Friday, August 5, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Intraparty Factions Rising

The two major parties, each always containing rival

factions, are currently more significantly divided than

usual, and potentially losing individual elections at all 

levels because of these hyper-intraparty ideological

and personal conflicts.

It is no secret that the distance between the two parties

themselves seems magnified on issues, rhetoric and

personalities — and this has confounded those who

observe and analyze U.S. politics and elections as the

nation heads into the 2022 mid-term voting cycle that

will conclude in November.

Political polling has established a certain conventional

wisdom that a Republican (red) wave is likely in the 

mid-term voting. There is no doubt about President

Joe Biden’s unfavorabllity, and the dissatisfaction

with the direction the nation is taking, especially in its

economy, but the intraparty factions in states and

regions are making some gubernatorial, and U.S.

house and senate races too opaque and unsettled 

for conventional analysis.

A case in point is the U.S. senate race in Missouri.

Donald Trump carried this state by double digits in

both 2016 and 2020. It has become heavily GOP

in statewide elections.  But controversy befell a

recent Republican governor who in 2018 had to

resign. This year, in an attempt for a comeback, that

politician ran for an open U.S. senate seat resulting

from Republican Senator Roy Blunt’s decision to

retire. At least two other well-known GOP figures 

also ran in the party’s primary just concluded, and

one of them, state Attorney General Eric Schmidt,

won the primary, and will be on the November 

ballot against self-funder Democrat Trudy Busch 

Valentine who won her primary. Republicans who 

thought the controversial former governor being 

on the ballot might give Democrats a pick-up 

senate seat breathed an initial sigh of relief. 

However, former Missouri GOP Senator John

Danforth belongs to the moderate anti-Trump wing

of his party in the state, and reportedly is funding 

with millions of dollars from his personal wealth

the independent candidacy of John Wood, once

Liz Cheney’s lawyer on the January 6th hearings,

who says, if elected, he will caucus with the

Republicans in the U.S. senate. He probably can’t

win, but he could well draw enough voters from the

GOP nominee to give the election to the Democrat.

Danforth and Wood say they are in the race to win,

but that seems disingenuous considering Missouri

voting patterns. Knowing Wood would caucus with

the Republicans precludes any meaningful votes

from Missouri Democrats. Safe Republican could 

become a toss-up in Missouri.

Other cases in point are more self-inflicted. In the

key state of Pennsylvania, which Biden carried

narrowly in 2020, the state had been going red

following Biden’s anti-coal, anti-fracking and 

anti-pipeline energy policies which impacted so

negatively on so many state workers and families.

But state Republicans lacked a strong gubernatorial

candidate, and a celebrity out-of-state physician,

Mehmet Oz, narrowly defeated a potentially stronger 

candidate in the open U.S. senate race, created 

when GOP incumbent Senator Pat Toomey retired. 

The Republican nominee for governor is associated

with politics further right than many Pennsylvania

voters, but he received, as did Dr. Oz, Donald

Trump’s endorsement. Post-primary polling now has

both GOP nominees trailing their Democratic 

opponents by about 10 points. Earlier in this cycle,

Pennsylvania had been rated Lean Republican.

Democrats, divided into liberal and more radical

factions, have seen several long-time U.S. house

members challenged from the party’s left, and in 

some cases actually ousting their own incumbents

with more radical figures who could lose otherwise

safe Democratic seats in November. A case in point

is Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader

who was defeated in a recent primary by progressive

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and the race in November 

could now be a toss-up. Other incumbent Democrats

from super-safe districts, especially in New York, are

being challenged from their left, and might lose their

primaries, but the seats will remain Democratic no

matter who wins. What does matter in such cases if

the radical challenger succeeds is the further drift to

the ideological left of the liberal party, giving GOP

candidates in other districts a useful target. A case

of this is far left Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of

Minnesota’s 5th district (Minneapolis) who wins in

her urban area, but whom GOP congressional

candidates in other districts of the state cite as an

extremist figure emblematic of her party. This cycle,

as in 2020, she has a serious and well-funded

moderate liberal opponent, Don Samuels, in her

DFL primary, but he has an uphill challenge.

Redistricting following the 2020 census has also

put incumbent members of Congress from the same

party running against each other in  newly-drawn

districts. Several incumbents of both parties have 

been involuntarily retired in primary losses so far this

year, and the races usually have been decided on the 

basis of which wing of their party they espouse. 


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

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