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    Democrats, the Midterm Jinx Is Not Inevitable

    In November, the Democrats are widely expected to lose the House and probably also the Senate. Large defeats are the norm for a new president’s first midterm. A harbinger is a president’s approval rating, and President Biden’s stands at a lackluster 41.1 percent.But standard political history may not be a good guide to 2022. The Democrats are facing long odds, but there are several reasons this could be an unusual political year.For starters, Donald Trump is just as likely to hobble Republicans as he is to energize them. Mr. Trump will not be on the ballot, but many of his surrogates will. He has endorsed over 175 candidates in federal and state elections, and in his clumsy efforts to play kingmaker, Mr. Trump has promoted some badly compromised candidates and challenged party unity.In the Georgia primary for governor, a Trump surrogate, Sonny Purdue, is polling well behind Mr. Trump’s nemesis, the incumbent Brian Kemp. In the Georgia Senate race, Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate, Herschel Walker, is running away from his past and locked in a tight race against the incumbent Raphael Warnock. It may not happen again, but in 2020, Mr. Trump’s meddling backfired and helped Democrats take two Senate seats.To hold the Senate, Democrats need to defend incumbents in New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. But they have pickup opportunities in several states.In Pennsylvania, the popular lieutenant governor John Fetterman, an economic populist, will run against the winner of a close Republican primary, either the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz or the financier David McCormick. Mr. Oz, who was endorsed by Mr. Trump, has a very slight edge, as well as a very slight connection to Pennsylvania, having lived in New Jersey for many years. Either nominee would most likely alienate part of the Trump base, and neither is remotely populist.In Ohio, Mr. Trump’s endorsement helped the author and venture capitalist executive J.D. Vance prevail. In the general election, we will get a test of the divisive culture-war populism of Mr. Vance versus the genuine pocketbook populism of Representative Tim Ryan — the kind that keeps re-electing Ohio’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown.For Democrats to succeed in many of these races, their base will have to be energized — but at the moment, it is not. Still, there’s hope: Even if the ubiquitous lunacy of Mr. Trump doesn’t wake Democrats up, the likelihood of abortion being banned in half the country probably will.If the leaked opinion in the Supreme Court abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, becomes law in an official June decision, it will not just allow states to criminalize abortion, but will turn doctors into agents of the state when they treat women for miscarriages. This extremism on women’s health does not have the support of most voters.The Democratic revival of 2017-20 began with the epic women’s marches of January 2017. If Democrats are more competitive than expected this year, it will be in part because women are galvanized, especially women in the Democratic base but also independent or “soft Republican” college-educated suburban women.Something like this happened in 2017, when large numbers of liberals and moderates, appalled by Mr. Trump’s presidency, saw the 2018 election as a firebreak. That year, Democrats made a net gain of 40 seats in the House, and historic turnout gains in 2018, relative to the previous midterm, were a great benefit for Democrats.All will depend on how closely 2022 resembles 2018. With the electorate so divided, there are relatively few swing voters — but potentially dozens of swing districts. How they swing depends entirely on turnout.A Democratic effort reminiscent of grass roots groups in 2017 is beginning to gear up. For example, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland sponsors a Democracy Summer for college students who want to get out and organize. This idea has been picked up in dozens of other congressional districts.Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, in the January 2021 runoff election that won him a Senate seat, helped pioneer a technique called paid relational organizing. He hired some 2,800 Georgians to reach out to their own peer networks to win support for Mr. Ossoff. Now several people who worked with Senator Ossoff are taking this strategy national.Other events this summer may have bearing on the fall. The House panel investigating the attack of Jan. 6, 2021, will hold public hearings in June. Closer to the midterms, it will release its final report, which will put Republicans on the spot to answer for their defense of an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Mr. Trump will surely continue to insist the 2020 election was stolen, but most Republicans will be whipsawed between the demands of Mr. Trump and his base and their wish to focus on more winning issues.Mr. Trump’s own behavior is exposing all the latent fissures in the contradictory coalition that narrowly elected him. Democratic candidates will be reminding Americans of the potential menace of a second Trump term. If Mr. Trump rejoins Twitter, he will remind them himself.Even so, Republican extremism is at risk of being overshadowed by economic conditions, none more than inflation. Federal Reserve economists project that inflation could begin to subside by fall. As with so much in politics, sheer luck and timing will play a role in the Democrats’ prospects and the future of our Republic.Stranger things have happened than a Democrat midterm resurgence. A wipeout is still likely, but far from inevitable — if Democrats can get organized.Robert Kuttner is a co-editor of The American Prospect and the author of “Going Big: FDR’s Legacy, Biden’s New Deal, and the Struggle to Save Democracy.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    America’s Doug Mastriano Problem

