Voters deliver lessons on a return to normalcy

Primary results show there’s only a certain amount of crazy voters are willing to tolerate

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Representative Jamaal Bowman (Getty)
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Jamaal Bowman’s ignominious defeat in the Democratic primary in New York last night marked the first incumbent to go down this cycle — an indication that voters have, in 2024, had enough of a certain type of crazy. It is impossible to list the amount of crazy Bowman has injected into American politics in his brief stint on Capitol Hill, but perhaps more impossible is the list created by the next Squad member on the target list: Missouri’s Cori Bush, who literally did an interview where she talked about her ability to heal cancer with…

Jamaal Bowman’s ignominious defeat in the Democratic primary in New York last night marked the first incumbent to go down this cycle — an indication that voters have, in 2024, had enough of a certain type of crazy. It is impossible to list the amount of crazy Bowman has injected into American politics in his brief stint on Capitol Hill, but perhaps more impossible is the list created by the next Squad member on the target list: Missouri’s Cori Bush, who literally did an interview where she talked about her ability to heal cancer with her hands. If the Squad were interested in being an enduring faction instead of a brief, loud, social-media driven phenomenon, they certainly have picked the wrong people for the job.

The elections last night were not indicative, however, of a wave in favor of a MAGA politics alternative. Instead, voters seemed to gravitate back toward the middle of the horseshoe: they defied Trump endorsements in multiple races, including rejecting fire-breathing pastor Mark Burns in a South Carolina runoff in favor of Sheri Biggs, a candidate backed by Governor Henry McMaster and more moderate Republicans. For all the lazier media analysts who suggest that Republican voters just follow Trump’s guide to the polls like wandering zombies, this proves the ludicrous nature of their claims. 

In Colorado, Lauren Boebert’s gamble of moving districts paid off for the incumbent congresswoman, despite multiple personal scandals and incidents. In a redder district battling for an open seat in a crowded primary, she won running away and will be favored in the fall. Boebert’s sins don’t seem to be the kind that embarrass libertarian-minded Coloradans — and she never fell into the trap of yanking fire alarms or beclowning herself in a congressional context. She remains undefeated in elections, which is not a small thing in a moment of political upheaval.

As for overall lessons: in 2024, Republican voters want to win — they want that more than they want crazy. That’s one of the reasons we see the nominations this cycle largely following trends toward a certain median of candidate: someone who’s fine with Donald Trump, but resembles more the Republicans of a decade ago than the loudest voices on social media. Both parties seem to be reverting back to a certain mean after dabbling in destructive rhetoric and behavior. There’s only a certain amount of crazy they’re willing to tolerate.

For Trump and his allies, there is also a message: you are the leader of the Republican Party, but not every candidate is going to be made in your MAGA image. Others will find their way through — and you’ll have to deal with them if you win again.