The disappointment of Tuesday’s midterm elections, which turned out to be more a trickle of red than a crimson wave, had a stiffening effect on the backbone of Republicans.
Suddenly, they no longer cower in fear of the MAGAlomaniac ex-President, or flinch from the petulant lightning bolts Donald Trump throws from his Mar-a-Lago bunker.
Destroying decency, inviting foreign interference in our choices, subjugating an uprising: all these transgressions can be tolerated.
But don’t waste your chance to win the election. Trump’s leaden political accent has cost Republicans control of the Senate, and many party members are finally willing to say the obvious out loud. Trump is a loser whose way of losing hurts the GOP.
It’s a welcome twist. But give credit where it belongs: Joe O’Dea took the position before it was easy or popular with many of his fellow Republicans. He called out Trump for his 2020 “Big Lie” even while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.
“We’ve become a nation of whiners and crybabies,” O’Dea said. “Donald Trump still can’t admit he lost.”
O’Dea was defeated on Tuesday, losing to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. But he can hold his chin up. O’Dea kept his honor intact – unlike, say, JD Vance.
Hillbilly Elegy author and Ohio Senate candidate responded to Trump’s taunts: “JD kisses my ass. Of course he wants my support,” keeping his lips pressed tightly together in a puckered position.
Vance travels to Washington after fending off a strong challenge from Democratic Representative Tim Ryan. However, Vance’s dignity lags behind, he was last seen at a Trump rally in Youngstown.
Speaking days after the election, O’Dea said it wasn’t that hard to deal with the former president, who responded to Coloradana’s defeat with typical sewage. (“Joe O’Dea lost BIG!” Trump wrote on his social media site in his first reaction to Tuesday’s results. “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”)
“He has an opinion,” O’Dea said. “I have mine. I said what I said and that’s it. I meant we need to move the country forward,” instead of continuing the 2020 election litigation.
“I don’t think so,” O’Dea said. “It’s a bizarre statement.”
O’Dea’s major victory over Trump’s acolyte – a state lawyer who breached police lines at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 – is what gave the Republican Party hope for November’s turmoil in the first place.
But Trump, whose sensitivity is on par with the princess and her pea, couldn’t help himself.
In October, O’Dea appeared on CNN and chided Trump for not doing more on January 6 to “stop the violence from heading towards the Capitol.” Worse still, O’Dea said he would “actively campaign” against him if Trump decides to run again in 2024, which now seems likely.
The answer was quick. “MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths,” Trump said, a statement that was not only childish but demonstrably untrue.
O’Dea said he had taken some blows from the Trump faithful during the campaign, but “for the most part … people were like, ‘Finally, someone is talking about what’s good for Colorado, good for America.’ I have a lot of it.”
A first-time candidate, O’Dea did not say whether he would run for office again.
But, like many, he lamented the knee-jerk bias and free-spirited invectives that spoil our political climate.
“I would like to see things implemented that will make the country better and make the country work. So if you stay focused there, you will have less partisanship (and) division. A lot of it was caused by both sides,” he said. “Challenging. Come on, really? Are we not adults?
It has taken too long for too many blind Republicans to recognize Trump as the extremely damaging and dangerous political force he has become.
The motive for admitting the obvious – the disappointment of the mid-term elections that left the GOP far beyond expectations – is by no means disinterested or pure. A different outcome and many would probably still be tied to Trump’s pernicious fad.
So someone like O’Dea deserves credit for having the courage to speak up when he did.
As we have unfortunately seen, the only thing necessary to inflame Trumpism is the silence of good men and good women.
Mark Z. Barabak is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
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