Thursday’s New York Times featured two distinct views of inter-party tussles. On the Republican side, they were characterized as examples of the party going “toxic over Trump,” while on the Democratic side – the party which just threw out a long-time black incumbent in Missouri and is engulfed by left-wing activism from groups like Justice Democrats – even that dramatic event was portrayed as among many hopeful signs of party “fluidity.”
Reporter Elaina Plott crowed that “Tennessee G.O.P., Once Civil, Turns Toxic Over Trump.” The online subhead read: “In the Senate primary race to replace Lamar Alexander, two candidates are fighting to see who can better emulate the president. It isn’t pretty.”
Plott relayed some back-and-forth in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, with Trump-endorsed Bill Hagerty locked in a heated contest with Manny Sethi, which Plott dramatized it to sound “toxic.”
The increasingly toxic primary, in a state once known for its genteel politics, highlights the transformation of the Republican Party since Mr. Alexander first captured this seat nearly two decades ago. Whereas Mr. Alexander, 80, centered his first Senate primary message on electoral experience and education policy, his would-be successors have defined their pitches almost entirely in terms of Donald Trump -- campaigning not on ideas and vision but on a blanket promise to support the president, and to spurn those who cross him.
In a state where 94 percent of Republican voters support Mr. Trump, it’s not a bad strategy. But for some observers, the lead-up to Thursday’s election has signified the undignified demise of the longtime centrist flavor of Tennessee Republicanism. Politicians who might have once aspired to the bipartisan statesmanship of Senator Howard Baker are now happy to contort themselves to the ideological and dispositional demands of Trumpism.
Compare that scary treatment with the happy “news analysis” on the facing page by reporter Astead Herndon, the hopeful-sounding “Footholds for the Progressive Movement.” Intra-party controversy was muted, even though left-wing activist Cori Bush’s victory threw out congressional veteran Rep. William Clay of Missouri, a black incumbent.
When Bernie Sanders lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the left mourned what could have been, worried that it had faltered at a once-in-a-generation crossroads for the Democratic Party.
But in the time since Mr. Sanders dropped out of the 2020 presidential race in early April, progressives have had a number of victories to celebrate, in Missouri, New York, Michigan and Illinois -- congressional primary triumphs that demonstrate a new path for building political power and grass-roots momentum that threatens the position of longtime Democratic leadership.
The text box flattered the Democrats: “Biden won the middle, but the party has shown fluidity.” Herndon insisted Biden was a “moderate voice” even though he’d been hurtling to the left.
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s front page, congressional correspondent Carl Hulse did his usual number on Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (KY) apparently failing tactics, with Hulse providing ample gloating via the surely objective voice of Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY):
“McConnell Hit Pause on Pandemic Relief, and Now He’s in a Jam.” The subhead: “Caught in a G.O.P. Feud as Benefits Run Dry.” The jump page featured an unflattering photo on the jump page of a masked McConnell through the slit of a closing elevator.
The Times coverage of Republicans promises to be equally unflattering from now until November -- and beyond.