Much of the attention paid to Donald Trump’s favorite candidates running in the midterms has focused — rightly! — on their support for relitigating the 2020 election. (Which, for those still unsure, was not stolen.)
But across a range of policy issues, including abortion, climate change, same-sex marriage and education, Trump’s MAGA warriors have taken positions that put them on the fringes of the Republican Party — let alone the nation as a whole.
The usual caveats apply: Candidates often say things to win a primary that they then jettison or downplay when facing general-election voters.
But the nature of political partisanship in America has changed over the last decade or so, raising doubts about whether that conventional wisdom still holds. If they are elected in November, the Trump crowd could shove American politics sharply rightward.
Let’s take a look:
Nowhere is the starkness of these candidates’ positions more evident than on abortion, which has become a much more urgent litmus test on the right since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, has said she supports enacting a “carbon copy” of the Texas abortion law in her state. That law does not include exceptions for incest or rape. It also contains an unusual provision that was meant to work around Roe v. Wade before the decision was thrown out in June: Anyone can report someone violating the law and claim a $10,000 bounty from the state.
Blake Masters, who won the GOP nomination for Senate in Arizona, has supported a federal “personhood” law that would establish that fetuses are people. He has also raised questions about whether Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision granting couples the federal right to use contraception, was correctly decided — but he does not support a ban on contraception.
The list goes on: In Georgia, Herschel Walker, the party’s nominee for Senate, has told reporters, “There’s not a national ban on abortion right now, and I think that’s a problem.” Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor of Pennsylvania, introduced a fetal heartbeat bill as a state senator. Again, the bill contained no exceptions for incest or rape.
Skepticism of the human impact on the planet’s climate abounds, despite mounting scientific evidence that severe flooding, rising global temperatures, droughts and volatile weather patterns have already arrived.
Mastriano, for instance, has called climate change a “theory” based on “pop science.” Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, has leaned on his background as a doctor to adopt a markedly unscientific pro-carbon position.
The “ideology that carbon is bad” is “a lie,” Oz said during a forum among primary candidates in Erie in March. “Carbon dioxide, my friends, is 0.04% of our air. That’s not the problem.”
Asked about the Green New Deal during a Georgia campaign event in mid-July, Walker expounded on his own theory about global wind currents that even Fox News found “head scratching.”
“Since we don’t control the air, our good air decides to float over to China’s bad air,” Walker said. “So, when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So, it moves over to our good air space. Then, now, we got to clean that back up.”
In Arizona, where temperatures hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in July, Masters is still in just-asking-questions mode. During an appearance in February on “Rising,” a web show run by The Hill newspaper, he said, “We’ve got to figure out if the Earth is warming up, and why, and how much is caused by humans.”
No Republican, however, has expressed his disdain for established climate science more succinctly than Sen. Ron Johnson, who is seeking reelection in Wisconsin.
“I don’t know about you guys,” Johnson said in June 2021 at a Republican luncheon. Citing a British climate denier, he continued: “But I think climate change is, as Lord Monckton said,” and he mouthed a barnyard epithet.
Across the board, the Trump-aligned candidates support redirecting tax dollars toward vouchers, private religious schools or other forms of “school choice,” as do some Democrats.
But where many of them go further is in calling for the elimination of the federal Education Department altogether. That’s a position taken by none other than Ronald Reagan, so it is well within the GOP mainstream. But Reagan, of course, didn’t succeed in doing so despite serving two terms as president — the second one after defeating his Democratic opponent in a landslide.
In this election, many Republicans have devised new ways to propose the same concept. For instance, Eric Schmitt, the party’s nominee for Senate in Missouri, has floated the idea of getting rid of the Education Department and reallocating the money in block grants to states instead.
Don Bolduc, who is seeking the nomination for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, has called the Education Department an “ugly thing” that “needs to go away.”
At times, candidates have blamed the Education Department, a historically weak agency that has no real authority over states and local governments, for a variety of supposed ills.
In March, Oz called the department’s creation “basically a payback from Jimmy Carter to the teachers’ unions” and said it was trying to “indoctrinate” teachers with ideas like critical race theory.
As the conservative clash with Disney over LGBTQ issues heated up in February, Masters gave a brief soliloquy at a campaign event on the virtues of marriage.
“It has a point,” Masters said — procreation. He acknowledged having gone to the same-sex wedding of Peter Thiel, his former boss and the top donor to his campaign.
But Masters added that while he wished Thiel well, he accused the Supreme Court of “squinting and making up so-called rights in the Constitution” when it legalized same-sex marriage in the 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges. “Marriage,” he said, “is between a man and a woman.”
Several other Republican candidates for Senate, including Adam Laxalt in Nevada, Ted Budd in North Carolina, and Bolduc and Kevin Smith in New Hampshire, have expressed their opposition to same-sex marriage in more muted terms.
One of the more surprising positions is that of Johnson, who has indicated that he plans to vote for a Democratic bill codifying the Obergefell decision when it comes before the Senate next month — a move that might have something to do with the fact that a solid majority of Wisconsinites want same-sex marriage to be legal.
“The Respect for Marriage Act is another example of Democrats creating a state of fear over an issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit,” Johnson told reporters last month. “Even though I feel the Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary, should it come before the Senate, I see no reason to oppose it.”