It’s possible to believe both that Joe Biden has won America’s presidential election and that the final result is not yet clear. (Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina are still counting, though we believe that Donald Trump won’t win all of them, and that it will be surprising if he now wins any state other than North Carolina.)
So snap assessments are very risky. All the same, it’s clear that Bidenmania on Britain’s Left is obscuring the strong position of America’s Right – at least from the view of those who follow the mainstream media. The Grand Old Party is in fine electoral form.
Start with Trump. Yes, he joins Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush as a one-term president. But, assuming that he holds North Carolina, he will end up with 229 electoral college votes: Bush won 168 and Carter 49.
That would represent the fifth best losing total for a candidate of either party and the second best for the Republican one since the Second World War. (Gerald Ford won 240 such votes in 1976.) You prefer to count the popular vote? More than 70 million people cast their ballots for Trump – the second-highest tally in America’s history, beaten only by…Biden. The exit polling also suggests that he gained among minority voters – black, Latino, Asian and (especially) gay ones, with white women preferring him to Biden by 55 to 43 per cent.
Now move on to the Senate. Yes, the Democrats may gain control of it in January if they then win two runoff elections in Georgia. But the numbers are very tight. They need three wins to get a majority: to date, they’ve won two seats and lost one. The Republicans have gained one and lost two.
On paper, control of the Senate would give the Democrats the power to confirm judicial and government appointments. In practice, even a small majority would cramp Biden’s room for manoeuvre. And even if the Democrats gain one now they could lose it mid-term.
Next, the House of Representatives. It holds 213 Democrats and 199 Republicans. But here, the electoral story so far has been the reverse of the Senate’s: the Republicans are up (winning eight seats and losing two) and the Democrats are down (winning two seats and losing seven).
Finally, 29 of the 50 states have Republican-controlled legislatures. And in America, these control the redrawing each decade of Congressional district boundaries. The Democrats have just made a big push to get control of more and have failed. And while Trump alleges voter fraud, they complain of district gerrymandering.
That’s a rough and ready picture of the Democrats having done less well as the elections moved “down ballot”. Up top, Biden performed very creditably. Lower down, the Republicans are well-entrenched, while also providing a narrow majority of state governors – 26 to 24.
Today’s Guardian finds the Democrats “anxious and uncertain after unexpected losses”, with the party’s left and centre at loggerheads about culture, electoral strategy and campagning. It is an uncertain position for a newly-elected president who will be almost 82 in 2024, and so is widely expected to serve a single term only.
Donald Trump has not yet left the White (and will presumably have to be dragged out of it), but other Republicans will already be eyeing the curtains: possible future candidates from the Trump administration include Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, Nikki Haley, America’s former Ambassador to the United Nations…and Donald Trump junior.
A Republican source also floated, from the ranks of the governors, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and, if he’s interested, Greg Abbott of Texas, who chairs the Republican Governors Association. And from the Senate, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ben Sasse of Nebraska; from the House, Dan Crenshaw of Texas. But it’s anyone’s guess.
At any rate, it is far from impossible that the Republican candidate gains the White House in 2024, and that Boris Johnson holds on to Downing Street when the next election comes. It’s time for the Conservatives to renew their interest in and connections with the Republicans.
The two parties have come adrift for three main reasons. Britain and America’s election cycles have drifted apart since the days of Reagan and Thatcher, the old Bush and Major. George W Bush came in with Tony Blair still in place. David Cameron took office to find himself working with Barak Obama.
Iain Duncan Smith sought to draw from Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” when he was the Tory leader. But that didn’t last very long and Michael Howard fell out with Bush over Iraq. Next, the Republicans began to develop a different flavour to the Conservatives on flag, faith and family in the wake of communism’s collapse.
Then, finally, there was Trump – who was never likely to find Theresa May to his taste, and whose relations with Boris Johnson have been less warm than both their opponents like to imagine. What do the two parties have to say to each other? Easier bits first.
“Trump has changed the Republicans and there’s no going back,” one source told ConservativeHome. “This is no longer the party of Mitt Romney or the old establishment.” That will sound daunting to many Conservatives. But there’s a rough crossover, or should be, between Trump’s blue collarism and “levelling up”.
Family, work and religion will surely have mattered in this election to Latinos and others, who will have been horrified by the scenes from America’s cities. British conservatism is less preoccupied with abortion and guns (indeed, it isn’t at all). But with the United States the epicentre of wokery, the two parties have a values overlap.
On foreign affairs, the two parties will increasingly see eye to eye on China; British Tories are more worked up about Russia and America’s Republicans about Iran – though Tobias Ellwood and some 80 other Conservative MPs recently suggested that the Government should get tougher on the regime. The harder bits include climate change and international institutions. But even here, there is sometimes a meeting of minds: almost two-thirds of Party members, according to our members panel, don’t believe that there’s a climate emergency.
Trump is suspicious of international institutions and Johnson is supportive of them – except in the case (of course) of the EU.
But there ought to be some common ground: the World Health Organisation, after all, has been close to China during Coronavirus. On international trade, there will be work to do, as on NATO – where Trump has a point, and then some, about the commitment of some of our allies.
The new Republican Party is likely to maintain its sense of America First, but that doesn’t have to mean no-one else gets a look-in at all. We’re told that there’s interest in Bidenland about the concept of a D10 – an alliance of democracies to help contain China.
And so there should be in a more internationally-engaged Republic Party. Whose emergence, in the wake of a strong set of electoral results, we’ve an interest in encouraging.