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Democracy in the Balance

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 18:32


New York’s First Congressional District vote this fall between Bridget Fleming and Nicholas J. LaLota will be in the context of an election year in which democracy itself is at stake. It is not overstating matters to view Republicans’ continued denial of the outcome of the 2020 presidential vote as an existential political threat.

Since the end of World War II, the party in the White House has almost always lost control of the House of Representatives. This time that prospect is especially dangerous, for, among other reasons, promises from Republicans of a wave of conspiracy- theory-driven investigations. But, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jan. 6 assault on the United States Capitol, and anger over the Supreme Court’s overturning of women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, Democratic-leaning voters may be motivated enough to overcome this history.

Mr. LaLota, a conservative Republican from Amityville, though seemingly a nice enough person, is out of step with the First District. He has spoken favorably about the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and hinted about how he would vote on a national ban. He has also repeated debunked election “fraud” claims and, ominously, favored local boards of election conducting their own vigilante or sham investigations. He supports voter ID laws that would disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. He has “questions” about President Biden’s legitimate victory, and he is soft on guns. If elected, he would be unlikely to stand in the way of his party’s rightward drift and the Trumpists’ white-supremacist and authoritarian worldview.

As with Democratic candidates nationally, the trend lately for Ms. Fleming has been improving, but Mr. LaLota is still in position to win, if the election were decided today. Mr. LaLota stands to benefit from a district in which Republican voters outnumber Democrats; extraordinary turnout from her supporters appears to be the only way for Ms. Fleming to beat the odds.

In ordinary times, politically divided government could be seen as a good thing. Until Republicans return to being a reality-based party, their candidates must be defeated at every opportunity. New York State’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 14. State residents can check their status at

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