    If the Ohio Senate primary two weeks ago provided some clarity about the ideological divisions in the Republican Party, Tuesday’s primaries often seemed more like a showcase for the distinctive personalities that populate a Trumpified G.O.P.The Pennsylvania Senate race gave us an especially vivid mix: As of this writing, the Celebrity Doctor and the Hedge Fund Guy Pretending to Be a MAGA True Believer may be headed for a recount, after the Would-Be Media Personality With the Inspiring Back Story and the Unfortunate Twitter Feed faded back into the pack. In the governor’s race, Republican voters chose to nominate Doug Mastriano, a.k.a. the QAnon Dad. In North Carolina, they ended — for now — the political career of Representative Madison Cawthorn, the Obviously Suffering Grifter.On substance, as opposed to personality, though, the night’s stakes were relatively simple: Can Republicans prevent their party from becoming the party of constitutional crisis, with leaders tacitly committed to turning the next close presidential election into a legal-judicial-political train wreck?This is a distinctive version of a familiar political problem. Whenever a destabilizing populist rebellion is unleashed inside a democratic polity, there are generally two ways to bring back stability without some kind of crisis or rupture in the system.Sometimes the revolt can be quarantined within a minority coalition and defeated by a majority. This was the destiny, for instance, of William Jennings Bryan’s 1890s prairie-populist rebellion, which took over the Democratic Party but went down to multiple presidential defeats at the hands of the more establishmentarian Republicans. You can see a similar pattern, for now, in French politics, where the populism of Marine Le Pen keeps getting isolated and defeated by the widely disliked but grudgingly tolerated centrism of Emmanuel Macron.In the alternative path to stability, the party being reshaped by populism finds leaders who can absorb its energies, channel its grievances and claim its mantle — but also defeat or suppress its most extreme manifestations. This was arguably the path of New Deal liberalism in its relationship to Depression-era populism and radicalism: In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt was able to sustain support from voters who were also drawn to more demagogic characters, from Huey Long to Charles Coughlin. Two generations later, it was the path of Reaganite conservatism in its relationship to both George Wallace’s populism and the Goldwaterite New Right.The problem for America today is that neither stabilizing strategy is going particularly well. Part of the Never Trump movement has aspired to a Macron-style strategy, preaching establishment unity behind the Democratic Party. But the Democrats haven’t cooperated: They conspicuously failed to contain and defeat Trumpism in 2016, and there is no sign that the Biden-era variation on the party is equipped to hold on to the majority it won in 2020.Meanwhile, the Republican Party at the moment does have a provisional model for channeling but also restraining populism. Essentially it involves leaning into culture-war controversy and rhetorical pugilism to a degree that provokes constant liberal outrage and using that outrage to reassure populist voters that you’re on their side and they don’t need to throw you over for a conspiracy theorist or Jan. 6 marcher.This is the model, in different styles and contexts, of Glenn Youngkin and Ron DeSantis. In Tuesday’s primaries it worked for Idaho’s conservative incumbent governor, Brad Little, who easily defeated his own lieutenant governor’s much-further-right campaign. Next week the same approach seems likely to help Brian Kemp defeat David Perdue for the governor’s nomination in Georgia. And it offers the party’s only chance, most likely via a DeSantis candidacy, to defeat Donald Trump in 2024.Unfortunately this model works best when you have a trusted figure, a known quantity, delivering the “I’ll be your warrior, I’ll defeat the left” message. The Cawthorn race, in which the toxic congressman was unseated by a member of the North Carolina State Senate, shows that this figure doesn’t have to be an incumbent to succeed, especially if other statewide leaders provide unified support. But if you have neither unity nor a figure with statewide prominence or incumbency as your champion — no Kemp, no Little — then you can get results like Mastriano’s victory last night in Pennsylvania: a Republican nominee for governor who cannot be trusted to carry out his constitutional duties should the presidential election be close in 2024.So now the obligation returns to the Democrats. Mastriano certainly deserves to lose the general election, and probably he will. But throughout the whole Trumpian experience, the Democratic Party has consistently failed its own tests of responsibility: It has talked constantly about the threat to democracy while moving leftward to a degree that makes it difficult to impossible to hold the center, and it has repeatedly cheered on unfit Republican candidates on the theory that they will be easier to beat.This happened conspicuously with Trump himself, and more unforgivably it happened again with Mastriano: Pennsylvania Democrats sent out mailers boosting his candidacy and ran a big ad buy, more than twice Mastriano’s own TV spending, calling him “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters” — an “attack” line perfectly scripted to improve his primary support.Now they have him, as they had Trump in 2016. We’ll see if they can make the story end differently this time.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTOpinion) and Instagram. More

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    Congress Is Paralyzed on Guns. Here’s Why Chris Murphy Is Still Hopeful.

