Two-thirds in new poll say midterms more important than past elections

Two-thirds of American voters think the upcoming elections are more important than past midterms, new polling shows, with about six weeks until November’s midterms.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday found that 67 percent of voters feel casting a ballot in this year’s midterms is more important than in past elections, with 35 percent saying this year is “much” more important.  

Twenty-eight percent of voters said they felt this year’s election has about the same importance as previous years, and just 5 percent said it’s less important.

Higher than usual turnout is expected from both parties, according to the poll, with 3 in 4 Democrat voters and 8 in 10 Republicans saying they will almost certainly cast ballots.  

The GOP remains favored to win the House, though its expected margin of victory has steadily declined in recent weeks, according to forecasters, while the race for Senate is predicted to be a tossup. Former President Trump’s central role in the election — despite not being on the ballot — is of increasing concer n for Republicans.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll also found the parties nearly tied on a generic congressional ballot, with 47 percent of voters saying they’d support a Republican candidate and 46 percent saying they’d back a Democrat.

The economy, abortion and inflation were the top three issues for voters. 

A larger share of voters said they trusted Republicans to deal with the economy and inflation than said they trusted Democrats on those issues — a 17-point difference between the parties on inflation and a 16-point different on inflation.  

At the same time, an equally significant majority of voters said they trusted Democrats to handle the issue of abortion — 17 points higher than Republicans.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted Sept. 18-21 and surveyed 908 registered voters. The margin of error among registered voters was 4 percentage points. 

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Kari Lake: Cheney comments may be ‘best gift I have ever received’

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake on Sunday said her campaign welcomed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) promising to do everything she could to ensure Lake does not win in November.

Lake told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo that “the people of Wyoming can’t stand” Cheney and she was sure “the people of Arizona don’t like Liz Cheney” either.

“That might be the biggest, best gift I have ever received,” Lake said of Cheney’s comments. “The Republican Party, the new Republican Party, is the party of we, the people. It is no longer the party of warmongers.

“Liz Cheney probably should change her voter registration. Turns out she really is a Democrat after all,” the GOP candidate added.

Cheney, who recently lost her primary battle against a Trump-endorsed challenger, said Saturday she would do everything in her power to ensure Lake does beat Democratic opponent Katie Hobbs.

“In this election you have to vote for the person who actually believes in democracy,” she said at the 2022 Texas Tribune festival. “If we elect election deniers, if we elect people who said that they’re not going to certify results or who are going to try to steal elections, then we really are putting the Republic at risk.”

Cheney is vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and is one of the GOP’s fiercest critics of Trump. She was booted from a House leadership position last year after voicing her opposition to Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.

Lake is among Trump-backed candidates across the country who are pushing those false claims, even accusing Democrats of conspiring to cheat in the upcoming midterm elections.

Hobbs has refused to debate the GOP candidate , calling Lake a conspiracy theorist.

On Sunday, Lake accused Hobbs of employing an “old basement Biden play” in avoiding her on the debate stage, referring to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hobbs is leading Lake 49 percent to 48 percent in the latest AARP poll, showing a tight race between the two candidates.

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To whom does an elected official owe a duty of loyalty?

As the 2022 midterm elections approach, citizens should ask to whom an elected official owes a duty of loyalty. Are these candidates merely politicians seeking office to enhance their brand by leading the opposition against Americans who think differently? Or are they seeking office to serve as fiduciaries to the Constitution?

In a dangerously polarized nation, the answer leads to dramatically different forms of governance. The current political strife leads to deceit, distrust, and conflict. Electing fiduciaries should lead to trust that our institutions work for the people.

For 256 years, the U.S. has elected representatives, but their duty of loyalty to whom or what is vague. Of course, all take an oath to the Constitution and represent constituents, but such responsibilities are so abstract that they are meaningless.

The writings of John Locke , Edmond Burke and James Madison reflect a fundamental belief that no power is granted to our representatives as individuals. These representatives are fiduciaries that must act to achieve the public good. As fiduciaries, they cannot act beyond their legal authority and must administer laws impartially. Unfortunately, today this view is rejected by what Madison terms “factions ,” groups of citizens united in a common interest adverse to others in the community.

These factions are today’s political parties and interest groups that build their brand, raise massive amounts of money and acquire power by preaching division. The academic literature supports this self-interest by arguing that public officials cannot be fiduciaries since it would be impossible to give loyalty to the many diverging interests confronting elected officials.

