Michael Moore got it wrong this time – just barely.
In 2016, the provocateur and filmmaker outwitted the preening pollsters and commentariat by insisting that Donald Trump would defeat the much-favoured Hillary Clinton in the United States presidential election.
At the time, Moore was on TV a lot warning that restive Americans were primed to reject the status quo and elect a rank celebrity. Moore’s urgent maydays were dismissed as the cockeyed musings of a contrarian rabble-rouser who should stick to making quirky documentaries rather than calling presidential elections.
They were wrong. He was right.
Six years later, in the weeks leading up to last night’s pivotal US midterm elections, Moore was writing and appearing on TV prodigiously again, saying that the pollsters and commentariat were wrong once more. This time, his charmed crystal ball saw a Democratic Party resurgence at a time when the establishment consensus was that a red Republican “wave” would wash over a tired, forlorn nation.
Turns out, both Moore and the establishment were mistaken: We appear to have a split decision.
Republicans are likely to take control of the House. But the predicted wave was more like a ripple – as the party seems poised to earn only a slim plurality. Meanwhile, Democrats – at this writing – appear likely to be able to ultimately retain their paper-slim control of the Senate. There’s a tiny possibility that they might even end up with a clear majority in that chamber if incumbent Raphael Warnock turns his narrow lead over Republican challenger Herschel Walker into a win, or if he beats Walker in a possible run-off in December.
Given these muddled results, Republicans are confronting a prickly question they hadn’t anticipated at the start of Election Day. If they were unable to produce the promised red “wave” while the incumbent’s approval ratings are lower than Nickelback’s, and as Americans face debilitating inflation, soaring mortgage rates and high gas prices, which political hack will take the proverbial fall?
In any event, TV pundits said in unison that the outcome reflected the “national narrative” – the cliché du jour – without bothering to explain to their befuddled viewers, including me, what that means. Nor did they address who helped establish and drive that narrative.
The “national narrative” isn’t the only thing that’s unclear, though. The results also represent a confusing verdict on the Republican Party.
More than a few of the new Republican House members are frothing MAGA acolytes who share the same lunatic lies and delusions that their dear, beloved leader clings to like a colicky child sucks on a pacifier.
They will now join the other rabid reactionaries in the Republican caucus who will make it their priority not to help govern a frayed republic, but to impeach a president as a grovelling act of gratitude and fidelity to Trump.
Despite suggestions that his influence is waning, Trump remains the signature force within the Republican Party that has embraced fascism as its governing principle at the expense of a constitution that it still, laughably, swears allegiance to.
Bitter and vengeful, Trump will expect House Republicans to channel his malice and abiding desire for retribution and do what Democrats did to him – twice.
Republicans will seize any indictment of Trump as a pretext to claim that President Joe Biden has “politicised” the FBI and justice department to possibly imprison and silence – as if that were even remotely possible – a former president and potential Oval Office challenger.
This, they will cry, warrants Biden’s impeachment. It is, of course, a lie. The motive is as pedestrian as Trump himself: to try to even the score.
Then, the lord – pun intended – of the Mar-a-Lago resort will do what he most enjoys: watch TV, with cheeseburgers and Diet Cokes at ready hand, as the impeachment “proceedings” drag on like re-runs of The Apprentice.
Be prepared, as well, to watch as Republicans use their House majority to launch recycled “investigations” into Biden’s son Hunter’s laptop, Hillary Clinton’s emails and quite possibly whether John F Kennedy Jr is still alive and intends to reappear in Dealey Plaza to greet his evangelical QAnon admirers.
Yet last night’s results could also trigger trouble for Trump. Despite reclaiming the House, the GOP lost many races where its candidates were Trump picks who have parroted his litany of lies. Among them are Doug Mastriano, who lost the Pennsylvania governor race to Democrat Josh Shapiro; and Mehmet Oz, the slimy quack doctor and — like Trump — a TV celebrity, who lost to stroke survivor John Fetterman in a Pennsylvania senate race. Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Arizona gubernatorial candidate, and Lauren Boebert, one of the former president’s most loyal supporters in Congress, were also trailing in tight races late on Tuesday night.
Florida’s governor, Ron “dehumanised” Desantis’ persuasive victory may be sowing a smidgen of doubt in Trump’s tiny mind about the challenge he might face for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination come 2024.
On the advice of Monty Python, I’m going to end this column by looking on the bright side of life.
Enlightened Americans turned out to vote yesterday just as Michael Moore said they would. In their wisdom, they elected Maura Healey, the first woman and openly lesbian Governor in Massachusetts. They chose Jared Polis – the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a US state – for a second term as Governor of Colorado, over a 2020 election liar. And they picked Fetterman, who overcame the near-death experience of his stroke to vanquish Oz – whose campaign had repeatedly mocked Fetterman’s disabilities.
That, by any humane measure, is a good day and confirms the promise of hope over hate.