I wasn't surprised that the conservative Republican NeverTrumpers who are trying to take over the Democratic Party announced that they are backing a conservative Democrat from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, Conor Lamb, in a Democratic primary he's fighting against progressive John Fetterman. Nor was I surprised that they announced "we will endorse and support bipartisan-oriented moderate Democrats in difficult races, like Representatives Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona. They use the words "moderate" and "centrist" to describe conservatives in their propaganda. What did surprise, however, is that they didn't endorse Terry McAuliffe against Trumpist asswipe Glenn Youngkin for governor of Virginia. Is McAuliffe too blatantly corrupt for them? He's certainly a career-long defender of the status quo. Or do they feel that Youngkin is just playing the Republican base with his Trumpisms and will turn into the kind of center-right character they prefer (and all are), rather than a fascist-enabling dog like DeSantis and Abbott? When Youngkin is in northern Virginia suburbs he tries to sound like a vaguely reasonable centrist conservative. When he's in the rural parts of the state he tries to sound like a crazy xenophobic Trumpist. Which is the real Glenn Youngkin. We'll probably never find out.
Late yesterday, the Washington Post, which us widely read in vote-rich northern Virginia, published a piece by Greg Sargent, wondering if Democratic voters will take this opportunity to smack down Trump again through Youngkin and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli.
"It's sometimes said Democrats in these races, wrote Sargent "are 'tying their opponents to Trump.' But the reality is more complicated. Democrats are making a bet that what Republicans must do to keep GOP voters engaged in the post-Trump era can be turned to Democrats’ advantage: The GOP need to minister to those Trumpian obsessions can be marshaled to get Democratic voters angry and engaged, in a manner that Trump himself did. The subtleties of all this emerge from a new interview that the chairman of the DCCC, Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), gave to Pod Save America. In it, Maloney acknowledged House Democrats lost seats in 2020 in part because Trump drove massive turnout among 'low propensity conservative voters.' But Maloney also noted that it’s an open question whether they will turn out in 2022 without Trump on the ballot. He argued that the shift of educated and suburban voters to Democrats could help, since those voters tend to turn out in midterms, potentially mitigating the dynamic in which the out-of-power party swamps the in-power party in turnout... As Maloney explained, if Democrats can get Biden’s agenda passed, they will be able to run both on a record of achievement and against the dangers posed by ongoing GOP radicalization."
"The other side is for insurrection while we’re trying to do infrastructure," is how Maloney has been instructed to describe the message that the DCCC is suggesting to Democratic House candidates. "On covid mandates and the insurrection, " wrote Sargent, "Maloney said, 'Republicans have real vulnerability on how dangerous and reckless they’ve been, particularly in swing districts.' It’s widely understood by Democrats that their midterm hopes turn largely on whether the pandemic is defeated, which will dictate the trajectory of our economic and national recovery. It’s also widely understood that failure to pass Biden’s agenda would be catastrophic: Maloney said key provisions like the expanded child tax credit and investments in infrastructure will be critical to Democrats in competitive seats."
But that’s not all that will matter. In 2018, Democrats won the House, and in 2020 they won the White House and Senate, due in part to turnout juiced up by fury at Trump. In the Georgia runoffs, Republicans struggled to boost turnout (without Trump on the ballot) by aggressively feeding his lies about the election, but Democratic turnout surged, probably partly in response to the ongoing GOP assault on democracy.
Something similar may happen now. With Republicans aggressively feeding Trumpian radicalization to compensate for Trump’s absence from the ballot, a key question is whether that will inspire a counter-mobilization among Democratic voters.
As Maloney put it, winning in this cycle will require Democrats to “invalidate the other choice.” He added:
Whether you’re talking about storming the Capitol, and asking us to look the other way while a bunch of cops got hurt and killed, whether you’re taking about spreading dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon, or getting in the way of our efforts to get the vaccine out and end the pandemic … the other side is a dangerous group of people.
Given the deep damage that Trumpist politics continues to do-- from stoking rabid civil conflict around sensible public health measures to dramatically undermining faith in our political system-- let’s hope this fall’s gubernatorial races do show that Democrats are energized by all this. Not just because it might bode well for keeping Republicans out of power, but also because it would send a message that this form of politics is being decisively repudiated.
In her Vanity Fair column yesterday, Bess Levin noted that establishment Republicans in the Senate-- even the ones who ostensibly support Trump-- are terrified he will run again in 2024... and are ready to back him if he does. She claims that many of them "would rather be associated with gangrene, ethnic cleansing, and the Ford Pinto." She pointed out that The Hill reported "that Senate Republicans, with 'a few exceptions,' [Tuberville and Hagerty particularly] are praying that Trump does not announce that he’ll be running for president again, ever, and especially not before 2022, fearing being associated with a complete and total maniac will sink their chances of winning back the Senate. And they’re not too jazzed about him being on the ballot again in three years, thanks to the whole 'worst person in the world' thing."
Of course, while it’s not clear if Trump will actually run in 2024, Republicans will no doubt line up to kiss the ring if he does—even McConnell has said he would support Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee (though to be fair, McConnell is a shameless hack who famously has no principles). Even more worrisome to those who care about not seeing democracy buried in a shallow grave? The fact that a new Pew Research Center survey shows two thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want to see Trump “continue to be a major political figure for many years to come,” with 44% saying they want him to run for office again.
...Meanwhile, a disturbing 63% of Republicans believe their party should not be too accepting (32%) or not accepting at all (30%) of elected officials who have the audacity to openly criticize Trump, giving GOP lawmakers even less incentive to speak out against him should he take another stab at the White House in 2024.