I approach the upcoming 2022 midterm election burdened by an almost cosmic sense of dread. The stakes involved this time around are altogether daunting: The manner in which we as a nation deal with a hot war and its global impact, a global pandemic that is not finished with us yet, the global climate crisis, and so much else, will be determined to no insignificant degree by who emerges victorious from these upcoming contests. It ain’t about getting the potholes filled this time.
Riding sidecar with dread is my usual kid-at-Christmas anticipation for what lies immediately ahead. I am of the opinion that primary elections, and midterm elections in general, are the last places where the people can have a significant say on the kind of federal government we will have. Presidential elections get all the ink, but as we have seen over this last year with Sen. Joe Manchin, it is the nature of Congress that tends to ultimately determine the course this country will follow, or if it will follow any course at all.
Once the voting process reaches the general election/GOP vs. Democratic nominee stage, the whole thing is little more than a giant damn television show. The Big Money will have taken its place at the head of the table, and the whole thing will begin its inexorable tack to the right, no matter how far right it began as in the first place. The plunderers and liars who fancy themselves “The Adults” in U.S. politics will be in charge again, and another bi-annual opportunity for actual change will have been pissed away.
The primaries, and especially the midterm primaries, though … man, it’s just wide open, isn’t it? An open House seat in Florida will draw contestants ranging from the staid, solid political veteran to a guy with live ocelots on his head who happens to have some pretty incredible ideas about rent control and water usage, and you’re free as a bird to support whichever one you like. You will never have more impactful choice in your political experience than you will in the voting booth for a midterm primary election.
Unfortunately, few people today seem ready to grasp this opportunity. Turnout for midterm primaries, as well as midterm elections, tends to be gruesomely low as they don’t take place during a presidential election year. The bases of the parties are the people who can be most counted on to show up, and the Republican base in the main is made of far more reliable every-time voters than Democrats. Welcome to why things are they way they are.
My dread this year is rooted in far more than the consequences. There has never been an election year like this, ever, and people are freaking out like horses caught in a thunderstorm. One example of gravity suddenly failing to work was encapsulated by a Politico/Morning Consult poll from last week. It reports that 46 percent of voters plan on voting for a Republican House candidate because the wildly popular child tax credit was killed off, even though it was the Republicans who did the killing.
“So if this poll is right, the same voters who benefited from this popular program are apparently rewarding the party that killed it with their votes,” writes political analyst Taegan Goddard. “Perhaps this is just another major messaging fail by Democrats. But with Republicans around the country pursuing a far-right agenda — including outlawing abortion, restricting gay rights and making voting harder — there seems to be little connection between what voters want and what Republicans do. And they’re not being punished for it — at least not yet.”
COVID 19, the insurrection, tub-thumping racism on display in Congress and an entire political party in thrall to a defeated former president who fancies himself an electoral kingmaker… these are the ingredients for the kind of stew that would make a herd of billy goats vomit into their beards, yet here we sit waiting for daylight. With voting still many weeks away, this confluence of the bizarre and the deeply dangerous has already produced races better suited to the Saturday morning cartoons than to the establishing of functional government.
In Georgia, former NFL player Herschel Walker is seeking to take back the seat Raphael Warnock secured in that miraculous two-race victory in 2020. Walker is avoiding audiences whenever he can, and is running on his record as a successful businessman.
A fine tactic to be sure, if such a record actually existed. “Those claims include running the largest minority-owned food company in the United States,” reports The Daily Beast, “owning multiple chicken plants in another state; and starting and owning an upholstery business which was also, apparently, at one point in his telling, the country’s largest minority-owned apparel company.”
Also in Georgia, David Perdue has fashioned himself the avatar of Trump’s election justice by trying to knock off Republican Gov. Brian Kemp because Kemp would not help Trump steal the election. Kemp currently leads Purdue by double-digits, but all Perdue has to do to cause real trouble is to come home with enough votes to force a runoff vote, at which point anything could happen. Perdue is also one of the big tests of Trump’s endorsement; to date, that precious endorsement hasn’t been worth all that much for him.
And then there is Alaska, home of the recently departed GOP Rep. Don Young. Among the 48 candidates (!!!) for the seat is none other than Sarah Palin, who shares a lead in the race with Al Gross. There really isn’t much to say here that hasn’t been said repeatedly since Palin was plucked from Wasilla in 2008 by John McCain and became another of our long national nightmares. These far right times we are in seem a perfect fit for Palin, and she damn well might win.
The list of other fascinatingly bent primaries to come is long, and we will get to them all in due time. In the meantime, get some rest and eat healthy food. I have a feeling this election season is going to beat the stuffing out of us but good.