While divergent ideas are essential and constitutionally protected, the fiduciary’s duty of loyalty does not apply to individuals, groups or political parties. Instead, it applies to the Constitution’s separation of powers structure , which allows society’s many contestable issues to be debated rationally to foster a consensus around the public good. The process includes a Congress that formulates laws after listening to all sides of a debate; an executive administers those laws, and courts resolve the controversies between branches.

For this structure to work, each branch of government has an independent duty to act as a check on the other branches. This tension is necessary to achieve the public good. Unfortunately, when elected representatives function as politicians, they distort the constitutional structure by placing their loyalty to political parties and interest groups ahead of the institution they serve. Displaced loyalty diminishes the Constitution.

Since our Constitution is held in trust by our elected representatives for the American people, it is protected when these officials vigorously defend the powers and duties of the branch they serve . Such defense is the best mechanism to ensure government is limited to the powers given it by the Constitution.

Today’s political climate illustrates this point. We have one political party controlling the legislative and executive branches. We have an executive making new laws, (student loan forgiveness, for example) or refusing to enforce existing law (immigration). While the executive’s party in Congress may have a majority of members in its caucus, at times, it still may lack the votes needed to authorize the executive’s actions. In instances when the executive acts without congressional authority, his party in Congress generally has the power to block the minority party from preventing the executive’s arbitrary accumulation of power.

As an end run around the Constitution, the politicians in Congress, rather than dealing with the difficulties of the legislative process, abandon their oath to uphold the separation of powers by allowing the executive to make law through regulation, executive order or simply not enforcing laws.

In theory, the Constitution works well. In practice, however, the constitutional mandate of separation of powers is regularly abused. When Congress ignores its duties to defend the separation of powers, it limits the ability of the constitutional structure to fully allow the multitude of interests a voice in the debate needed to achieve a governing consensus.

For several decades, party-line voting (Democrats vote one way; Republicans oppose) has become the norm. In the 1960s, party-line voting was around 60 percent, but by the Trump administration, it had reached 90 percent. Without letting the structure of the Constitution work, these representatives breach their fiduciary duty to the Constitution by allowing the executive to enhance its power by diminishing the power of Congress.

When loyalty to political parties and interest groups eliminate the separation of powers protections in the Constitution, citizens must rely on the interest groups named Democrats or Republicans for protection. Today such actions are arbitrary political power. Tomorrow it could be tyranny.

William L. Kovacs, author of “Reform the Kakistocracy,” winner of the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change, and a former senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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When petulance pervades politics

Psychologists got it right some time ago when they warned about participation trophies, the awards given to every kid in a competition, win or lose. They cautioned the awards make kids feel entitled to success and may even plant the seeds of narcissism.

“Narcissistic individuals feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment,” child developmental specialists concluded in 2014. “When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently.”

That same description is fitting for America’s persistent president of petulance, Donald Trump, who seemed astonished when he lost the 2020 election. He stomped his foot and claimed the other side cheated. He has repeated that grievance ever since because losing doesn’t fit with his self-image. Besides, people keep sending him money.

We see similar behavior today from Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and governorships in this November’s election. The Washington Post surveyed 19 Republican candidates in battleground races, and 12 of them refused to promise they would respect the results.

This raises the possibility that upcoming elections will be drawn-out affairs where results aren’t final until long after Election Day as officials and courts sort out challenges by the apparent loser. It also raises the possibility that a substantial number of voters will be represented in Congress by people they believe did not win the election.

Because so much of the electoral machinery is not visible to voters, there will always be opportunities for losers to make unsubstantiated claims that their defeat resulted from fraud.

Trump has eroded, if not ruined, the American people’s trust in the most fundamental ritual in a representative democracy. He also demonstrated that violence is an acceptable response to a contested election with his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection .

Before the 2024 election comes along, Trump must deal with several other challenges to his conviction that he’s too big to fail. He’s back to hiding behind the First Amendment to signal his supporters they should get ready to make “problems in this country, the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before ” if he’s indicted. His latest tactic is to fire up the followers of QAnon .

This tangled mess is the principal reason American democracy was graded “flawed ” in the latest world democracy ranking.

The threat of authoritarianism remains very real in America, and Trump remains the central source of that cancer in our body politic. We hoped it would be removed in 2020, but it is still present and metastasizing. Unfortunately, no uprising is visible yet by Americans who want to stop the cancer before it becomes terminal.

