Reviews | This is why Peter Meijer lost?

Last year, Peter Meijer, the Michigan representative who voted to impeach Donald Trump and just lost his re-election primary because of it, shared a hypothetical nightmare that illustrates a central tension in American politics.

“China is invading Taiwan,” he said in a podcast interview. “We send in the Seventh Fleet to intimidate them, and it’s summer, and all of a sudden the power goes out in Phoenix and people are cooking to death in their house, and the Chinese are saying we can put the common if you turn around with this fleet. It would suddenly make cybersecurity the most resonant issue in America. But putting that scenario into perspective, he said, “if you were to question the public, cybersecurity wouldn’t even be in the top 50 issues.”

The same is true, he argued, about the politics of political violence: it is a vital concern on which you cannot campaign successfully. “I think Jan. 6 should have been a warning sign,” Meijer said. “It should have been, ‘This is a taste of what could happen if we continue down this path.’ Instead, it becomes something that you can justify, that you can reconcile.But, he pointed out, voters did not see January 6 and political violence as a major concern for their daily lives.

The political responsibilities for some issues – climate change, some national security issues, public health and, most notably, the protections of the democratic process – are weak and fade in the day-to-day, but when they become acute, they become global. Peaceful transition of power isn’t a problem unless it really is a problem, and then that’s the only problem.

The political incentives for elected officials and candidates to confront existential issues are totally destroyed. Many people gathered this week to ensure that Mr. Meijer would not return to Congress in 2023 and would instead be replaced on the ticket and possibly in Congress by John Gibbs, who said the 2020 election results are ” mathematically impossible”.

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In Tuesday’s primaries, Mr. Trump’s reshuffling of policy priorities dominated the night even as his grip on Republican voters appeared to have waned somewhat. The central political nexus shared publicly by many Republicans who prevailed is some level of rejection of the 2020 election results, ranging from tacit and cautious dodging to destructive conspiracy theories. The differentiator between a winning or losing Republican candidate tended to be Mr. Trump’s level of support; the winners themselves varied widely in terms of their own political brands, from hardcore MAGA to corporate-backed establishment.

This state of affairs produced the surreality where Mr. Trump simultaneously endorsed two Missouri Senate candidates named Eric: Schmitt, who won, and Greitens, who was charged with domestic violence, which he denied. You can see how a Republican official, on some cynical level, looking at the landscape, would dodge 2020 election spending in the service of keeping a real conspirator off the ballot.

Meanwhile, Democrats have spent about $400,000 to help Mr. Meijer’s Republican challenger in the Michigan primary. It’s hard to determine how much the ad purchased with that money mattered in a universe of other factors: the margin of defeat was narrow but not very thin; Mr. Meijer and the groups that support him have spent far more on the race; and people want what they want, which for many voters in a Republican primary is what Mr. Trump wants. In this, it’s Mr. Gibbs, previously known for spreading conspiracy theories. Regardless of its effectiveness, the nature of the strategy remains grim.

The short-term incentives for Democrats to shorten the time horizon for solving existential problems are poor: President Biden’s approval ratings continue to decline, inflation won’t stop, and history suggests that whatever happens, the ruling party loses power. The incentive structure is that if they can elevate a weak opponent here and there, then they can overthrow a siege here, take a statewide position there, and claw back chunks of power. You can see how a Democratic official would, on some cynical level, justify the risk of helping elect a conspirator who might win anyway, especially if no one can really figure out how a candidate who carefully dodges the question about the election of 2020 would act in power. .

But there was no requirement for Democrats to spend money to help Mr. Gibbs; there is no requirement for Republicans to spend in every race this fall; the overall political incentive to win does not require participation in every race where trouble can be seen on the horizon. And that ended up being Mr. Meijer’s incentive structure: a public servant did what the people say they want (take the hard vote) on a central existential issue (Mr. Trump denying the results of the 2020 election), and he was honest about it but didn’t discuss it much (because, he said, voters weren’t so focused on it), and he ultimately lost anyway. On Wednesday evening, according to local media, he introduced Mr. Gibbs at a GOP unit event in western Michigan. Mr Meijer told The Atlantic last year that another lawmaker, who explained why he was voting against certifying the 2020 election, told him: ‘That’s the last thing Donald Trump will ask you to do .”

With the terms of the deal as they are in the Republican primaries, there’s an ever-increasing risk of replacing this or that official with someone whose next move you really can’t predict. It’s like suddenly finding yourself in the middle of a barely frozen lake with someone who keeps jumping.


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