Democrats have hugged the center in midterms primaries while Republicans went 'hard-right MAGA': journalist
During the 2022 midterms, quite a few attack ads from far-right MAGA Republicans have tried to paint the Democratic Party as one that no longer has any room left for the center. But most of the Democratic midterms nominees, so far, have been establishment candidates rather than ultra-progressive. 2022’s GOP primaries, in contrast, have generally been quite favorable to former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement, and Republicans haven’t been shy about nominating far-right conspiracy theorists in gubernatorial races — including Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Kari Lake in Arizona, Dan Cox in Maryland and Tudor Dixon in Michigan.
Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank examines this contrast in his September 13 column, stressing that while Democrats have mostly hugged the center in 2022’s midterms, Republicans have gone “hard-right MAGA.’
“In both parties, ideological forces did indeed try to pull the center of gravity toward the extremes,” Milbank notes. “But the results were sharply different. In the GOP, the hard right prevailed, very much confirming the impression of a MAGA takeover of the party. In the Democratic primaries, the hard left was a nonentity, and the mainstream triumphed overwhelmingly; for all the chatter about The Squad, socialists, ‘defund the police,’ ‘abolish ICE,’ ‘Medicare-for-all’ and the ‘Green New Deal,’ candidates who self-identified with such views barely registered.”
Milbank cites an “exhaustive study” of U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives candidate led by Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution. Kamarck and her team, according to Milbank, “categorized the 2362 candidates, of whom 1397 were Republican, by endorsements, self-proclaimed ideology and use of hot-button phrases.”
“On the Democratic side, only 28 percent of candidates approvingly used left-wing phrases on their websites — Defund, Medicare-for-all, Green New Deal, etc. — or received an endorsement from either Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of The Squad, or the left-wing groups Justice for All, Our Revolution or Indivisible,” Milbank notes. “Of the nearly three-quarters of Democratic candidates who had none of the above, about half won their primaries. By contrast, 41 percent of Republican candidates approvingly mentioned former President Donald Trump, MAGA or ‘America First,’ or had a Trump endorsement or a Trump photo on their websites. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans had none of those — but such candidates prevailed only 30 percent of the time.”
Milbank continues, “The upshot, Kamarck tells me, is that the majority of Republican nominees on the November ballot are MAGA adherents, while the vast majority of Democratic nominees do not identify with left-wing figures or causes. Looking at it another way, the Brookings researchers found that 36 percent of GOP primary candidates identified themselves as MAGA Republicans, whereas only 1.5 percent of Democrats identified as socialists. And of the 13 candidates nationwide who called themselves democratic socialists, only five won — all in safely blue districts.”
Kamarck told Milbank, “The bottom line here is the left in the Democratic Party is simply not as strong as the right is within the Republican Party…. Republicans simply have a better chance of getting to victory with a base strategy than the Democrats do.”
GOP attack ads have been claiming that “defunding the police” is a major policy goal of the Democratic Party. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stressed that defunding the police is not part of the Democratic platform, and Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to defunding the police.
Milbank says of the Brookings-associated study, “The findings put the lie to the Republican caricature of Democrats as a bunch of radical socialists. They also show that the far left is something of a paper tiger, with disproportionate influence on social media and within urban Democratic powerhouses but with a relatively small constituency in the party nationwide.”
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