    The Democrat from Connecticut, who has spent his decade in the Senate trying and failing to enact gun safety bills, says his party should make the issue the core of its 2022 midterm message.WASHINGTON — It did not take long after the racist gun massacre in Buffalo for a familiar sense of resignation to set in on Capitol Hill about the chance that Congress would be able to muster the will to act on meaningful legislation to combat gun violence in America.In emotional remarks at the scene of the mass shooting on Tuesday, President Biden made no direct call for Congress to take such action. Afterward, he told reporters that he intended to do so, but was frank about his belief that persuading lawmakers to move would be “very difficult.”Around the same time, top Democrats on Capitol Hill were publicly conceding that their paper-thin majority in the Senate meant there was little they would be able to do to prevent the next tragedy.“We’re kind of stuck where we are, for the time being,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, playing down the chance that even a modest bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchases could overcome a Republican blockade.Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, shares his colleagues’ skepticism that any legislation can move. But he is also concerned that Democrats may squander a chance to turn the issue of gun safety into a rallying cry for the midterm elections.For a decade, the issue of gun violence has defined Mr. Murphy’s career; the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., took place a month after he won his seat.Mr. Murphy spoke to The New York Times from a Senate cloakroom about the chances for legislative action on guns, what Mr. Biden should do and why he thinks Democrats will lose control of Congress if they don’t make combating gun violence the core of their 2022 appeal to voters.The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when 20 young children and six adults were killed, did Democrats and President Barack Obama miss the opportunity to pass meaningful gun safety legislation?There was this popular meme in 2013, which said that if the killing of 20 children didn’t result in any action, nothing will. That’s fundamentally the wrong way to look at how Washington works. There are few epiphanies here. It’s all about political power, and political muscle, and we’re in the process of building our own.The National Rifle Association and the gun lobby was ready for us, and for those parents, in 2013. The anti-gun-violence movement was essentially nonexistent, and the N.R.A. was at its peak power.From Opinion: The Buffalo ShootingCommentary from Times Opinion on the massacre at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo.The Times Editorial Board: The mass shooting in Buffalo was an extreme expression of a political worldview that has become increasingly central to the G.O.P.’s identity.Jamelle Bouie: G.O.P. politicians and conservative media personalities did not create the idea of the “great replacement,” but they have adopted it.Paul Krugman: There is a direct line from Republicans’ embrace of crank economics, to Jan. 6, to Buffalo.Sway: In the latest episode of her podcast, Kara Swisher hosts a discussion on the role of internet platforms like 4chan, Facebook and Twitch in the attack.We needed time to build up a movement that is stronger than the gun lobby.My worry is that a lot of my colleagues still believe in the mythology of 1994, when everyone thought Democrats lost Congress over the assault weapons ban. That’s not true — that’s not why Congress flipped. Ever since then, Democrats are under the illusion that it’s a losing issue for us.It’s one of the most important wedge issues, and if we don’t talk about it, then we’re going to lose.Many are urging Senator Chuck Schumer and Mr. Durbin to bring up a bill to expand background checks. Even if it couldn’t pass, it would force Republicans to defend their opposition to a policy that polls show has broad support. Should they?There are times when show votes help define the parties. I’m not confident this is one of those moments, given the fact that it’s already pretty clear which side Republicans fall on and which side Democrats fall on.My main recommendation is for Democrats to go out and run on this issue, proudly and strongly. My worry is we would have a vote on the Senate floor, but then Democrats would not be willing to go out and talk about that vote in campaigns.The only way we actually change the dynamic on this issue is to make Republicans show we believe this is a winning electoral issue. That’s what we did in 2018. My worry is, we don’t feel the same confidence in this issue as a winning electoral issue in 2022.I don’t know why we don’t learn a lesson from 2018, that when we run strongly on the issue of guns, universal background checks, banning assault weapons, we turn out voters that otherwise would stay home in the midterms. I’ve talked to Senator Schumer about bringing a vote to the Senate floor. I’m not interested in taking a vote on the Senate floor if we don’t talk about it.If legislation can’t pass, what executive actions are you pushing the administration to take?There is