It’s hard to conceptualize how terrifying American political discourse is right now, unless you’re in the country. It is even more difficult to grasp whether there is a coherent national narrative given how political discourse has become disparate, disconnected and detached from reality. In New York, where I am now, there are flashes of political danger gripping the country. There’s the fact that incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul isn’t comfortably ahead of Trump Republican nominee Lee Zeldin, a man who opposed certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. There are the increasingly savage attack ads roaring at “extreme liberals” when it comes to candidates who are essentially mainstream centrists. There is nervousness about a red wave that, although Democrats outnumber Republicans here by more than two to one, will likely see Republicans flipping some House of Representatives seats currently held by Democrats in the state.
New York is not just New York. These are the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Poughkeepsie, Westchester County. It’s about conservative voters responding to Republican candidates who don’t focus on protecting democracy, but on crime and the cost of living. And it’s also about a larger narrative that people of all political persuasions believe: the country is going to hell in a trash can. From a Democratic perspective, that fear is well-founded. The threats to democracy, the rollback of rights and freedoms, and the Jumanji-style unleashing of extremist republicanism that Trump has encouraged are very real. From a Republican perspective, and most certainly the extremist end of Maga Republicanism, this fear is made up of a wide range of fantasies, conspiracies and moral panics, which are themselves inflamed with division and polarization.
If you’re already down the Maga rabbit hole, you won’t care about the dismantling of democracy, even though it’s the most important issue in the United States today.
So what does a country do when so many voters and politicians are increasingly out of touch with reality? Some of the Republican politicians behind this narrative do so intentionally in bad faith, seeking to gain political capital and power by driving the shotgun to madness, fear, bigotry and rage. Others seem genuinely fascist and terribly delusional.
The narrative of how the Democrats spoiled their message — by focusing on the petty issues of democracy and bodily autonomy — is right and wrong. If you’re already down the Maga rabbit hole, you won’t care about the dismantling of democracy, even though it’s the most important issue in the United States today, because you live in an alternate universe. While religious fundamentalism makes restricting the right to abortion a wish for some (too many), the majority of Americans (61% according to the Pew Research Center this year) believe that abortion should be legal. It seems that it may only be when he is literally on the ballot that he motivates the vote in a tangible and targeted way.
In the Kansas abortion referendum in August, for example, pro-choice voters were mobilized in a very conservative state. The same goes for Michigan, where abortion rights are also on the ballot, alongside a gubernatorial race between an incumbent Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, and a Republican, Tudor Dixon, who promoted various conspiracy theories, such as suggesting the pandemic was a Democratic party. ground. Conspiracy theorists were laughed at, now they’re running for office, on a grand scale.
In 2016, all that craziness was geared toward Trump, but now there’s tapas craziness for voters to choose from.
If there’s one word to describe these midterm elections, it’s ‘cracked’. Fears abound about Trump’s 2024 candidacy, but Trumpism will outlast Trump. Disconnection from reality, lying, the collapse of meaning, conspiracy theories, sectarian fervor, extremism, bigotry, the shock factor, social media misinformation, the feeling of chaos – all of this turns your head. .
The facade that keeps things running is the economy. It’s remarkable how all this madness can exist in the political sphere, but the American economy can negate it if people still have jobs and can still pay for things. Things that seem totally disparate can coexist. If you’re in New York, what can you really do for midterm exams in Arizona, for example? Because in this universe, gunmen camped in an early polling station to intimidate voters; Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is ambiguous about whether she will accept the results if she does not win; Peter Thiel – the multi-millionaire libertarian venture capitalist – backs Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters; and uncertainty is sown around electronic voting machines. But Arizona is far away, about the same distance from Manhattan as Marrakech is from Cork. They are intermediaries on disconnection and distance; from place to place, and from truth to lie.
In 2016, all that madness was centered around Trump, but now there are tapas of madness for voters to choose from, underscored by a national education issue in media literacy and critical thinking, and how concerned people are about manufacturing ‘culture wars’, which have escalated alongside, oddly enough, the rise of social media since the Obama era. Joe Biden can make all the talk about democracy by danger he wants, and he’s right to, but when the truth doesn’t matter, when alternative silos create bubbles of misinformation, when political violence is a threat – since the attack on the Capitol of January 2021, to Nancy Pelosi’s husband being beaten with a hammer in his house – when fundamentalism is dominant, it is not only democracy that is dismantled, it is reality itself.