Opinion | The midterms are a referendum on democracy in America and Ukraine


Polls suggest that the economy and crime are among the top issues for voters in the midterms — and that as a result, Republicans are surging at home. I think many voters are missing the point. These elections are effectively a referendum on whether you favor the continuation of democracy in America – and Ukraine.

These issues are more closely related than most realize because most of the same MAGA candidates who support Donald Trump’s strongman rule at home are either indifferent or hostile to the fate of democracy abroad. JD Vance, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, exemplifies the trend: He has said the 2020 election was “stolen” and “I don’t care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.”

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That makes it all the more disturbing that Vance and other MAGA candidates are in the lead two weeks before Election Day. Vladimir Putin must have a smug smile on his face when he reads reports on the latest political developments in “The Main Enemy,” as KGB agents of his generation referred to the United States.

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A Post analysis found that “a majority of Republican nominees on the November ballot for the House, Senate and key statewide offices — 291 in all — have denied or questioned the result of the last presidential election.” Put another way, this means that a majority of the main GOP candidates reject the basic premise of democracy, which is to accept the result of an election even if your side loses. But in a recent New The York Times-Siena College poll found that 39 percent of voters (and 71 percent of Republicans) are open to supporting candidates who reject the results of the 2020 election. If those candidates win, it would mean that would-be authoritarians could get a stranglehold on our democracy.

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It is especially troubling to see so many suffragettes running so strongly as candidates for governor or secretary of state in swing states — positions where they would have to certify the results of the next presidential election. Their terrifying credo is expressed by Jim Marchant, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in Nevada, who said: “When my coalition of secretary of state candidates around the country is elected, we will fix the whole country and President Trump will be president again in 2024.”

Suffragists at the state level will have a lot of support from Suffragists in Congress. It’s hard to imagine MAGA members voting to certify a Biden victory in 2024. It’s easy to imagine them doing anything to harass and obstruct the Biden administration — from launching politically motivated investigations to force a debt default – to set the stage for a Trump comeback in 2024. And if the Orange Emperor takes power again, you can bet he’ll try to Orbanize – ie. kill – our democracy.

The fallout could reach all the way to Ukraine, where a crisis-stricken democracy needs American help to beat back the Russian invasion. Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the likely next House speaker, said: “I think people are going to sit in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just don’t want to .”

His comment drew criticism from other leading Republicans, including the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former vice chairman Mike Pence. But McCarthy pays more attention to the far right than they do because so many MAGA extremists are in Parliament – and he knows they have turned on Ukraine in recent months.

The Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Republicans who say the U.S. sends too much aid to Ukraine has risen from 9 percent in March to 32 percent last month. That’s hardly surprising, given that the two most influential right-wing voices in the country — Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump — are hostile to Ukraine and sympathetic to Russia.

If McCarthy were so inclined, he could assemble a coalition of Democrats and hawkish Republicans in the House to provide more aid to Ukraine, but he would have to risk incurring the wrath of Trump and his MAGA henchmen. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy, who has a backbone of Jell-O, doing something so principled. If he is faced with a choice between the loss of his pulpit and the loss of Ukraine, you can guess which one he would choose.

The Biden administration may try to hedge against a Republican aid cap by trying to send a massive aid package to Ukraine before the new Congress takes its seat. That might be enough to see Kiev through 2023. But what about 2024 and beyond? Putin shows no signs of stopping his aggression, and he will only be emboldened to see Washington falter.

If you support democracy in America and Ukraine, vote for the Democrats on November 8th. But if current trends hold, Republicans are likely to take over at least the House and possibly the Senate, along with many state offices. This is how democracies die, both at home and abroad.


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