The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Reality Check about What Handel’s Win Means

Karen Handel, the Republican, won. Who among us can contain his excitement?

It’s also a win for Donald Trump for one simple and obvious reason: because the alternative would have been so much worse for him. If Handel had lost, it would have hardened the media narrative that Republicans are fleeing the president (note: I said narrative, not fiction. The man is at 72 percent among Republicans, but that’s down eleven points in two months). A Handel loss would probably have led to actual politicians fleeing the president. Meanwhile, if Ossoff had won, Democrats would have been even more emboldened. They could go to donors and say, “We bought a seat in a Republican district with a hipster doofus candidate, who got trolled into getting engaged. If we do it 23 more times, we get a Democratic House, a Speaker Pelosi, and maybe impeachment.”

In other words, in the realm of spin, appearances, and momentum, a Handel win is a huge victory for the White House. That realm is really important — more important than it should be, but really important nonetheless.

On the other hand, a Handel win is not anywhere near the victory/mandate/endorsement the Trump team will claim it to be. This is a Republican district. The only reason it was close: A lot of Republicans voted for a Democrat. So, the GOP victory on the merits is pretty limited. Spending enough money to scald a wet mule (to borrow a phrase from Haley Barbour) to hold on to a district that Tom Price (Trump’s HHS secretary) and Newt Gingrich held is not a sign of Republican health. I’m okay with calling that a moral victory for Ossoff, as the media certainly will. But a moral victory plus $1.89* will buy me a large coffee at my local Starbucks. Meanwhile, a literal defeat for the GOP would have been a disaster.

*Correction: Perhaps due to the Venti Irish whiskey the author consumed, he mis-characterized the cost of a large coffee from Starbucks. He should have written $2.89. He regrets the error, but not the whiskey. 

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More
Politics & Policy

O’Rourke’s America

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of ... Read More
World

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More