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The Primary Concerns of a Convoluted Age

West Virginia’s Republican Party will choose its Senate nominee in a primary election today, and it makes for an interesting contest. The race features the state’s Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, and the state’s current Third Congressional District Rep. Evan Jenkins, both of whom are by all accounts the sort of solid but boring conservative Republicans the Grand Old Party once prided itself on, as well as Don Blankenship, a brash and blunt-spoken business mogul and political neophyte who is self-funding a quixotic campaign despite the sorts of scandals that used to derail a Republican primary campaign.
In the age of President Donald Trump it shouldn’t be surprising that Blankenship has a slight lead in the public opinion polls on Election Day, even though his scandals include the year he served in a federal prison for his coal mining company’s violations of worker safety laws that resulted in a mine explosion and the death of 29 coal miners.
Republican majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has directed his party’s congressional campaign fund to sink some six-figure expenditures into advertisements opposing Blankenship’s campaign, but Blankenship has doled out even more money for ads deriding McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch” and disparaging his Chinese-American wife and her “China person” relatives, claiming the year he served in prison on worker safety charges was a “deep state” conspiracy,” and has relished the opprobrium of the party’s hated Republican establishment. Meanwhile the Democrats have been spending their money attacking both of Blankenship’s more solid but boring conservative Republican opponents, sensing an easier kill, and the opprobrium of the entire hated political establishment explains his slight lead in the polls.
By Monday even Trump had “tweeted” his advice that West Virginian Republicans vote for one of the other two solid but boring conservative Republicans. It wasn’t because of Blankenship’s business decisions that had resulted in the death of 29 coal miners, nor because of the blatantly racist slurs against McConnell’s Chinese-American wife, who Trump had appointed as his Transportation Secretary despite his own crusades against McConnell and the rest of the rest of the hated Republican establishment, but because he’d concluded that Blankenship “can’t win.” Blankenship responded that he was even “Trumpier than Trump,” and given the Republican party’s current disdain for the entirety of the political order that might win him a nomination.
After a Republican primary in Alabama resulted in the nomination of an unapologetic theocrat and and convicted felon and credibly accused child molester, Trump had offered a full-throated endorsement of said nominee and suffered the embarrassment of eking out a win in that once-reliably Republican state, and he seems to have learned his lesson. Whoever wins the nomination in West Virginia will be up against unopposed Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, who’s as hellbent on coal-mining at whatever the costs as Trump or Blankenship or any other Republican, and has been Trumpy enough on all the rest of the Trump agenda to offend all the Democrats in the other 49 states, At this point, even those solid but boring conservative West Virginia Republicans who still have a shot at winning their party;s nomination seem unlikely to add to the Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the upcoming mid-term elections.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s Republicans have an almost as complicated choice in today’s Senatorial primary, and the upcoming primary in Arizona to replace the admirably solid and boring conservative but not at all Trumpy and therefore retiring Sen. Jeff Flake features a former local Sheriff and current frontrunner who was pardoned by Trump for violating the Fourth and Ninth and 13th Amendment rights of that city’s longstanding and largely Republican Latino population, and has recently been praised as a champion of law and order by the previously boring but solidly solidly Republican Vice President of the United States. Around the rest of the rest of the country, even here in our usually reliable Republican Fourth District of Kansas the solidly conservative but boring sorts of Republicans or even the more Trumpy types seem in for a tough general election fight.
The Democrats are as bad as ever, as far as we’re still concerned, even that Manchin fellow in West Virginia. Despite and perhaps because of our longstanding Republicanism we’ll advise both our Democratic and Republican friends in any old state to vote for the most boring and establishment type they find on their party’s primary ballots, and hope the center holds despite all the craziness that has been unleashed in both parties in the age of Trump.

