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Looking to Congress to Save Democracy

Wed, 03/27/2024 - 18:12


The stakes are unusually high in a looming Democratic Party contest for a congressional candidate for New York District 1. Voting is June 25 in a race that will decide who will face the presumptive Republican nominee and incumbent, Nick LaLota. And this November’s election in District 1 will matter — a lot. It is no overstatement that democracy in the United States is on the ballot.

Mr. LaLota is all in with Donald Trump as the G.O.P.’s likely nominee for president. In January, he endorsed the twice-impeached former president. Mr. Trump is expected to win the Republican presidential primary that concludes on Tuesday. Mr. Trump’s brand of fervent nationalism and right-wing ideology would take the U.S. in the wrong direction.

The all-smiles Mr. LaLota is among Mr. Trump’s willing supporters in Congress, willing to look past the myriad legal problems and ethical failures. Given the state of the Republican Party on Long Island, any of its candidates would have to toe the MAGA line. Whatever his personal beliefs might be, Mr. LaLota really had no other choice if he wanted to retain his seat in the House of Representatives. Congress is so evenly split that even a single district’s outcome could make the difference. Mr. Trump is bad for America, and so are his supporters in Congress, Mr. LaLota included.

Eastern Long Island, which Mr. LaLota almost invisibly represents, has swung Republican in the last two presidential elections. Mr. Trump won in 2016 and 2020. Barack Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 suggest that the district is winnable for Democrats — if their candidates can generate enough excitement to get out their voters. Ever since the MAGA-friendly Lee Zeldin defeated Tim Bishop 10 years ago, the Democrats have chosen one relatively uninspiring candidate after another. In a déjà-vu, Nancy Goroff, who lost badly in 2020, is back at it. In our view, Ms. Goroff, despite her obvious qualifications, would have little chance of overcoming Mr. LaLota’s power of incumbency. Ms. Goroff’s biggest challenge for the nomination comes from John Avlon, until recently a CNN anchor and Daily Beast editor. Because of his celebrity, he stands the better chance of winning in November.

Why it matters is clear enough. Mr. Trump’s brand of fervent nationalism and right-wing ideology would take the U.S. in the wrong direction. Defeating him and his friends in Congress is essential to keeping the American experiment alive.

Trump and Co. tried to overturn the legitimate outcome of a settled election and, despite all the evidence, many Republicans still think of the Jan. 6 mob members who have faced legal consequences as “political prisoners.”

Representative Elise Stefanik, one of Mr. LaLota’s friends in the New York Republican delegation in the House of Representatives and an ardent Trump fan, recently called the hundreds of rioters already convicted in connection with the assault on the Capitol “hostages.” Mr. LaLota’s implicit embrace of extremist violence is unacceptable. He must be defeated. Meanwhile, the person leading the Republican Party polls, Mr. Trump, faces charges of conspiring to reverse his election loss, as well as paying hush money to a porn star, and on and on.

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