Maryland, thanks to the state's Democratic Party, is one shitty election cycle away from having a true-blue fascist in the governor's mansion.
As a lifelong Marylander, I don't love it. In fact, I hate it.
The state's Democratic machine spent millions to boost radical Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox, a Trump-backed avid supporter of right-wing insurrectionists, over the more moderate squish Republican Kelly Schultz. I guess the Maryland Democratic Party feared Schultz would cobble together to same contingent that gave Larry Hogan two terms as governor. So they actively backed Cox, who trounced Schultz in the primary.
The same happened in Illinois, where the Democratic Party and Gov. JD Pritzer himself poured cash into the primary campaign of fully radicalized Republican candidate Darren Bailey, who – to your great shock – was backed by Trump. Bailey won the GOP primary by miles. You may remember him as the guy who told Illinoisans it was "time to move on" about two hours after a gunman slaughtered a bunch of innocents at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois. He also trotted out the well-worn bad faith argument about mental health and gun massacres.
Now Bailey is horrifyingly one election away from taking over a state that will serve as a critical bulwark in the right's all-out, Supreme Court-blessed attack on civil liberties and basic rights in midwestern states. Illinois is set to become an abortion care oasis amid a sea of states that will crush abortion rights and leverage government power against people with both wanted and unwanted pregnancies. Bailey is vehemently anti-choice.
In Maryland, a heavily Democratic state that has had precisely one (1) Democratic governor in the 21st century, we'll have to hope that gaffe-prone and generally untrustworthy Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore doesn't fuck it up over the next four months. If he does – or if he runs the painfully uninspired campaigns of recent Maryland Democratic nominees – we'll have a fascist running shit in the Old Line State. And this was by design. It was no mistake, no cinderella story of the Little Fascist Who Could. Dan Cox would not have come within 15 points of his primary opponent had Democrats not intervened to ensure they get the matchup they want for November.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats gave a helping hand to a literal insurrectionist who is now in a dead heat with Democratic nominee for governor. Democrats boosting Republican radicals isn't isolated to gubernatorial races in reliably blue states. They're doing it in congressional races in California and Michigan, where Dems are elevating a guy who thinks Hillary Clinton communes with Lucifer and LGBTQ educators are "grooming" their students.
It's all so exhausting, this inability of cynical Democratic lawmakers and soulless party apparatchiks to understand our political crisis. There is a rising tide of fascism threatening to sweep every western nation, gleefully undoing democratic processes that have survived for generations and offered some hope that voting and activism would win the day. No one is safe from the radicalization of a Republican Party that has openly given up on the idea of a multicultural representative democracy. Powered by a billion dollar media apparatus that poisons the minds of Americans who would otherwise be normie political observers, this movement has told us explicitly that they will take no prisoners when they're in charge, that nothing is sacred, that there is no scenario in which they will view a government led by their enemies as legitimate.
The darkness is closing in, inch by horrible inch, and Democrats are playing games. Politics for them is not real life. I can't tell if this approach – catapulting fascists to power – is in good faith or bad faith. Either way, it's unforgivably dangerous and could (will?) accelerate the nation's backsliding into authoritarianism, from which, of course, there is no return.
“I realize that this type of political gamesmanship has existed forever, but our country is in a very different place now than we were in previous cycles,” Representative Kathleen Rice, Democrat of New York, recently told The New York Times. “For these Democratic groups to throw money at raising up a person who they know wants to tear down this democracy is outrageous.”
Democrats either don't get it – they fail to understand the seriousness of our fascist moment – or, worse, they do get it and they're fucking around and waiting to find out. They think they're setting up their candidates for success. In Maryland, Wes Moore should have an easy time running an ultra-safe campaign, occasionally warning voters that his opponent in an insurrectionist apologist and a Trump guy. Maybe this will scare enough Democrats and independents into making sure Dan Cox doesn't sneak into the governorship. Maybe it won't. One thing is for sure: Cox winning the state's gubernatorial Republican primary has energized right-wing voters unlike anything in the history of the state. And Moore, for his part, has already been accused of inflating his impressive and completely unvetted resume. If the press uncovers dirt on Moore, you know and I know the national Republican Party will flood Maryland with money and resources if a Trump acolyte has a real chance at running Annapolis.
Democrats certainly don't get that the average Republican voter isn't even uneasy about the January 6, 2021 effort to overthrow the government and install Trump into office for a second term. They like it. They love it, actually. Republican voters view the insurrection as a necessary fight that had to be fought against the evils of a cabal of Democratic elites who get their marching orders from Satan and eat babies – things of that nature. Elevating these anti-democratic Republican nominees only ensures conservatives who might have sat at home on Election Day with a squish on the ticket will now army crawl through ten miles of mud underneath rusted barbed wire to get to the polls.
I have bad news for the Democratic Party: The moderate suburban Republicans who only want slightly lower taxes only exist in the heads of party elites. They are imaginary. Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign was centered entirely on getting these mythical moderate Republicans to defect and vote for her, the subject of a 25-year right-wing smear campaign and the single most reviled politician in American history. This failed playbook that gave us the most catastrophic event in the nation's history is now being used in states and congressional districts across the US.
Every single Republican in Maryland will vote for Dan Cox. The same goes for the dangerous gubernatorial candidates in Michigan and Illinois. Democrats may have guaranteed the country will have a new slate of radicalized Republican governors who won't recognize 2024 election results if the Democratic presidential nominee wins, and who will use the full force of the state against the most vulnerable and needy among us. With the Supreme Court's right wing primed to green light the democracy-killing "independent legislature" theory this fall, bolstering far-right gubernatorial candidates is irresponsible at best and maniacal at worst. Again, I have no idea if this is being done in good or bad faith.
Trump and his minions are either an existential threat or they're not. The Democratic Party has to choose.
Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.