Navigating the Middle, When Politicians Are Exploiting Extremes

DC Politics

Pearl River     News from California or Massachusetts for those of us in the southern states or, frankly, the rest of this big country of ours, often seems like signals from other planets.  The latest political moonbeams from Cali are recording a huge win for Governor Gavin Newsom against the recall efforts, triggered by his pandemic and economic policies.  In Massachusetts, the mayoralty primary saw two women lead in Boston, which is a first, and both front runners are neither Irish or Italian for the first time in what seems like forever there.  What do these races teach us, if anything in the rest of the country and with the 2022 midterms soon staring us in the face?

            In a New York Times analysis, the question was posted succinctly:

…recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

The report from Boston indicated that this knife, and more recently the race in Ohio between two Black women, one very progressive and the other more moderate, can cut both ways.  The strategy for the runner-up for mayor is to paint the frontrunner as extreme for advocating free transportation and a green New Deal in the city, when those are state decisions.  Nationalizing elections is not a cure-all.

For progressive, this is a good news / bad news moment.  Republicans can be beat if they can be Trumped, which is to say painted as closely to Trump as possible, as hardcore rightwing extremists.  Newsom led in polls almost 70-30 among the vaccinated, so this pandemic record is going to be very important over the next year, or as long as the virus lingers.  This spells trouble in the rest of the country, unless the percentage of the vaccinated rises significantly, and that one of many red state problems.  But, the runner-up strategy in Boston, and Republicans are absolutely going to use this in as many places as they can, just as we are seeing in Democratic primaries, is to paint progressives as extreme, unrealistic, and more.  This lesson is embedded in the Biden victory over Trump and, like it or not, in West Virginia Senator Manchin’s continually frustrating survival strategy.

The question for all progressives becomes, “How do we get what we want, while keeping the middle with us?”  As Jim Hightower famously said, “there’s nothing in the middle of the road but dead armadillos.”  Unless we figure out this puzzle, progressives and the policies we demand could end up side by side with those armadillos.