This morning, the Cook team noted that “If there were any doubt as to where the base of the GOP resides, the results of the New Hampshire primary made it very clear that it is with Trump. In states like Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and now New Hampshire, GOP voters have chosen the more Trump-ified candidate over the candidate that has either been endorsed by, or run in the mold of those states’ popular, centrist and more establishment GOP governors. For Democrats, who are eager to make 2022 a referendum on the polarizing former president, GOP voters have helped make their job a bit easier… Bolduc’s win over the establishment-backed Chuck Morse lands Republicans in a familiar place— with another controversial, weak nominee that may well squander a prime opportunity… In fact, Sen. Maggie Hassan may be the luckiest Democrat out there this cycle.”
New Hampshire Democratic voters are very progressive. Bernie beat Hillary 151,584 (60.4%) to 95.252 (38.0%) and 4 years later, Bernie again came in first in the primary, eviscerating Biden, 76,384 (25.6%) to 24,944 (8.4%). But Senator Hassan is a worthless corporate shill and conservative patsy who pulls little stunts like voting against raising the minimum wage. She isn’t quite as bad as Manchin and Sinema but… almost. Had popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu decided to run against her, it wouldn’t even be a contest. Instead, she has the one scary contender who she can actually beat by making sure that Democratic voters know that however awful she is— and she is— Bolduc is a million times worse.
Who’s going to get the blame for candidates like Bolduc— not to mention Blake Masters (AZ), Herschel Walker (GA), Tiffany Smiley (WA), JD Vance (OH), Adam Laxalt (NV), Mehmet Oz (PA), and Ted Budd (NC)— who could have all been constructed out of the same pile of congealed vomit? This morning, David Catanese wrote about the coming “inevitable blame game” in less than 2 months. “GOP political professionals,” he wrote, “stand ready to point at Donald Trump, who deposited primary endorsements in six of the most competitive general election contests. But the former president’s MAGA base will likely rebel against such a judgment and reach for other scapegoats. And a relatively innocuous comment made by Mitch McConnell about candidate quality will hand Trump and his backers just enough ammunition to try and shift blame onto the Kentuckian, who remains unpopular with the Republican base across the country.”
Jonathan Bernstein wholeheartedly agreed: “Republican Party dysfunction was on display in New Hampshire Tuesday. Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan and both the state’s House Democrats were considered highly vulnerable this year. So what did Republicans do, in this state that has voted for Democrats for president five times in a row and defeated Donald Trump by seven percentage points in 2020? They rejected the kinds of relatively moderate Republicans who historically have been popular in the state. Instead, in all three contested seats, they chose Trump-aligned candidates.”
Bernstein made his point by pointing to a question by political scientist Matt Glassman who wondered how the Republican Party will interpret the results. “‘Will the post-mortem collective GOP understanding of a mid-term that misses expectations be more likely to blame Trump or Dobbs?’… It’s a great question because it gets to the core of how democracy actually works. When parties lose elections, they normally try to learn useful lessons in order to do better next time… Political parties are reluctant to conclude that their ideas are just plain unpopular, but it sometimes happens. After the Republican landslide in the 1994 midterms, Democrats decided that their advocacy for gun control was at fault, and until well into Barack Obama’s presidency even those who supported restrictions tended to downplay the issue. That’s what normal parties do. They don’t necessarily diagnose the situation correctly (they were almost certainly wrong about guns in 1994), but the mechanism is a healthy one: Lose, and attempt to adjust. All other things being equal, in a two-party system there is a strong incentive for the system to attempt to keep voters happy. That’s good! Which brings us back to the Republicans and 2022…There is every possibility that they’re going to fall far short of the expectations they themselves had at the start of this cycle… [T]he Republicans won’t blame a disappointing showing in November on either Trump for helping nominate weak candidates or the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. Instead, they will blame Mitch McConnell for cooperating too much with Senate Democrats.” Some Republicans are already blaming McConnell for publicly stating that the quality of so many of the Republican candidates leaves something to be desired.6
But the scarier possibility is that many Republicans will learn nothing from defeat because they will simply assume that they were cheated.
Most of the focus on Donald Trump’s continued lies about the 2020 contest have to do with his active attempts to subvert the election and overturn the results. Understandably so. The republic depends on the peaceful transition of power, which requires the losing side to accept that it really lost. We saw the consequences on Jan. 6 and in the events surrounding the riot at the Capitol, from Election Day all the way through Biden’s inauguration and beyond.
But there is a secondary effect, which is that a party that refuses to believe it lost isn’t going to reconsider its policies or make other changes— except, perhaps, to try harder to eliminate fictional fraud (which, in reality, winds up being a push to disenfranchise those who support the other party). Republicans, after all, lost the popular vote for president in 1992, in 1996, in 2000, in 2008, in 2012, in 2016, and in 2020. And yet there is little sign that they are taking steps to attract more voters.
Then there’s Trump: An Electoral College winner despite losing the popular vote in 2016, he went on to be unpopular throughout his presidency, which ended with a solid defeat and with Democrats having gained both chambers of Congress. Not to mention that he is facing all sorts of legal troubles. And yet he is still influential within the party, with candidates desperate for his endorsement who constantly invoke his name in primary contests. This may work out fine for candidates seeking nominations, but for the party in general elections it seems … suboptimal.
