It’s a political truism that turnout improves when voters are motivated by negativity. In other words, the impulse to vote against a candidate, party or issue is stronger than the desire to register support for those of whom we approve.
We’ve certainly seen that play out in the Presidential election. I happen to be one of those people who really, really likes Joe Biden, for reasons not relevant to this post, but it has been clear for some time that hostility to Donald Trump and his enablers is driving many more people to the polls than warm feelings for Joe.
Anger and disgust are also playing a major role in contests for the Senate, and eye-popping fundraising totals have been one result. Friends of mine who never appear on lists of big donors–and who rarely give financial support to candidates outside their own districts–have been sending multiple small-dollar donations to Democrats around the country who are running against Republicans they find particularly odious.
I doubt that all the money going to Amy McGrath will allow her to edge out Mitch McConnell–it is, after all, Kentucky. I hope I’m wrong. I can think of no individual who has done more harm to America than “the turtle,” and I would love to see McGrath wipe that smarmy smirk off McConnell’s face. Whatever the result, the enormous success of McGrath’s fundraising testifies to the extent to which McConnell is a hated figure.
I do have hopes for Jaime Harrison, who is polling dead even with “Miss Lindsey” Graham. Harrison is a truly impressive candidate, but the astonishing success of his fundraising is more attributable to the number of Americans who detest Graham than it is to his considerable virtues.
It was a bit of news that came and went quickly amid the fury of political developments these days, but last weekend Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democrat who is fighting to unseat Lindsey Graham, announced that he had not merely broken the record for fund-raising for a Senate candidate in a single quarter. He had shattered it.
From July through September, Harrison took in about $57 million. That was nearly $20 million more than Beto O’Rourke, the previous record-holder, collected during the same span two years ago, when he waged his ultimately unsuccessful battle against Ted Cruz in Texas.
As Bruni observed, Harrison is the recipient of so much money because he’s the vessel of so much hope.
No other political contest in 2020 offers quite the same referendum on the ugliness of Donald Trump’s presidency. No victory would rebut Trump’s vision of America as emphatically and powerfully as Harrison’s would.
Remember the time before Trump’s Electoral College win, when Graham said the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell”? Now he’s not only Trump’s adoring golf buddy, he’s his obedient factotum. (His U-Turn on Trump was so dramatic, it raises speculation that Trump has something on him and is blackmailing him.)
Graham’s most odious, most despicable “U Turn,” of course, has been on vivid display in the frantic and unseemly haste to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
When he assisted Mitch McConnell in stealing Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court, Graham claimed that he’d never consider, let alone promote, a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of a president’s term. We’ve all seen the footage of him telling journalists to “mark his words and use them against him if the need ever arose.”
Somehow, the word “shameless” seems inadequate…
As Bruni wrote,
One of the main story lines of the Trump years has been the spectacular moral capitulation of most Republican lawmakers, who junked supposedly cherished principles to placate a president whose hold on his base and capacity for vengeance mattered more to them than honor, than patriotism, than basic decency. Graham is the poster boy of that surrender, Complicitus Maximus, in part because his 180-degree turn to Trump required that he show his back to his close friend and onetime hero John McCain.
It’s nice that Jaime Harrison is so admirable and qualified, but that $57 million dollars is a measure of how detestable most honorable Americans find Graham.
The massive early voting turnouts we are seeing would appear to confirm the political premise that more people turn out to express disgust than approval. Let’s hope that holds true even in the deep red states…