September 2, 2022 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar | Photo by Patil Khakhamian

Inflation is at a forty-year high, consumers are enduring terrible pain at the gas pump, the economy is in a technical recession, and the liberal world order is literally under attack. The stage is ripe for the non-incumbent party to take its political opponents to school in the upcoming midterms. But, according to most recent opinion polls, such an electoral drubbing is not even remotely in the cards. And, in my opinion, Republicans can thank the pro-Trump or Make America Great Again wing of the party for this impending colossal failure.

The MAGA movement is impacting Republicans’ electoral chances this November in two ways. The first, as acknowledged by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, is the issue of “candidate quality.” In non-diplomatic terms, this implies that Republicans have put up horrible and unelectable candidates in key battleground races. Former President Donald Trump, who still wields a great deal of influence within the Republican voter base, has endorsed far-right candidates in essentially every battleground race. And, in almost all cases, the weight of his endorsement has carried these candidates to the Republican nomination.

Take the Senate race in Pennsylvania. With incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey retiring, Republicans were confident in their chances to hold onto this seat up until this past June. That is, until Republicans proceeded to nominate Mehmet Oz, an out-of-touch television personality to face the progressive and populist Democratic nominee, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.

A similar narrative can be drawn from the Senate races in Arizona and Georgia, where Republicans have again nominated Trump-endorsed candidates Blake Masters and Herschel Walker, respectively. Both candidates have no prior experience in public office, are prone to making political gaffes, and are facing relatively popular and decorated incumbents in Senators Mark Kelly and Raphael Warnock.

Furthermore, Trump-endorsed candidates who have won the Republican nomination for gubernatorial and other state-wide races are likely to have an adverse impact on their party’s chances to take back control of Congress. Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominees in Arizona and Pennsylvania, respectively, both have terribly poor favorability numbers and, given the decrease in split-ticket voting, are likely to add to their party’s troubles in federal elections.

The second way in which the MAGA movement has put Republicans’ electoral prospects in peril is the framing of issues and narratives. Instead of attacking Democrats for the poor state of the economy and foreign policy failures in Afghanistan and Ukraine, Republicans have chosen to make the election about social conservatism and election denialism. In both of these issues, a clear majority of the electorate sides with the Democrats.

Though it must be acknowledged that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was taken by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Republicans made the politically noxious decision to double down on the verdict and will almost certainly pay the electoral price for doing so. Key figures of the far-right movement like Congresswoman Lauren Boebert have used this moment in history to advocate for the end of the separation between church and state, a concept that many undecided and independent voters find alienating.

When it comes to election integrity and the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, poll after poll has shown that a decisive majority of the national electorate finds Trump’s claims of a “stolen election” unproven and unfounded. Yet, multiple Republican candidates running in key elections continue to echo these claims, something that will seriously hurt the Republican party up and down the ballot come November.

All in all, the MAGA movement has shown disdain for a key principle of electoral politics: the median voter theorem. At its core, the median voter theorem states that electorally successful candidates are those who gravitate towards centrist positions, instead of flanking on the edges of the ideological spectrum.

Taking this idea into account, Republicans should have ideally run on a pro-business and fiscally conservative agenda and should have nominated candidates that represent these values. Instead, the MAGA wing of the Republican Party took the median voter theorem, tossed it out the window, and then set it on fire. Looking past November, I strongly believe that the 2022 midterms will be looked back on as one of the greatest political blunders in modern American politics, with the central blame placed on the MAGA movement.

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