still a ton of harmful gray area around the question of who needs to be a licensed gun dealer. There are a lot of folks peddling guns online and at gun shows who are truly in the business of selling guns, and should be required to do background checks. President Obama put out helpful, but not binding, guidance. The administration could put some real meat on the existing statute and define what it means to be in the business of selling guns.Have you pitched that to them?I have. There has been significant interest from the White House in pursuing that line of policy. I don’t know that they have made a commitment or issued any directive to the Justice Department.Do you support eliminating the filibuster in order to pass gun reforms?One hundred percent. The reason we can’t get this done is the rules of the Senate, not because the American people haven’t made a choice.Guns were one of the most important issues for voters in 2018; it ranked second behind health care. When voters came to the polls in 2018 and elected a Democratic majority in the House, it was with the explicit purpose of getting gun legislation passed. The same voters came back and elected a Democratic president. It’s simply the rules of the Senate that stopped the will of the American people from becoming law.Is there anything happening in terms of discussions with Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, about trying to revive their bill to tighten background checks?There’s nothing new happening now. Manchin-Toomey doesn’t have 60 votes. I spent much of the last two years trying to find a piece of Manchin-Toomey that could get 60 votes. Ultimately, we couldn’t find a landing place. I’ll continue to try any creative avenue to find an expansion of background checks.Does a weakened National Rifle Association create any opening for Republicans to move off their opposition to gun safety measures?This N.R.A. stamp of approval still really matters to them. Inside a Republican Party that has become bereft of big ideas, they’ve only got one left, which is the destruction of government. Nothing signals that more than the endorsement of the organization that supports people arming themselves against the government. In this era of anti-government fervor, it’s more important than ever.Eventually, we have to figure out a way for Republicans to show how much they hate government other than the N.R.A. endorsement. Maybe I should be rooting for the Club for Growth to be a more effective voice within the Republican Party.Can guns really be a winning issue for Democrats in a year when Republicans are attacking your party over inflation, rising gas prices and not meeting the basic needs of American families?I think voters are emotionally moved by the slaughter of innocents. And I think they find it a little weird when Democrats who claim to care about this don’t actually talk about it.We live in an era where authenticity is the coin of the realm. You just have to show voters who you are. I don’t think there’s any more potent means by which to translate who you are, and what you care about, than this issue. I think when you leave this out when you list your priorities as a candidate, it causes voters to scratch their heads a bit.What grade would you give the Biden administration on this issue?The administration could have moved faster on executive actions and the appointment of a new A.T.F. director. I want them to keep going. There’s still more regulatory and executive action that this administration can take and more things the team can do to use the bully pulpit to make sure this is an election issue.Would you give the administration a grade?No.A number of gun violence prevention organizations have called on Mr. Biden to open a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Do you think that would make a difference?I do. It’s become clear to me we need a specific, driving focus on gun violence. The president is clearly personally committed to this issue, but he’s stretched thin due to myriad international and domestic crises. He would be best served by a high-level senior official who wakes up every day and coordinates the issue.After another mass shooting like the one in Buffalo, do you find yourself becoming resigned to the idea that nothing can be done on gun violence?I’ve studied enough great social change movements to know they often take decades to succeed. It was a full 10 years from the shooting of James Brady to the passage of the Brady handgun bill. I think I am part of one of these great social change movements, and I’m confident that you have to put up with a lot of failures before you’re met with success.I also don’t think democracy can allow for 80 percent of the American people to not get their way, forever. Eventually we will be able to break through. We just have not been able to find that pathway yet.This is an exhausting issue to work on, but I have this very deep sense that I will see my time in public service as a failure if I don’t meet the expectations of those parents in Sandy Hook, and Hartford and Bridgeport. And fear is a powerful motivator. More

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    Is John Fetterman the Future of the Democratic Party?