— Bud Norman

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Settling for Less Than a Third Term

There is speculation in the press that First Lady Michelle Obama will make a run for the Senate in ’16, and we are heartened to hear it. As much as we dread the prospect of her ever holding any public office, it is an encouraging sign of the left’s lowered expectations that she’s settling for something so inconsequential as the Senate.
Way back in ’08, when hope and change and every liberal chin were in the air, the ambitions were greater. Candidate Barack Obama was sending tingling feelings down the legs of television commentators, being hailed by his awestruck admirers as a “messiah” and “an attuned being with powerful luminosity and high-vibration intensity who will actually usher in a new way of being,” his wife was promising that “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual,” the man himself proclaimed that his nomination to the presidency marked “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” and all of the smart people and most of the electorate bought into it. Our most earnestly pro-Obama friends confidently predicted that by the middle of Obama’s second term the country would be clamoring for the repeal of the 22nd Amendment to allow for his third term, or that Michelle Obama would win by a landslide to provide another eight years by proxy.
As unlikely as it sounded, even at the time, the trick had been successfully tried before. When Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace ran into term limits back in the late ’60s his wife, the delightfully named Lurleen Wallace, became the state’s first and thus-far only female governor on a promise to continue all of his policies. Both Wallaces were strict segregationists, so the Obamas might prefer another precedent, but at least they were Democrats and showed that it can be done. There’s also former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s successful run for ┬áSenate in New York after she took her carpet bag to that reliably blue state, but the Obamas will probably also prefer not to cite that. In any case neither analogy quite fits, as Alabama was clamoring for more of George Wallace and New York couldn’t get enough Clinton, proving that craziness has taken hold in all sorts of places at all sorts of times, but even our most earnestly pro-Obama friends aren’t saying anything about either the 22nd Amendment or a Michelle for President campaign.
This suggests that some sanity is creeping back into the body politic, and we welcome that, but it is distressing to think that there still enough of the craziness left that Michelle Obama might wind up in the Senate. She’d be running in Illinois, where her husband was an ever “present” legislator for several years before winning his own Senate seat and then carrying the state twice by large margins in presidential races, and although Republican Sen. Mike Kirk is generally well-regarded and is so clean by Illinois standard that he hasn’t so much as been sent to prison he would be hard-pressed to match the fund-raising and media cover and star power of another Obama campaign. Recent polling suggests that former Obama chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unpopular, the state’s dire fiscal situation and lowered bond ratings and high unemployment and general dishevelment is widely noticed, and those down-state Republicans are highly energized, but it’s still Illinois and anything is still possible there.
First Ladies have always enjoyed a certain status as women who married well, too, for at least as long as we can remember. Jackie Kennedy was probably the most revered of our days, what with the good looks and the high fashion and all, and Hillary Clinton benefited even further from the public sympathy for her husband’s serial infidelities, but even someone so un-telegenic as Pat Nixon always topped the most-admired polls even, and the gracefully non-controversial Laura Bush held the spot even as her husband was being pilloried in the press and popular culture. Michelle Obama will reap the same benefits, and a press ridden with white guilt will strive to give her just a bit more, so as long as she isn’t running for president she should be formidable.
Any possible Michelle Obama campaign is still two years away, however, and if current trends continue her name will be less valuable even in Illinois, but we suppose she could run on her own qualifications as a candidate. She went to Princeton and graduated with honors on the strength of the papers she wrote about racist and awful it was, parlayed that and her husband’s political connections into a three-hundred-grand-a-year diversity gig at a hospital, spent her years as First Lady staying at ritzy vacation spots and living high on the taxpayer hog while giving speeches about how tough she used to have it, promoted a school lunch menu that children everywhere hated, and fueled endless tabloid rumors about her marriage with photographs of herself sizing up the French Prime Minister’s far hotter wife or glaring with clearly hostile intent at her husband as he poses for “selfies” with comely European heads of state and otherwise looks foolish on the world stage. She famously declared that her husband’s likely victory in a presidential race was “the first time in my adult life I’ve been proud of my country,” a quote that Sen. Kirk might want to revive in his campaign advertisements, and she’ll have to make a case why she’s still proud that Barack Obama hasn’t allowed us to live our lives as usual. The people of Illinois might buy it, but at least she won’t be selling it to the entire country.

— Bud Norman