The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 30 : 30


28 Republican­s nationwide were bleeding urban and suburban votes. On the ground this was not just noticeable but almost jarring. Almost any city, no matter how rural or small, starts to produce liberalism. In Louisville, Kentucky, I went into a pit BBQ restaurant and found it selling kombucha on ice. Huntington, West Virginia, has a gay bar (in fact, it used to have two). Anywhere there is a college, or service industries, or nascent diversity, Democrats have a foothold. Hitting true Trump country, not just isolated pockets, required real mileage, way beyond an Uber from an airport. In Texas, I drove to Tarrant County, which encompasse­s the city of Fort Worth. This was supposed to be the largest remaining urban “red” county in the country, and so I kept going, eventually pulling up at a polling station surrounded by parched semi-industrial estates. It had a parking lot full of pick-ups, and looked very Republican, but there was election literature in Vietnamese, and almost everyone casting an early ballot turned out to be a) Hispanic and b) enthused about the Democratic senatorial candidate, Beto O’Rourke. The results showed that Tarrant County is now no longer majority GOP. Of 81 urban or semi-urban districts nationwide, 80 are now represente­d in Congress by Democrats. Beto lost, but ran the closest race against an incumbent Texas senator in 40 years. the Republican­s elected to Congress for the first time, only one, Carol Miller of West Virginia, was a woman. Almost all the remaining Republican­s were white men. Today’s Republican Party voters are heavily white and rural; by contrast, Democrats are a coalition of the diverse urban and suburban voters, and, increasing­ly, the wealthy. Measured by median income, the richest House districts in 11 states flipped from Republican to Democratic. According to the election analyst Evan Siegfried, 56 per cent more people under 30 voted than in the 2014 midterms (overwhelmi­ngly for Democrats), and Republican­s lost 14 points of their support among the over-65s. The most significan­t shift was in female voters. In 2014 they favoured Democratic candidates by four points, but this year that advantage was +19. The GOP had female trouble, and they knew it. Even in the shadow of Death Valley, Nevada, where Democrats fear to tread, Republican­s were trying to soften the appeal of their star candidate. There were billboards all along the spare highway reading “Women for Hof”. Hof was Dennis Hof, a state assembly candidate who had overcome a profession­al Republican in a primary after styling himself on Donald Trump. “The Trump from Pahrump”, he called himself. Like the president, Hof was the star of a reality-TV show who had been accused of sexual abuse. Unlike Trump, he ran a The New York Times wrote about “racial flare-ups” in Florida, like the state had a rash instead of a racism problem. Phoenix, Arizona, still has some very conservati­ve suburbs, but the voters in Maricopa County sounded most concerned about the tenor of the campaign. The Senate contest was between a bisexual Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, and a Republican congresswo­man, Martha McSally. (The anti-Trump Republican Jeff Flake had announced his retirement, vacating the seat.) The campaign spots on Arizona radio sounded extra venal and stupid. “I’m shocked at how negative these ads are,” said Raymond Ginther, a Democratic voter, outside a polling place. “It’s as though these people have no redeeming qualities. They’re just throwing garbage at their opponents.” He was unpersuade­d by the caravan. “It’s all nonsense. Sending 15,000 troops at a horrible cost, to prevent 2000 people getting in? It’s political hornblowin­g.” Initially, the race was called for McSally, but a late surge from Maricopa County put Sinema over the top. She was part of a record-breaking year for female candidates. In Congress, at least 115 women won. Among the new “freshmen” class were the youngest ever woman (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), the first Muslim women (Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar), the first Native American women (Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland). Of string of brothels, including the notorious Moonlite Bunny Ranch. Also, he was dead. He had been found unresponsi­ve by the porn legend Ron Jeremy, after the two of them had celebrated Hof’s 72nd birthday. (Also present at his campaign rally/ celebratio­n the previous night were the Republican antitax activist Grover Norquist, the disgraced celebrity sheriff Joe Arpaio and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav had not been present, but was said to be inconsolab­le.) Hof was now buried (in a cherry red coffin, with a floral tribute that depicted two rabbits making love), but it was too late to remove him from the ballot. County officials would vote on a replacemen­t if he won – and he was still the favourite, meaning Pahrump would rather vote for a dead pimp than a live Democrat. Even a woman who claimed she had been raped by Hof said she would still vote for him posthumous­ly, one of the most extreme cases of “voting against their interests” ever recorded. At a highway-side strip mall (bail bondsman, chainlink fence, “For Lease”), I was taking photos of obscured campaign signage when I ran into one of Hof’s biggest supporters. He was a Christian constituti­onalist candidate for lower office called Lance Schaus, and he and his the monthly — essay

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