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US politics

Why are Democrats funding far-right Republicans?

Dan Cox: $2m richer thanks to the Democrats. Nathan Howard/Getty

The Democrats have started playing a “risky game”, says James Hohmann in The Washington Post: meddling in Republican elections to support the craziest candidates. In Maryland, they’ve poured $2m into Trump-endorsed Republican Dan Cox’s campaign for governor. Cox is blatantly “unfit to lead”: he dubbed Mike Pence “a traitor” for refusing to overturn the 2020 election and chartered three buses to ferry supporters to the Capitol insurrection. But the Democrats believe he’s easier to defeat than his rival Kelly Schulz, a “big-tent Republican” focused on key voter issues like crime and taxes. They pulled the same trick in Pennsylvania, pledging $1m to make sure Doug Mastriano, a far-right state senator, secured the Republican nomination for governor.

It’s a dangerous move. For years, Democrats have underestimated “the Trump movement’s ability to drive new voters to the polls”. This misjudgement began with Hillary Clinton. She was eager to run against Trump for president, believing him far easier to beat than a mainstream candidate like Jeb Bush. The opposite was true: Trump galvanised people who would never have turned out to vote for an “establishment choice”. These people still exist, ready to back the very “fringe figures” Democrats promote. Besides, liberals cede their moral high ground when they “bray about democracy being at risk”, only to bankroll the very people endangering it. Trying to “fiddle with the circuitry” of the opposing party may prove a perilous electoral gambit.