Society vs Backlash. America has been destabilized by two broad and related developments, the evolution of a multicultural, socially liberal mainstream and a bitter backlash among white conservative best seen in terms of permanent insurrection. Politically, the Democrats are the party of multicultural mainstream America and indeed the civil rights, diversity politics of the Democrats has been one of the main vehicles for creating and defining that mainstream. But politics is also important for understanding the destabilizing and dangerous white conservative backlash. As America’s conservative party, the Republicans have been a focus of backlash since Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and backlash phenomena like MAGA, QAnon, the Big Lie, the re-articulation of bigotry as “anti-woke,” and the campaigns against transsexual teens and drag shows are intimately connected with GOP politics.
Politics of Insurrection. The assault on the Capital building in Washington was an attack on the United States on the same level as the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor that brought America into WWII and al-Qaeda’s attack on New York City, the Pentagon, and the Capitol on 9-11. The American media has under-estimated the extent to which the insurrectionary energy of Jan. 6 continued for more than a year after President Biden’s inauguration. There were many examples of insurrectionary activity, including the continuation of the QAnon movement, all the bizarre conspiracy theories around Covid vaccines, and local insurrectionary activism in places like Idaho. In politics, insurrectionary energy focused around the Supreme Court taking a case that would allow state legislatures to ignore the popular vote in presidential elections, MAGA fascists like J. D. Vance, Blake Masters, Doug Mastriano, and Kari Lake running for governor and Senate positions, and a number of Republican candidates for the state Secretary of State positions that controlled elections in the states. GOP Secretary of State candidates in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada all claimed (one way or another) that Democratic candidates could only win by fraud and promised to attack voting by Democratic constituencies.
Blowing Out the Insurrectionists. Of all the insurrectionists who ran for major office, J.D. Vance was the only one who won and that only happened because of a major injection of cash from Mitch McConnell. Insurrectionist Republican Doug Mastriano lost by 15 in the race for governor in PA, Blake Masters by 5 for the Senate seat in Arizona, and Tudor Dixon by 10 for governor of Michigan. The most prominent of the insurrectionists running for statewide office was Kari Lake in Arizona and she’s currently trailing by 34,000 in a still undecided race and Adam Laxalt has lost in Nevada now that all the votes are counted from Las Vegas. Even more to the point, all of the insurrectionist candidates lost for Secretary of State offices in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin. For example, Arizona GOP Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem lost by 5.6%, Kristina Karamo by 14% in Michigan, and Jim Marchant in Nevada by 2% (where the GOP won the governor’s race and only lost in the Senate by 5,000 votes). Insurrectionist candidates like gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels of Wisconsin wanted to guarantee that “will never lose another election” in their states but were turned back by their Democratic opponents.
When Will Normal Become Normal? Hard left podcaster Matt Christman tweeted that Democrats did well in the 2022 mid-terms because they are the “normie” party and were able to remain “normal” despite determined Republican efforts to “flip that by associating them with crime and immigrants and gender sickos.” Christman added that “[t]his is problematic for people who are obsessed with defining themselves in counter-cultural opposition to the normie mainstream, but ON BEHALF of some imagined heartland “normal” American.” Of course, the “counter-cultural opposition” isn’t much of a force in American life and indeed it seems that multicultural and liberal Democrats have not been able to establish as “normal” even though they were successful in portraying themselves as “more normal” than MAGA Republicans. That’s because the far more powerful force of the mainstream news media agrees with both the counter-culture and Republicans in imagining a “normal America” of small towns, small business, farms, and factories in which the template is white conservatism even though Democrats do make inroads. That’s why the New York Times, CNN, and Politico sent so many reporters trekking to diners, bars, and gun shows since 2016. Like Paul Simon, they all wanted to “look for America” or at least the “normal America” that they thought was Saginaw rather than NYC, Chicago, or Detroit. In 2022, the Democrats were able to portray the MAGA extremists of small town America as threats to democracy but were not able to establish their own multicultural, socially liberal base as the American normal. Even though the Democratic coalition “is” the norm, it doesn’t “seem” to be the norm. And that’s still a problem.