William S. Becker  is a former U.S. Department of Energy central regional director who administered energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies programs, and he also served as special assistant to the department’s assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Becker is also executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a nonpartisan initiative founded in 2007 that works with national thought leaders to develop recommendations for the White House as well as House and Senate committees on climate and energy policies. The project is not affiliated with the White House.

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On immigration, DeSantis is racing Trump to the bottom

I don’t know if Gov. Ron DeSantis’s duplicitous move sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard will help him politically. One fallout from his cynical ploy will be to accelerate his showdown with Donald Trump.

You could sell tickets to a fight between these two tough, mean, unprincipled brawlers. It won’t be an ideological struggle; ideas are transactional for Trump, not much different for the Florida governor. DeSantis is smarter; Trump is shrewder.

It’ll be a race to the bottom.

Scared politicians — those enablers who were silent when aware of Trump’s transgressions and fear DeSantis may be a clone — will have to choose sides; neutrality is unacceptable to these gut fighters.

Foremost may be Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who made a miscalculation in deciding not to convict Trump in his second impeachment though he thought he was guilty. (The Kentucky Senator, who has contempt for Trump, pointedly praised DeSantis, declaring that sending those migrants was a “good idea.” )

As interesting will be watching the craven right-wing evangelicals who put their moral values in a blind trust during the Trump presidency.

The treatment of these migrants — they are seeking asylum, most from communist Venezuela — is a moral matter. Those being flown or bused from Texas and Arizona include children.

Yet Robert Jeffress, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, who was a big Trump supporter, is in DeSantis’s corner. He says the blame should be on those who won’t secure the border — he means Joe Biden.

The Florida governor was doing a favor for these new arrivals: “Busing illegal immigrants to Washington, D.C. or Martha’s Vineyard is not exactly the same as Siberia,” the pastor declared. “Most Americans would love the opportunity to visit either destination.”

Apart from the factual errors — they aren’t illegal immigrants, and they were flown, not bused, to the Vineyard — here’s an idea: The good reverend should take a vacation and ask Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to let him accompany the migrants the next time he buses some to a northern paradise.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, likewise says the situation is caused by the Biden administration. While he says immigrants should be “dealt with compassionately,” governors like DeSantis “are trying to get the attention of Washington — and it is working.”

Most other right-wing evangelicals I contacted are ducking the issue.

Ralph Reed, the political operative, replied that he’s spoken on immigration but not on the migrant controversy. Richard Land, once a big deal in Southern Baptist politics, the Rev. Paula White, who practices prosperity theology and ministered to former President Trump when he was in office, and the Southern Baptist Convention didn’t answer requests about their views.

This is not about immigration policy. Even those who favor a much more restrictive policy should condemn using desperate people and their children as political props. That’s what DeSantis did. As Popular Information’s Judd Legum revealed , his agents told the migrants about great benefits and opportunities awaiting them in Massachusetts, a hoax to get them to “volunteer” to take the flight north.

This may result in lawsuits, and a Texas sheriff is looking into criminal charges .

DeSantis was raised Catholic and appears to have begun to flirt with, if not embrace the notion that America is “a Christian nation.” His actions, however, are as hypocritical as Trump.

There are scores of Biblical references about the humane treatment of immigrants, strangers. The governor seems to have missed these.

Catholic bishops in Florida, Texas, Massachusetts and elsewhere have stressed the moral issue in condemning DeSantis and the governors of Texas and Arizona. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said “to use migrants and refugees as pawns offends God, destroys society and shows how low individuals can (stoop) for personal gain.” He likens this to “human trafficking.” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, warns  that “the judgment on Christians who disrespect the poor will be most severe.”

But in any contest with Trump, the reigning champion immigration basher, this won’t hurt politically. 

Trump still runs well ahead in national surveys, but a poll last week in Florida , where both men reside, had DeSantis beating Trump.

And don’t expect the Florida governor to back down on migrants. Like Trump, he believes contrition is for the weak. Earlier this year DeSantis told a Cuban group that comparing the plight of these unaccompanied children arriving now from Latin America to the welcome mat put out for Cuban children in the 1960s was “disgusting .” The Archbishop of Miami, Thomas E. Wenski, was appalled: “No child should be deemed ‘disgusting’ especially by a public servant.” DeSantis’s flak accused the Bishop of “lying.”

That is so Trumpian.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for The Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then The International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts Politics War Room  with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC .

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