The U.S. Midterm Elections and the Strange Demise of the Political Center

Washington (AFP) – A giant mural of Donald Trump on the lawn. An anti-Biden rap video. A TV commercial featuring an assault rifle and a vow to do “whatever it takes” to restore America to its “former glory”.

He doesn’t campaign like Lincoln or Kennedy knew he would, but it worked for Midwestern underdog candidate JR Majewski, and analysts fear it could be a preview of future US primary election seasons in a country losing its political center. moderate.

Establishment Republicans in Ohio’s swing northwest district of Majewski — where he is vying to win a U.S. House seat in November’s midterm elections — have been spending sums to six figures to try and get more moderate rivals named.

But the Trump-backed Air Force veteran and conspiracy theorist still won, seeing the state’s most favored lawmakers after being endorsed by far-right congressman Paul Gosar.

In South Carolina, another Trump-backed hopeful, Katie Arrington, has called for the dissolution of the US Department of Education, the removal of President Joe Biden and the arrest of government Covid-19 adviser Anthony Fauci.

She is challenging first-term Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who is out of favor with Trump after blaming him for the 2021 storming of the US Capitol.

Chart of party control of the US Presidency and Congress since 1945. Gal ROMA AFP

The races are the front lines of a battle already playing out in Republican and Democratic primary contests across America, as establishment politicians see their hopes of representing their parties midterm threatened by challengers. more extreme.

In Pennsylvania, state senator and Holocaust denier Doug Mastriano, who helped Trump try to overturn 2020 state results that favored Biden, knocked out several less controversial Republicans on Tuesday to win the party’s nomination as governor.

But Trump, whose status as a political kingmaker is being tested, also faced setbacks on Tuesday, including in Idaho, where his favorite gubernatorial candidate Janice McGeachin, who reportedly said this month that “Christ shall reign in the State,” lost to the incumbent.

In the coming weeks, moderate, pragmatic and conciliatory Republicans will face off against Trump-backed culture warriors in multiple races, in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina and Washington.

‘Winner Takes All’

Across the aisle, Pennsylvania state congresswoman and community organizer Summer Lee, who identifies as a “democratic socialist,” narrowly led the pack after Tuesday’s primary to replace the incumbent moderate Mike Doyle.

She is backed by Justice Democrats, the group that sponsored leftist New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first campaign and is sending a new generation of leftist lawmakers to Washington.

Trump-backed U.S. House hopeful Katie Arrington has called for the federal Department of Education to be disbanded
Trump-backed U.S. House hopeful Katie Arrington has called for the federal Department of Education to be disbanded Sean Rayford GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

Ocasio-Cortez is the most prominent member of the so-called ‘Squad’ – a group of staunchly progressive Democrats poised to win seats and influence in November despite the party’s likely loss of the House of Representatives .

Up to six team-aligned candidates have realistic chances of winning House seats this cycle, compared to more middle-tier Democrats.

The numbers seem small, but lawmakers on the fringes tend to have an outsized influence on political discourse because they make all the noise and attract attention.

The Common Ground Committee, which campaigns to reduce incivility in politics, says it observed a magnification of public discourse after the 2008 global financial crisis.

“There appears to be a growing level of vitriol generated by a ‘win-win’ attitude in Congress that actively discourages working with those across the aisle and is exacerbated by the highly polarized,” said co-founder Bruce Bond. AFP.

“A lot of things have come together to encourage polarization and people need to stop supporting it.”

“Bell Curve”

A Pew Research Center analysis found that Democrats and Republicans are farther apart today than at any time in the past 50 years.

In 1972, 144 House Republicans were less conservative than the most conservative Democrat, and 52 House Democrats were less liberal than the most liberal Republican, according to the analysis.

But that common ground began to shrink, and since 2002 there has been no overlap. In the Senate, this overlap ended in 2004.

“Polarization changed American public opinion from a bell-shaped curve – where most voters and parties were at the center – to a bimodal curve with the center of both parties diverging and purifying ideologically,” said political scientist David Schultz. told AFP.

Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, won his party's gubernatorial nomination, in a primary election season where presidential candidates are increasingly polarized
Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, won his party’s gubernatorial nomination, in a primary election season where presidential candidates are increasingly polarized Michael M. Santiago GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

The professor, who teaches at the liberal arts college of Minnesota Hamline University, believes that economic restructuring, race, social issues and technology are driving diversification – Trump “merely the personification of trends already In progress”.

Progressive political consultant Zee Cohen-Sanchez blames the money that has flooded politics in recent years, prompting candidates to carve out controversial positions that attract attention and funding.

“Because our elections have become astronomically expensive, people are looking to make a quick buck rather than fundraising from ordinary Americans,” Cohen-Sanchez said.

“This is where things get dangerous.”

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