Democrats to the center, Republicans to the right

(Photo by Gage Skidmore / Attribution-Sharelike 2.0 Generic)

The midterm elections are now a little more than nine weeks away. What was once predicted to be a resounding Republican recapture of the House and the Senate is no longer quite so clear. But there are some interesting trends that were reinforced in last week’s primaries: Republicans are voting for Trump-endorsed election deniers, but not so much if they aren’t Trump-endorsed; and Democrats are leaning toward the center.

In New York’s District 12, the state’s botched redistricting fiasco ended up pitting two prominent and moderate Democratic incumbents — Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney — against each other. Nadler won that race. In nearby District 10, former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman defeated progressive State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou and progressive incumbent Rep. Mondaire Jones. And in District 17, moderate incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney beat progressive state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, despite her endorsement by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

We saw a similar result last month in the Michigan Democratic primary in a battle of two incumbents, where moderate Rep. Haley Stevens beat progressive Rep. Andy Levin. And in Minnesota, progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was nominated by a wide margin in 2020, barely beat out her centrist opponent in the 2022 primary.

If these and other Democratic results point to a tentative, but welcome, shift to party moderation, Republican results appear to be shifting to the right-wing fringe, where a Trump endorsement carries great weight and the assertion that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election is taken as gospel.

Arizona is a good example. State lawmaker Mark Finchem won the Republican nomination for secretary of state. Finchem is an election denier who was endorsed by Trump. If he wins in November, Finchem will oversee the state’s election processes and will be the first in line to succeed the governor, since the state has no lieutenant governor.

In Florida, Cory Mills, a defense contractor who won the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat, has also questioned Biden’s 2020 victory. The same is true for Florida House nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who was endorsed by Trump and also boasted campaign backing from Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Jewish space laser fame.

Compare those results with the Republican elected officials that voters tossed out. For example, we wrote last week about Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Another Republican punished by voters is Rusty Bowers, speaker of Arizona’s House of Representatives. Like Cheney, Bowers is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-small government and a former Trump supporter. He is also one of the people who refused requests to overturn 2020 election results in Arizona. He lost his seat to Trump-endorsed David Farnsworth, who believes that the 2020 election had been stolen by the “devil himself.”

Such is the push and pull of today’s politics. We are seeing a Democratic party strengthening its center as the Republican party races for the right. While these primary results will present some clear general election choices in November, it isn’t yet clear which way America wants to go.

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