Tuesday’s primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona, and Washington all sent important and conflicting messages.
The high point was in Kansas. By an unexpectedly large 20-point margin, this thoroughly red state defeated a move to eliminate from the state constitution protections for abortion. It sent waves of hope to Democrats across the country that Republican threats to abortion rights could become a voting issue in November’s mid-terms.
But contests between candidates, unlike referenda, usually deal with more than single issues. Abortion will clearly be front and center in the Michigan governor’s race, where Tudor Dixon, former horror movie actress and commentator on right-wing fringe cable, has promised to drive incumbent Gretchen Whitmer from office because of Whitmer’s support for abortion rights and Covid protections.
The Kansas vote is a warning flare to the GOP to restrain state legislative efforts to enact draconian anti-abortion laws before November. It’s too early to tell whether abortion will dominate independent swing voters’ economic concerns. According to the respected Cook Political Report: “The final results of upcoming special elections in Minnesota’s 1st CD (August 9, Cook PVI of R+8), Alaska’s At Large seat (August 16, R+8) and New York’s 19th and 23rd CDs (August 23, R+2 and R+9) will be much better gauges of the post-Dobbs landscape heading into the fall.”
The low point was Michigan (and probably also Arizona). Remember when Speaker Nancy Pelosi extolled the virtues of a strong two-party system rooted in democratic values or how admiringly Democrats embraced Liz Cheney’s maxim: country before party? Fuggedaboudit!! In Michigan, as they had done earlier successfully in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Democrats cynically decided to meddle in Republican primaries, throwing support to the worst possible authoritarian and Trumpiest candidates, thinking they’d be easier to beat in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee successfully supported stop-the-steal zealot John Gibbs over moderate Peter Meijer, one of ten Republican Congressmen brave enough to vote to impeach Donald Trump.
Reportedly the DCCC spent more money on Gibbs’ campaign than did the candidate himself! The Democratic Party has been denouncing Donald Trump’s threat to democracy from the time he took the oath of office, an argument made still more compelling by the January 6th hearings. Yet in Michigan the Dems manhandled the democratic process to suit their partisan ends. As retiring Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger told CNN: “Here’s the thing, don’t keep coming to me asking where all the good Republicans that defend democracy are and then take your donors’ money and spend half a million promoting one of the worst election deniers that’s out there.”
Democrats couldn’t make mischief in Washington state’s jungle primary, where two other Republican impeachment voters, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, bested their Trump-endorsed challengers. In Missouri, Republicans took control of their own primary and didn’t permit early Trump-endorsed disgraced former Governor Eric Greitens to be their Senate standard bearer. But I wonder how many Democrat-leaning Independents may have helped Trump-endorsed former television anchor Kari Lake eke out her victory in Arizona’s gubernatorial primary, thinking it will help in November.
Arizona, my friends, is now ground zero for election deniers. Up and down the ballot there, the Republican candidates all embrace the wildest of conspiracy theories. And they have counterparts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other battleground states, nominees for secretary of state and attorney general – who if elected could perniciously influence their states voting and votes in 2024. This is frightening news indeed.
Ironically, Democrats’ willfully embracing the moral bankruptcy of the new GOP comes just when they finally are putting together the pieces for some fresh legislative wins, from defense of marriage equality, to veterans’ benefits covering burn pits maladies, to forward-looking action on climate change and controlling prescription drug costs.
So far, employment levels have held strong despite Cassandra-like warnings of impending recession, and gas prices, which ebb and flow, are slowly coming down. Despite Biden’s bumbling verbal salad in announcing this week’s executive order defending abortion rights, there are signs that the Senate may not change hands and, though unlikely, the House could even be competitive.
Maybe I’ll feel differently if the Democratic gambit leads to their holding the House and Senate, but the tactic disgusts me.
Forget about high-minded rhetoric concerning abandoning the moral high ground. That ship sailed long ago. It’s just simply stupid to play with a matches that could burn the place down.