Storm Lake Times Pilot

The fog sets in

Rick Morain

Lots of fog around these days. Like the one that took over my brain during my recent bout with COVID-19 and stuck around for awhile. Same for my wife Kathy. Same for a bunch of our friends who also contracted COVID-19.

Fogs also seem to be afflicting both of our political parties. Neither Republicans nor Democrats appear to agree among themselves on a path forward for their team. Call it brain fog, or the fog of war, or some other form of confusion – it’s all the same. Partisans of both parties wander about in their respective clouds, divided over which direction to seek and unable to agree on who, where, or what their leadership is. And the midterm elections are only a little more than three months away.

Each party appears to be divided into three camps, all three of which have similar counterparts in the other party.

Among Republicans there’s a group of Never-Trumpers who reject Donald Trump and all his ways. At the other end of the spectrum are those who are all in for the former President, who want to see him run again in 2024, and who support anyone who supports him and any position he takes. 

Between those two camps is a group that once supported Trump and his policies, but now think that his time is past and/or that another Trump run for President would prove counterproductive for the Republican Party. They are casting about for someone else to carry the party’s standard.

Democrats fall into a similar division. One group points to President Biden’s low poll ratings and the difficulty he has in persuading Congress to approve much of any policy he favors, and general reject what they consider to be his ineffectual leadership. On the other end, another group gives Biden their full support and does what it can to persuade members of Congress to do so as well.

And like the middle GOP segment, there’s a group of Democrats who like Biden and sympathize with the troubles he faces, but think it will not be wise to have him continue as their party’s leader after 2024. They want to groom someone else for the coming presidential election.

But with both Biden and Trump underwater in the polls among the general public, each party faces a tough challenge to coalesce around a potentially successful course of action.

And a battery of present-day crosscurrents complicates things enormously for Republicans and Democrats alike: recent Supreme Court rulings like the end of abortion guarantees, inflation, the war in Ukraine, mass killing after mass killing, the onslaught of climate-related catastrophes, and voter suppression efforts in a number of states. Neither party is close to consensus on how to handle such a wasps’ nest of challenges.

It’s unusual for an election cycle to be so unpredictable so close to midterm elections. Without some startling, course-changing event between now and the midterms, both parties face uncertainty going into 2023 and 2024.

Things will start to sort themselves out with the November election, of course. Independent voters appear to hold the key to the direction of the nation. How their opinions of the Trump phenomenon and Biden’s leadership translate into their ballot votes will set a course of sorts – but that will provide only a preview pointing toward the presidential election year of 2024. 

One fact is becoming clearer with the passage of time: this is a potent juncture in the political saga of the American nation. What happens in the next couple years may well determine whether Americans continue to govern themselves, or whether they abdicate that responsibility to a group or groups that seek power for its own sake. 

The American people haven’t traversed the past 246 years to cede our future to those folks.

Rick Morain is a reporter and columnist with the Jefferson Herald. 

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