Persuasion’s Yascha Mounk recently interviewed Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Kleinfeld’s response to a question about interpreting the midterm results, and whether those results showed a rejection of extremism and election denialism, was–in my opinion–an important summary of just where we Americans find ourselves politically, and although it was rather lengthy, I’m quoting it in its entirety:
The election showed that with a gigantic amount of work on behalf of many, many organizations, you can move a tiny percentage of independent and right-leaning swing voters away from election denialism and real authoritarianism in swing states. That mattered a lot, because it means that the 2024 election will be free and fair. But what it didn’t do was fundamentally shift the dynamics in the Republican Party. While Trump might be losing steam, Trumpism, Christian nationalism, othering people to build your base with wink-and-nod authoritarianism, is still alive and well. We’re seeing DeSantis do it. We’re seeing other front runners do it. We saw candidate intimidation. We still saw election deniers win in deep red states. We have about 16 states now where there’s trifectas—a state in which the governor, the attorney general and both chambers of the legislature (basically all of your major executive roles that would control elections) are all of one party. In about 15, maybe 16 states, those are all Republican and a number of election deniers were elected to those positions. It’s worth remembering that the Jim Crow South was only 11 states, really, in its full form of election suppression against African Americans and poor whites. It doesn’t take the entire United States to have an authoritarian enclave somewhere. The role of the RNC in Arizona was notable. Arizona is really the only place we saw any kind of election violence, with the supervisor of Maricopa County elections going into hiding. An RNC phone call seems to suggest that the Republican National Committee was possibly threatening that the mob would be released if certain things didn’t happen.
A significant minority of Americans continue to embrace “Trumpism, Christian Nationalism and ‘othering'” and the most obvious question is why? Those of us who follow politics and policy answer that question with various allocations of racism, anti-intellectualism and (especially) fear of loss–loss of privilege, loss of social dominance.
As Kleinfeld highlighted, attacks on the bases of America’s governing philosophy are being nurtured and encouraged by today’s GOP.
Devoted Republicans with whom I worked “back in the day”–when the GOP was a very different animal– bemoan the reality that the party that bears that name has no resemblance to the party we once knew. The lack of two respectable, adult parties in America’s two-party system is more than troubling for a multitude of reasons, many of which I have previously explored, but in a recent column, Jennifer Rubin discussed a consequence that had not occurred to me: the GOP’s disdain for objective fact attracts voters and candidates who also believe facts to be irrelevant and governance beside the point.
Rubin calls this “politics as performance art,” and references GOP fabulists besides George Santos. She says that Republicans have moved on from the party’s lies about climate change, vaccines and voter fraud — they’re increasingly lying about themselves.
Granted, it would be hard to beat Santos for lying, and no one else (to the best of our knowledge) comes close. But not for lack of trying. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna has claimed to be Jewish– to have been raised as a “Messianic Jew.” (Messianic Jews aren’t Jews, for one thing, and it seems her father was Catholic and her grandfather fought for Nazi Germany.)
She changed her last name from Mayerhofer to Luna, and The Post found no evidence for her claims that her father was incarcerated for long periods. Other claims that she was traumatized by a home invasion in 2010 did not check out, either.
Rep. Andrew Ogles is not an economist, despite claiming to be one during his campaign-he has no degree in economics and was never employed as an economist. He also wasn’t a “trained police officer and international sex crimes expert,” as claimed; he was actually a volunteer reserve deputy. (Shades of Hershel Walker…)
It isn’t only in folks running for Congress. Arizona’s Republican attorney general investigated election fraud, then buried the findings when no evidence emerged. (The documents were just released by his Democratic successor.)
If it is “harmless exaggeration” to fabricate a life story, and “politics as usual” to insist that your election loss was due to vote fraud, what are assertions that “those people” want to replace White Christians, or that “woke” people are indoctrinating your children?
When such people hold office, how can we hope for governance based upon evidence and reason?