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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Tuesday’s Republican primaries should be an alarm bell to Democrats | Lloyd Green

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On Tuesday, Republicans flipped a congressional seat in a heavily Hispanic district in south Texas, sent packing a pro-impeachment Republican congressman from South Carolina and nominated a passel of Trump loyalists in Nevada. It was a good night for the 45th president and an even better one for his party.

In Texas’s 34th congressional district, Mayra Flores, a Republican, garnered 51% of the vote in a special election in a district that voted for Joe Biden by double digits. Flores is the first Republican elected from the district, and the first Latina Republican in Texas’s congressional delegation.

The Democrats have plenty to worry about. Flores campaigned on being born in Mexico and arriving in the US with her migrant parents. From the looks of things, the Democrats’ hold on Latino voters appears to be rapidly eroding. The cracks that appeared in the 2020 elections continue to grow.

Concerns over the economy and crime have supplanted immigration as a driving issue. With Trump’s name not on the ballot, the collapse of the stock market and inflation rampant, Flores’s win is a foretaste of the coming midterms. The special election also served as a blunt reminder of the lack of rapport between Joe Biden and the Latino community.

In the 2020 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders won Latinos over with a platform of Medicare for all and higher wages, lunch-bucket issues that resonate with a demographic group that leads Americans in workforce participation. In the February 2020 Nevada caucuses, the Vermont senator netted half the Hispanic vote, and triumphed in that contest by more than 25 points.

Beyond that, a significant portion of US Hispanic voters categorize themselves as “white”, including more than half of Cubans in the Miami area, a 2020 Pew survey found. Contrary to what some progressives have convinced themselves, not all Hispanics feel woke, let alone are inclined to refer to themselves as “Latinx”.

White voters with college degrees and Black voters in general comprise the heart of the Democrats’ coalition. But other demographic blocs appear to be heading for the door. Against this backdrop, the supreme court’s expected decision to overturn Roe v Wade should not be viewed by Democrats as a magic bullet that will rescue them from an expected Republican wave this fall.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Trump exacted a combination of fealty and revenge. His grip over Republicans may have loosened but the love affair continues.

In South Carolina’s seventh congressional district, incumbent representative Tom Rice suffered defeat after voting to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection.

The congressman lost to Russell Fry, a state legislator endorsed by Trump. Rice remained unrepentant to the end. “I was livid,” he said. “I took an oath to protect the constitution and I did it then and I would do it again tomorrow.” His constituents were unimpressed.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, Representative Nancy Mace defeated Katie Arrington, a one-term former state legislator who had Trump’s backing. Mace offended Trump by voting to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election and criticizing the insurrection.

Unlike Rice, Mace opposed impeachment. Beyond that, on the campaign trail, she repeatedly stressed her personal support for Trump, and let his backers know that she still stood with them.

Mace also received the active support of Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor and a Trump UN ambassador. The congresswoman also attacked Arrington for losing her security clearance while a civilian at the Pentagon. On Tuesday, Mace’s strategy paid off.

Trump loyalists also had a good night in Nevada. There, denial of Trump’s loss in the 2020 election emerged as the coin of the realm. Jim Marchant won the Republican nomination for secretary of state. His embrace of the big lie was a central tenet of his candidacy.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Trump’s pick for the US Senate, Adam Laxalt, prevailed in the Republican primary with a 55-36 win over Sam Brown, an Afghanistan war veteran. Laxalt is a former Nevada attorney general, and the grandson of the late Paul Laxalt, a US senator.

He will face the Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto in the fall. That contest will again highlight a battle for the ballots of Nevada’s Hispanic voters. Indeed, control of the Senate may rest with Nevada.

Likewise, Joe Lombardo, another Trump-backed candidate, won the Republican nod for governor. He is the sheriff of Clark county, and will take on Steve Sisolak, the Democratic incumbent.

Hearings held by the House special committee did not affect Tuesday’s primaries; they were irrelevant. Whether that is the case in November remains to be seen.


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