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Despite What Fox News Says, The Political Establishment Is Resisting The 'Crazies'

Don Blankenship
Exhibit A: Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, a convicted felon, speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia on May 8. Blankenship, who was among the top three Republican candidates vying to take on Sen. Joe Manchin, lost the primary.
Tyler Evert/AP

With the polarizing insanity of the Trump era continuing, if not escalating, many are looking for signs that the political order is cracking up. Out-of-control factions on the left and right are said to be seizing power from wobbly party structures. The threat? That rabid and unvetted candidates will be rewarded, while the rest will be frightened into 50 shades of extremist, populist conformity.

In other words, look for Trumpish bull-in-the-political-china-shop candidates to do well on the right, and anti-Trump, impeachment-hawking, anti-Pelosi Democrats to prosper on the left.

It’s a good theory. But evidence of such disorder wasn't apparent in Tuesday’s primaries, which took place in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia.

In fact, this year’s primaries so far — with a long way to go, to be sure — seem to suggest that the Republican and Democratic establishments have things under at least a modicum of control.

Roy Moore’s Republican primary victory in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate in September was the poster child for this theory. Despite his controversial history, new allegations, and opposition from Republican leaders up to and including President Donald Trump, Moore prevailed with Republican voters. He then lost the general election.

Ron Blankenship, the felonious former coal mining executive, was touted by some as the next of Moore’s ilk. Blankenship directed outrageous insults at Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and essentially asked West Virginia Republicans to vote for him because establishment Republicans were telling them not to.

But Blankenship finished third in Tuesday’s primary, with around 20 percent of the vote.

On the Democrats’ side, similar hype surrounded Dennis Kucinich’s campaign for governor. Endorsed by Bernie Sanders-backed Our America, Kucinich was said to be gaining momentum against establishment-backed Richard Cordray, former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In the end, Cordray won in a blowout, 62 percent to 23 percent.

On the Republican side of that gubernatorial race, a contentious primary went to Mike DeWine, one of the most familiar and “establishment” names in the state.

Those were just the high-profile examples. In down-ballot races, party leaders for the most part have been getting the outcomes they wanted in primaries — in the four states that voted Tuesday, and in Texas and Illinois, which previously held their primaries.

That’s been especially true for Democrats in districts targeted as potential takeovers from Republicans.

Mel Hall, for example, won Tuesday’s primary in Indiana’s second district over progressive firebrand Pat Hackett — an outcome party organizations believe give them the best chance against incumbent Jackie Walorski.

That appears to be becoming the rule, not the exception.

That’s not to say there isn’t some anti-Washington sentiment marbling through the results.

Mike Braun won the Republican Senate primary in Indiana, running as the outsider against two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. But Braun, a well-known businessman and former state legislator, is not a gate-crashing, norm-busting outsider in the Moore or Blankenship mold.

And in North Carolina, Republican Robert Pittinger became the first incumbent to lose a primary this year. He was defeated by Mark Harris, a preacher who ran to Pittinger’s right. But, that one narrow result doesn’t look, so far, like an indicator of any strong intra-party problems for the GOP.

A woman’s world?

In what’s been prematurely dubbed by many a “Year of the Woman” election, there has been evidence of something happening — but, so far, probably less than meets the eye.

It certainly appears that Democratic primary voters are ready, and even eager, to nominate women.

In the 41 congressional districts that voted Tuesday, 22 emerged with women as their Democratic nominees.

That’s especially impressive, as only four of those are incumbents seeking re-election.

Women had similar success in the Texas and Illinois primaries. So far, with about 20 percent of nominees chosen, Democrats appear headed to a historical level of female nominees with women winning more than half of open primaries with no Democratic incumbent in place.

But, most of those are in hopeless districts for Democrats — deep-red districts where the party’s nominee has virtually no chance of victory in November.

In districts where Democrats seem to have a good chance to win, two-thirds of those primaries that have been decided have been won by men.

That includes districts such as the Ohio 1st, and North Carolina 9th, which had no Democratic women on the ballot.

And, on the other side of the partisan divide, Republicans have thus far nominated women in less than 10 percent of their primaries.

Most notably, men are dominating the primaries where the current Republican officeholder is not running for re-election — open GOP-held seats, where the primary winner is in strong position to win in November.

Through Tuesday, nine such districts have chosen their Republican nominees. Only one is a woman: Carol Miller, majority whip in the West Virginia house of delegates. She narrowly emerged, winning with 23 percent in a seven-candidate field.

And Democrats think they might be able to defeat her in the general election — with a man, Richard Ojeda, who defeated two women to get the nomination.

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