulated in the rage with which Democrats respond to “their” natural supporters not voting for them. For example, as in 2016 when white women “failed” in their apparent duty to vote for the female candidate, white women are now again being excoriated as “gender traitors” for not turning out for Democrat candidates in large enough numbers.
At least two Republican gubernatorial wins, as well as Ted Cruz’s Senate win in Texas, were due to the majority support of white women.
The Women’s March admonished them: “There’s a lot of work to do, white women,” it said patronisingly.
Such arrogant rhetoric from people who see themselves as the “progressive” movement and talk about “resistance” - as if their opponents had seized power in a military coup - is as inherently anti-democratic as is the rabid intolerance of the alt-right.
Trump is undoubtedly in for a rough ride over the next two years. There will be a renewed vigour for the probe into Russian meddling in 2016; he will face tax investigations, impeachment moves and having the budgets of pet projects stalled.
However, Trump comes out of the mid-terms marginally stronger. His rallies were well attended and clearly gave Republican candidates an edge in some key battlegrounds.
The GOP waverers, once distant from him, have been forced to hitch their wagons to his.
In contrast, the Democrats have a growing divide between the young radicals who flooded into the party after 2016 and an old guard with a considerably more centrist agenda. If this left-wing gains ascendancy, the Democrats may, because of the quirks of a presidential electoral college based not only on numbers but on geography, find their task more difficult in 2020 than it was in 2016.
Let’s imagine Trump learns something and becomes a little less confrontational and a little more centrist.
Let’s imagine he faces a Democrat with Bernie Saunders’s politics, Hillary Clinton’s smugness, and ticks the minority boxes necessary for media adulation.
Hmmm. Much though it pains me to admit, my money would be on Trump.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.