Are You Engaged?

The Midweek Question

This week’s midweek question - “Are you engaged?” - is not meant to be an inquiry into marital life. Rather, the question is around engagement with politics, which is certainly much less romantic.

The reality we face these days in a heavily-polarized electorate is that persuadable “swing voters” seem about as rare as hippos in Alaska. (If you see one, it’s almost certainly in some kind of zoo.) Instead, the name of the game is turnout - who has the passion to flock to the polls, and encourage others to do so? We have some bellwether races coming up that should provide some clues, particularly the gubernatorial contest in Virginia. The Democrat, former governor Terry McAuliffe, holds a narrow lead in the polling - far too close for Team Blue to be breathing with confidence, even in a state that has been trending more solidly towards the Democrats. Republican Glenn Youngkin and his supporters feel that they have momentum on their side. A victory for the GOP will be read as a harbinger for a Republican blowout in 2022.

In some ways, there are echoes here of the recent recall election in California. But there Governor Gavin Newsom was able to break free and far outpace what had been middling poll numbers. Might something similar happen in Virginia? Unlikely at anywhere near that scale. But one recent poll did seem to hint at a big margin of error over who would get their voters out. If there are big vote totals on Election Day, the thinking goes, it is good news for McAuliffe.

Against this backdrop is great uncertainty about how motivated, or to use the term above - engaged, the Democrats are. After years of battling Trump, it would be understandable if people are exhausted, if the reality of politics in Washington, the ugly sausage making, is turning voters off. The Republicans, fueled by the lies and propaganda of stolen elections and all the other perceived ills of Democratic governance, seem energized. Will that energy, combined with Democratic apathy, be enough for big wins? Or are Democrats just as worried about the future of the country as they were in 2020, and will mobilize once more in a show of strength?

So the question for all of you who have supported Democrats in recent elections is how engaged are you in the current state of politics and the looming midterms? Are you exhausted? Demoralized? Overwhelmed? Oe are you just as determined to pour your hearts and energy into the hard work of political action? Either way, what are you witnessing in your family, friends, and peer groups? Are you engaged?

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