All that DC yammering about "bipartisanship" is just an excuse for not doing anything. When voters go to the polls, they-- or many of them-- vote for a worldview. One candidate, let's say Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said over and over again that he wants to abolish the minimum wage. His top rival, progressive state Senator Chris Larson is campaigning vigorously for raising the minimum wage to at least $15 hour, tied to the inflation rate. What's the compromise? Doing nothing? Lowering the minimum wage?
Erica Smith is touring North Carolina meeting people but I caught up with her last night. She told me that her likely GOP opponent-- the Trump pick-- "Ted Budd tried to overturn the results of our last election. I on the other hand believe that America should remain a democracy. Where is the compromise? Should just every other election be up to the people? I’m not comprising on our republic! What about on the minimum wage (which he opposes), on voting rights (which he opposes), on unions (which he opposes)? Bipartisanship and compromise is the glorification of violently insufficient policies that sell out communities like mine. Compromise looks like government working for the wealthy and the well connected, and doing absolutely nothing for the rest of us."
I also reached Alan Grayson, who is busy figuring out strategies with his team for replacing Marco Rubio. "I believe in both domestic policies and on foreign policies based on mutual respect, social justice, human rights, shared interests and shared humanity," he told me. "Marco Rubio is stuck in the 1950s, still fighting the Cold War. A good example of that is the effort, now, to keep us safe from new variants of COVID. Rubio, like Trump, just wants to blame 'Red China.' In contrast, I want to see everyone on the world vaccinated, quickly, for their benefit, AND OURS. Every human being is like a Petri dish for COVID, and every human being who contracts COVID is, potentially, a Patient Zero for something even more dangerous. You can’t understand that if, like Rubio, you’re looking for a socialist under every bed. In foreign policy, just like here at home, it’s not always 'Us against Them.' Sometimes, it’s more like 'We’re All In This Together.'"
Yesterday, writing for the Washington Post, Paul Waldman dug into the concept of political polarization. "You’d have a hard time finding anyone with anything good to say about polarization," he wrote. "Entire books have been written about how it poisons both elections and the legislative process and drives Americans apart from one another, turning even mundane disagreements into apocalyptic wars. But every once in a while, you can find a case in which polarization actually produces something worthwhile. Like a campaign where candidates can’t get away with meaningless pablum and are forced to tell voters who they are and what they plan to do." Ah ha!
Virginia Republicans nominated Glenn Youngkin to face Democrat Terry McAuliffe. But, now that he's a general election candidate, Youngkin is afraid to embrace his own party too tightly. Poking fun at him, Waldman noted that:
Youngkin wants to create “a rip-roaring economy?” You don’t say! Would he like to do that with tax cuts for the wealthy (a standard Republican idea), programs aimed at low-income people (a Democratic approach), or something in between? He’s not saying yet. So while this kind of drivel may have worked in the past, it’s utterly useless for voters trying to choose, and this time around they probably know it.
Because Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee, knows that the more voters understand the substantive differences between the candidates the better off he’ll be, he won’t let Youngkin get away with downplaying his party identity... In other words, in a polarized time, the brand of strategic vagueness Youngkin is offering probably won’t fly with voters. And it shouldn’t.
And in 2021, polarization is about more than just policy; it’s also, inevitably, about Trump. Which is why Youngkin makes an interesting contrast with Jack Ciattarelli, who just became the Republican gubernatorial nominee in New Jersey. While Youngkin made pro-Trump statements in the primaries that McAuliffe will now use against him, Ciattarelli won his primary in no small part by being the candidate who rejected Trump.
Nevertheless, Ciattarelli isn’t some kind of liberal; he’s promising tax cuts, harsh immigration policies, and restrictions on abortion, among other things. In other words, he’s a standard-issue Republican-- which his opponent, Gov. Phil Murphy, will use against him as well.
Barring some unusual scandal, both these Republicans will probably lose. You can lament that foreordained outcome as a failure, since we should evaluate every candidate by their personal strengths and weaknesses.
But you can also see it as the sign of a responsive system: As Republicans in majority-Democratic states, they’re offering something their voters don’t actually want. If the voters understand that and choose accordingly, it’s hard to see that as a problem.
You will see Schumer back some Republican-lite candidates in primary campaigns against progressives in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky... They may try to blur the contrasts-- to split the difference-- but is that really going to work when the Republican Party is on a tear towards full-blown anti-democratic fascism? Please consider making a Saturday contribution to any of the Blue America candidates you'll find by clicking on the 2022 Senate thermometer on the left. These are candidates are actual Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Democrats, proudly running of progressive values and programs to offer substantive help to working families in their states and across the country.