If Republican party actors convince themselves despite all evidence that Trump is actually popular and won easily in 2020, then why should they change? And if those who are aware of the truth are afraid to say it … well, they aren’t going to help the party get over dysfunction, either.
So it’s really no surprise that House Republican candidates are moving further to extremes, both in policy preferences and, more dangerously, in radicalism and refusal to compromise. No surprise— but a great threat to a properly functioning democracy.
A new Brookings study of party factionalism shows that 12.24% of 2022 Republican candidates were explicitly endorsed by Trump this cycle— and that 96.53% of them won their primaries. Meanwhile of the 59.18% of Republican candidates who did not mention Trump or MAGA, only 30.02% won.
So who is really to blame? Call me crazy— claim I’ve been watch too much Turkish TV— but I know who’s to blame: Satan (şeytan)! And I’m not the only one who understand that. NBC News published a report today: Satanic panic is making a comeback, fueled by QAnon believers and GOP influencers. Laugh if you want, but as many as a third of American voters have been captured by Satan. “While the current obsession with Satan,” wrote Brandy Zadrozny, “was boosted in part by the QAnon community, partisan media and conservative politicians have been instrumental in spreading newfound fears over the so-called ritualistic abuse of children that the devil supposedly inspires, sometimes weaving the allegations together with other culture war issues such as LGBTQ rights. Those fears are powering fresh accusations of ritual abuse online, which are amplified on social media and by partisan media, and can mobilize mobs to seek vigilante justice. Witch hunts have traditionally been associated with courts— even the kangaroo kind— but today, the accused can be branded satanist pedophiles at the speed of the internet. Online accusers can bypass police, therapists and the traditional media and out their alleged abusers straight to audiences of millions.”
The belief that devil-worshippers disguised as trusted members of the community are stalking neighborhood children to abuse and sacrifice them in secret satanic rituals is more prevalent than one might imagine.
“This was a widespread belief back in the ʼ80s,” said Joseph Uscinski, a political science professor at the University of Miami, who studies conspiracy theories. “And when the satanic panic disappeared, it just disappeared. It wasn’t like there was a reckoning.”
Uscinski’s work includes nationwide polls to measure belief in particular conspiracy theories. A survey of 2,000 U.S. residents conducted in June by Uscinksi and a colleague through the University of Miami revealed fears over satanic rituals and child sexual abuse are pervasive.
One-third of respondents agreed with the statement, “members of Satanic cults secretly abuse thousands of children every year.” One quarter agreed that “Satanic ritual sex abuse is widespread in this country,” and 21% agreed that “numerous preschools and public schools secretly engage in Satanic practices.”
As Uscinski’s survey seems to be the first of its kind, it’s difficult to say whether people are now more obsessed with Satan or if it just feels that way.
Discussion about satanism and satanic abuse has increased in recent years, according to data provided to NBC News by Zignal Labs, which analyzes social media conversations. From 2007 to 2014, mentions of satanism on Twitter increased steadily year over year until 2016, when mentions spiked 37%, during a presidential election and at the height of “pizzagate,” an online conspiracy theory rooted in the false belief that a ritualistic child sex ring was run out of a Washington pizza parlor.
The trend continued until it peaked in 2020, during the next presidential election and at the height of QAnon’s popularity. It remains elevated, according to Zignal Labs data.
The rise in conversation surely has much to do with the kind of people fixated on the devil.
“A lot of national and local politicians are engaging in satanic panic rhetoric,” Uscinski said.
“These are the worst things that you can accuse someone of. There’s no redemption. So they make great cudgels to beat your political opponents with.”
The daily invocations of Satan by the biggest players in conservative politics and media are too numerous to catalog in full.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., credited the devil with whispering to women who choose to have abortions and controlling churches who aid undocumented immigrants. In June, she tweeted a video of a man dressed as the devil, stating that the mythical creature would be the next witness called by the House Jan. 6 committee. “They all know him, they all love him, and some even worship him,” she wrote.
Charlie Kirk, the president of one of the largest conservative groups in the country, Turning Point USA, recently opined that Republicans should “use the law to shut down Satanism.” Last year, Fox News host Tucker Carlson expressed his opinion on trans people, telling his viewers, “When you say you can change your own gender by wishing it, you’re saying you’re God, and that is satanic.” The Republican nominee for Missouri’s St. Louis County executive, the top job in the local government, is currently suing her former employer over its mask mandates, citing their use in “satanic ritual abuse.”
…As issues surrounding children gained national attention, an emerging section of 1980’s media obsessed over child safety issues, including kidnapping, pedophilia, child abuse and cult membership.
“People just ate it up,” she said. “The threats were inflated to a level that was just completely outside the parameters of what was real. There was an assumption that ‘we have to protect these innocent vessels who are the prey of the devil,’ and everything becomes geared toward, ‘Something is coming to get your child.’”
The modern-day equivalent of those hypervigilant PSAs and daytime talk shows is found online: in posts and videos urging “awareness” for dangers like random white vans and other child-trafficking urban legends. These amateur PSAs are seen immediately by millions, with the option to share them across communities.
That rhetoric is not without consequence. People and places perceived as satanic have been the target of harassment, threats and worse in recent months.