US midterms and the strange disappearance of the political center

A giant mural of Donald Trump on the front lawn. An anti-Biden rap video. A television ad featuring an assault rifle and a promise to do “whatever it takes” to restore America to its “former glory.”

It’s not a campaign as Lincoln or Kennedy knew it, but it worked for Midwestern underdog JR Majewski, and analysts worry it could be a glimpse of America’s future primary election seasons in a country that is losing its moderate political center.

Establishment Republicans in the northwest Ohio swing district of Majewski, where he is vying to win a U.S. House seat in November’s midterm elections, have spent six-figure sums trying to get more moderate rivals to were nominated.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among a group of staunchly progressive Democrats poised to win seats and influence in November 2022. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among a group of staunchly progressive Democrats poised to win seats and influence in November 2022. Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB

But the Trump-backed air force veteran and conspiracy theorist won anyway, firing more favored state lawmakers after being endorsed by Paul Gosar, a far-right congressman.

In South Carolina, another Trump-backed candidate, 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.

The races are early fronts in a battle already raging in Republican and Democratic primaries across the United States, as establishment politicians see their hopes of representing their parties in the midterms threatened by more extreme rivals.

Trump-backed House hopeful Katie Arrington has called for the dissolution of the federal education department. Trump-backed House hopeful Katie Arrington has called for the dissolution of the federal education department. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Sean Rayford

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

But Trump, whose status as a political leader is being tested, also experienced setbacks Tuesday, including in Idaho, where his favorite gubernatorial candidate, Janice McGeachin, who reportedly said this month that “Christ will reign in the state,” lost to the owner.

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

Chart on partisan control of the US presidency and Congress since 1945. Chart on partisan control of the US presidency and Congress since 1945. Photo: AFP / Gal ROME

Across the aisle, Pennsylvania state congresswoman and community organizer Summer Lee, who identifies as a “Democratic socialist,” was narrowly leading after Tuesday’s primary to replace retired moderate Mike Doyle.

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

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 in the House of Representatives.

Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, won his party's nomination for governor, in a primary election season where candidates for office are increasingly polarized. Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, won his party’s nomination for governor, in a primary election season where candidates for office are increasingly polarized. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Michael M. Santiago

As many as six Squad-aligned candidates have realistic chances of winning House seats this cycle, against more middle-of-the-road Democrats.

The numbers sound small, but fringe lawmakers tend to have a huge 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 saw a vulgarization of public discourse in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

“There seems to be a growing level of vitriol generated by a ‘winner takes all’ attitude in Congress that actively discourages working with those across the aisle and is exacerbated by the cable media. 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.”

A Pew Research Center analysis found that Democrats and Republicans are further 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 at all. In the Senate, that overlap ended in 2004.

“Polarization has shifted American public opinion from a bell-shaped curve, where most voters and parties were in the center, to a bimodal curve in which the center of the two parties becomes separated and ideologically purified. said political scientist David Schultz. he told AFP.

The professor, who teaches at Minnesota Hamline University’s liberal arts college, believes economic restructuring, race, social issues and technology are driving diversification, with Trump “simply epitomizing trends that are already happening.” .

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

“Because our elections have become astronomically expensive, people are looking to make a quick buck instead of raising money from ordinary Americans,” Cohen-Sanchez said.

“That’s where things get dangerous.”

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