“We’re on to Cincinnati.”
Every serious NFL fan knows this phrase. It’s New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s most famous line in his most famous news conference ever, after a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, when he answered question after question, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
For Republicans, after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s victory was declared by media organizations on Saturday, the mantra for the next two months should be: We’re on to Georgia.
Belichick refused to look backward at a devastating loss. Refused. Repeatedly. To the point of parody but then to memory. No point in doing otherwise, he later explained. Last week doesn’t matter; next week does. It’s a lesson for the GOP — which in any case lost a squeaker, not a blowout, in the 2020 elections.
Now it’s on to Georgia, where on Jan. 5 two Senate seats will be decided in runoff elections. Major questions hang in the balance: Will the Supreme Court be packed, military spending slashed, medicine socialized and U.S. energy independence “transitioned” away?
If Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are returned by Peach State voters, Americans will have divided government and compromise. If left-wing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, the nation will be saddled with the radical outcomes above (and no doubt many others), along with having Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as Senate majority leader.
Video: Obama compares Trump to a ‘two-bit dictator’ (Associated Press)
With Biden projected as the winner, it is difficult to see how President Trump regains his election night momentum as he contemplates challenging the outcome. Of course every vote count should be finished, recount completed and legal challenge pursued. The president’s 70 million voters and the party he still leads need assurance that it is a fair result. But Trump may soon have a “We’re on to 2024” moment, choosing a course similar to that taken by Richard M. Nixon in 1960, when he considered launching a prolonged and entirely justified recount battle against John F. Kennedy, but declared that he would do what was best for the country, accepting a temporary setback to his political fortunes.
And Nixon did come back, of course. It is worth noting that, late in Nixon’s life, when he lived in or near New York City, the former president and Trump became friends. (Their remarkable correspondence is now on display in an exhibit, “The Presidents Club,” at the Richard Nixon Library and Museum, which is operated by the Richard Nixon Foundation, of which I am president, in Yorba Linda, Calif.) If Nixon were alive, I think he would counsel his friend to do what he did in 1960: Retreat, reorganize, consider a return. Trump would certainly have a remarkable record to run on.
His achievements overseas alone are spectacular: defeating the Islamic State; moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; overseeing the historic Abraham Accords, which have started a new era of peace and cooperation between Israel and Arab neighbors in the Middle East; confronting China and establishing “The Quad” — the United States, Australia, Japan and India — as a real alliance; obliging NATO allies to spend more on their own defense; exiting from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and dispatching Iran’s terror-spreading commander Qasem Soleimani; and securing the return of more than 50 American hostages.
At home, Trump’s record also has plenty of highlights: record-low unemployment and a surging economy before the pandemic hit; urgently needed, massive deregulation; and, of course, his appointment of three Supreme Court justices and 52 (and counting) federal appeals court judges. Trump also taught an entire party that it’s better to endure relentless disparagement from the legacy media than to refuse battle. He exposed much of that legacy media as hopelessly, terribly biased, and made plain Big Tech’s threat to political discourse. He did it all despite the endless effort by the media and entrenched interests to destroy him that began before he took office.
Now, like Bill Belichick, Trump must look forward. So must his party. To retain control of the Senate, Republicans must win one of the Georgia runoffs (though both would be better) to protect America from a Democratic left-wing agenda, for Ossof and Warnock are just surrogates and would-be enablers for Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That’s the only issue on the Jan. 5 ballot: What kind of America do Georgians want?
If Trump desires the drama of a 2024 comeback, it begins with Republican success in Georgia in January. His have been a transformative four years in the White House. He brought real peace to the Middle East and vast conflict to American politics. He left many Republicans exposed as unrooted in the principle of “party” and they with rage; others he left simply exhausted. Trump in 2020 won for everyone in the party but himself, and he may yet win again. Like Nixon in 1960, don’t count him out. And don’t forget that in the season of Belichick’s “We’re on to Cincinnati” after a loss, the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.