If nothing else, the results of the just-concluded midterms demonstrated that many Republicans simply don’t get it when it comes to elections.
For one thing, they tend to forget a rather obvious fact — everyone gets to vote, not just the people who agree with you. In that regard, they might take a cue from the sports world, where coaches and players tend to soft-pedal their remarks before a contest. The opposing team may not have won a game in years, but the official line will be something like: “You never know. They have some good players, and they’re long overdue for a win. They’ve been coming closer.”
Departing from that approach risks winding up on the opponents’ locker room bulletin board — or, these days, a Twitter feed.
When I was a sportswriter covering high school football, I once saw one of my articles posted on such a bulletin board, almost obscured by angry red arrows and topped with this written declaration: “DON’T EVER LET ANYONE SAY SOMETHING LIKE THIS ABOUT US AGAIN!!!”
“Gee,” I said to the coach. “I’m sorry you didn’t like what I wrote.”
“No, that was great,” he said. “I actually agreed with you, but it was exactly what I needed to get my guys fired up. Thanks.”
Consider, then, the pre-election hubris of Tim Michels, the Republican candidate for governor in Wisconsin.
As Election Day drew near, Michels was quoted as saying something like: “I’m going to make sure that no Democrat will ever be elected to statewide office in Wisconsin again.”
Never? Ever? If Democratic governor Tony Evers had a bulletin board, that quote would have been front and center. What better way to energize Democratic voters into showing up at the polls, just to make Michels eat his words (which he did)?
Then there were all the giddy “red wave” predictions from prominent Republicans. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy predicted that the GOP would claim 60 seats.
Again, you would never catch a football coach saying: “We should beat these clowns by five touchdowns. They’re terrible.”
He might be thinking that, but he would keep it to himself.
Republicans also tend to turn primary elections into the proverbial “circular firing squad” by playing “I’m way more right-wing than you are.”
That’s fine for the winner until they realize that the potential voters will include a significant number of “undecideds” who may not agree that abortion providers should be executed or that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
Arizona senatorial candidate Blake Masters tried to walk back some of his tough talk from the primaries, but it was too late. He was on the bulletin board.
It also amazed me that even before the echoes had faded from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision invalidating Roe v. Wade, many Republican-dominated state legislatures rushed off to pass the most restrictive anti-abortion laws they could conjure up.
Really? Pick when the opposition is most enraged to enrage them even more? Did they forget that there was an election right around the corner that could render all those laws moot if they lost?
One of the first laws of coaching is: “Let sleeping dogs lie.” The Republicans apparently haven’t learned that yet.
Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."