The Washington Examiner
By Salena Zito
November 8. 2020
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PINE TOWNSHIP — Had you spent any space of time in this northern suburb of Pittsburgh listening to voters, finding out what things mattered to them when it came to schools, community growth, economic prosperity, and the emotional impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, you would have at least been skeptical of the media narrative and the polls that claimed suburban voters here are no longer center-right.
Not Republican per se, just center-right.
Most reporters certainly didn’t take the time to do so. Instead, they relied on the scolding of our cultural curators in sports, media, and Hollywood as an indicator of how these college-educated, affluent voters would vote. Surely, they thought, these suburbs would cave under the cultural pressure, push left, and their votes would send a blue shock wave across the country.
These reporters put their faith in what they saw in polls or on Twitter, and they predicted the vilification of center-rightism would drag the country leftward — except the people who voted here, and in down-ballot races across the country, vigorously rejected that pressure.
By all accounts, Rob Mercuri should have never won the open state House seat. His opponent, Emily Skopov, was well funded, had the support of the teachers union, abortion rights groups, and several climate change groups, and supported Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictive approach to the pandemic.
And yet Mercuri triumphed, beating back Skopov, who possessed everything pollsters and the national narrative believed needed to win against a Republican: She’s female, progressive, and running for a seat with a changing demographic that is ascending and affluent. And yet she lost by almost 9 percentage points, again, repeating the same number she had when she ran against former Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who decided not to seek reelection this term.
Mercuri was not alone. In another equally affluent suburb on the other side of the Allegheny River, Devlin Robinson took out Democrat state Sen. Pam Iovino, 53% to 47%.
In Oakmont, as of Thursday evening, powerful Democratic state House Minority Leader Frank Dermody was trailing Republican Carrie DelRossa, 52% to 48%. Dermody has held for decades in an affluent suburban district that hugs the Allegheny River, but she may fall short in 2020.
Going into Election Day, the polls and the media narrative expected that Republicans were going to be swept out of office down the ballot in a blue wave. They believed the country had now fully embraced “wokeism” and rejected center-right values and principles.
Pollsters let President Trump get in their way in understanding the electorate, and so did reporters and political scientists.
For a brief moment as a reporter, I struggled with lining up what the data was telling me. It conflicted with what my reporting was telling me, conflicted with what voters were telling me, and conflicted with what cultural cues were telling me. So I went back out in search of that blue wave in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
It turns out that the only place that blue wave existed was on Twitter or in a poll — never once in an experience or an interview.
Traditionally, a president, whether they are center-right or center-left, pushes the country in the opposite direction. President Barack Obama pushed the country right three times, in 2010, 2014, and 2016, in reaction to his policies. President George W. Bush pushed the country left in 2006 and 2008. President Bill Clinton pushed the country right in 1994.
While Trump pushed the country slightly center-left in the 2018 midterm elections, his policies (tax cut, trade deal, deregulation) and the Left’s insane pressure on our culture both pushed the country firmly back to center-right.
It could be argued that these competing forces ignited the beginning of a red wave that not only kept the coalition that placed him in office intact, but that it got bigger and more diverse, with Republicans winning the largest share of nonwhite voters since 1960.
Republicans didn’t just gain seats here in Pennsylvania in the state House and state Senate. There is also a better than 50% chance that it won two statewide offices. Republicans also gained state House and Senate seats in Ohio and West Virginia, while Democrats lost ground in North Carolina and Iowa.
And all that boasting and bragging about Democrat prospects of winning the Texas state House fell flat.
Republicans also increased their gubernatorial majority by reelecting all of the Republican governors up for election in 2020, as well as flipped Montana. The GOP lead in governors is now 27 to 23.
Despite having all of the money in the world (half a billion at last count) and all of the pressure culture placed on these voters, these voters showed up and voted their communities.
So did Hispanic and black voters, in record numbers, for center-right candidates. Why? Ask them. A lot of that move to the right has to do with opportunity, aspiration, community, and faith, three concepts cable news talking heads never address. They only assume these voters are on the same page as an Ivy League women’s studies major on social justice, climate justice, pronoun justice, and justice justice.
These voters — call them shy Trump voters or shy Tory voters — they don’t hold larger institutions with the same regard that elites do. In fact, they regard them with skepticism and are highly unlikely to give them information they consider private.
Center-rightism didn’t defy the odds. It was always present. It is just too few people asked people why. It doesn’t have a color or a geographical place, but it proved Tuesday evening that it is persistent and does not respond accordingly to outside cultural pressure.
Elitism also did not defy the odds. Within hours of voting results rolling in, they watched in horror as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not win in a landslide and there was no blue wave. They lived up to their cultural blindness and continued to avoid the reality that our country has moved not left over the last four years but center-right.
They are also still missing that the conservative populist coalition that placed Trump in office not only held together, but it has also grown, with many of those voters opting not to vote for him at the top of the ticket but still turning out happily for other Republican candidates.