    John Fetterman’s resounding victory in the Democratic Pennsylvania Senate primary was not surprising, but it was uncharacteristic.Pennsylvania Democrats do not ordinarily veer too far from the center lane, and they are cautious about whom they send forward from their primary elections to take on Republicans in general elections. They’re not gamblers, and given the state’s perennially up-for-grabs status and its unforgiving electoral math, you could argue they shouldn’t be.But on Tuesday, Democrats made Mr. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, their nominee to compete for the seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Pat Toomey. (They did it despite Mr. Fetterman’s recent health scare; last week he suffered a stroke, but he said that he was on his way to “a full recovery.”)Conor Lamb, 37, a Pittsburgh-area congressman, would have been a more conventional choice. His House voting record tracks to the center, and he has been compared to the state’s three-term Democratic senator, Bob Casey, a moderate and the son of a former Pennsylvania governor.Mr. Fetterman, 52, offers something different, a new model for Pennsylvania. It is built on quirky personal and political appeal rather than the caution of a traditional Democrat in the Keystone State. With over 80 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Fetterman was more than doubling the total of Mr. Lamb, whose campaign, despite winning many more endorsements from party leaders, never gained momentum.For Democrats, the stakes are high: The outcome may well determine the balance of the evenly divided U.S. Senate, future votes to confirm Supreme Court nominees and much else in our bitterly divided nation.Nearly every story about Mr. Fetterman points out his 6-foot-8 frame, shaved head, tattoos and preferred attire — work clothes from Carhartt, a brand long favored by construction workers and miners and more recently by hip-hop artists. He sometimes attends public events in baggy gym shorts.It is all part of a style that has won him passionate followers among progressive Democrats. Mr. Fetterman has been a frequent presence on MSNBC and is a skilled social media practitioner, with over 400,000 Twitter followers. (His dogs, Levi and Artie, have their own Twitter account and more than 25,000 followers.) It can sometimes seem that he skirts the line between being a traditional candidate and an internet influencer.“Fetterman doesn’t have supporters so much as full-on fans,” The Philadelphia Inquirer noted during the campaign. “Fans who write songs about him, buy his merch and know his life story.”Mr. Fetterman has served as lieutenant governor since 2019 and, before that, for four terms was the mayor of Braddock, a town east of Pittsburgh with just over 1,700 residents. He vows to conduct a “67-county campaign” — the whole of Pennsylvania.Rebecca Katz, his senior political adviser, told me that she believes the campaign’s mantra of “every county, every vote” is being received with too much skepticism and said that people “haven’t seen what kind of map he can run on in Pennsylvania.”But he still must solve the math of an evenly divided state: A Democrat hoping to win in Pennsylvania has to thread an electoral needle.Mr. Fetterman will face either the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz or the financier David McCormick.In the fall, Mr. Fetterman will need to pile up huge winning margins in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and win by healthy margins in their suburbs and the state’s few other pockets of blue in order to withstand the lopsided totals that Republicans win nearly everywhere else.In less populous counties, as recently as 2008, Barack Obama took 40 percent of the vote or more, but as polarization has increased, Democrats have struggled to get even 25 percent.State Democrats hoped that Joe Biden, a Pennsylvania native and senator from neighboring Delaware — and a white septuagenarian running in a state that is whiter and older than the national average — could reverse that trend. But he did only marginally better than Hillary Clinton four years earlier, cutting the margins by a couple of percentage points but hardly reversing the trend of Democrats being routed in the smaller counties.That Mr. Biden could not do better outside the cities and close-in suburbs has made many Democrats pessimistic about what’s possible in those areas. Mr. Fetterman’s background, his attention to the state’s rural communities and his manner — the work clothes, a straightforward speaking style — could make some difference. In the winning Fetterman model, he narrows the massive margins that have been run up by Republicans.His positions do not differ that much from more traditional Democrats’, but some of his central concerns do set him apart. A signature issue has been the legalization of marijuana — “legal weed,” as he calls it. He has flown a flag displaying cannabis leaves from the official lieutenant governor’s office, alongside a rainbow-colored L.G.B.T.Q. banner.The advocacy of legal marijuana may be the rare issue that draws support from unpredictable corners and crosses all kinds of lines — including urban and rural.The lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania has few defined duties, but as chairman of the Board of Pardons, Mr. Fetterman modernized an outdated system and granted clemency in cases where it was long overdue.Mr. Fetterman’s one glaring departure from progressive causes, and a nod to Pennsylvania realpolitik, is that he does not support a ban on fracking, the environmentally questionable hydraulic extraction of natural gas. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians have benefited financially from it by selling drilling rights on their land, working in the industry or both.Mr. Fetterman’s most worrisome vulnerability is his appeal to his party’s most dependable voting bloc: Black voters in Philadelphia and the state’s other urban centers, the places where any Democrat running statewide must mine the largest trove of votes. Only about 10 percent of the state’s voters are Black, but they are an essential component of the margins that the party runs up in the cities.Mr. Fetterman’s challenge stems in large part from a 2013 incident in Braddock, when he used his shotgun to stop a Black jogger and detained him until police arrived. Mr. Fetterman, who was mayor at the time, told police he had heard gunshots in the area and suspected the jogger. Police searched the man down and released him after they found no weapon.The incident has come up during the campaign, and Mr. Fetterman’s responses have been awkward, at best.“He has said he did not actually point the gun, but what difference does that make?” said Mark Kelly Tyler, the pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest A.M.E. churches. “Even if he admitted that it was from his implicit bias and says that he has learned from it, that would actually be better. It would be accepted.”Mr. Tyler said that if Mr. Fetterman does not do a better job of explaining it, the incident will be “weaponized on Black talk radio and elsewhere” and used by his opponent in the fall to depress turnout.Mr. Fetterman won by huge margins all across Pennsylvania, with one notable exception: Philadelphia. There, it was a close race against a third Democratic primary candidate, Malcolm Kenyatta, a city resident and the first Black openly gay L.G.B.T.Q. member of the state legislature.With the primary complete, everything is reset. In a big state with six television markets, the candidates will likely combine to spend $200 million or more — much of it, undoubtedly, in an attempt to label each other as too extreme for middle-of-the-road Pennsylvania.Mr. Fetterman’s progressive politics and persona appeal to younger people. They lean to the left and are always potentially influential in any election. But they are also traditionally the least reliable voters, especially in nonpresidential years.In Pennsylvania and all other battleground states, it always comes down to the math. The state’s graying electorate does not always like new things or ideas.Mr. Fetterman is ultimately going to have to go where the votes are. And if he has a problem with Black voters, he will have to solve it.Michael Sokolove, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town and the Magic of Theater,” which is set in his hometown, Levittown, Pa.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

    Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Tuesday.President Biden and Jill Biden, at a memorial outside the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, today.Doug Mills/The New York Times1. In a speech in Buffalo today, President Biden called white supremacy “a poison” and Saturday’s racist massacre “domestic terrorism” and shared each victim’s name and story.Biden and his wife, Jill, met with victims’ families before the speech, in which Biden denounced “replacement theory” and condemned those “who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit.” Biden added, “I don’t know why we don’t admit what the hell is going on.” But he stopped short of naming influential proponents of the conspiracy theory, like Tucker Carlson.Not all residents welcomed his words: “I could care less about what Biden said. I want to see action,” one resident said. “I want to see our community actually get help.”Biden voiced support for getting assault weapons off the streets but, before leaving, said he could do little on gun control via executive action and that it would be hard to get Congress to act.The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, on Sunday.Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters2. By early Tuesday, more than 260 Ukrainian fighters at the Mariupol steel mill had surrendered to Russia. Their fate is uncertain, as is that of hundreds more still in the plant.The soldiers laid down arms under orders from their country’s military, after very secretive negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. The surrender seems to end the war’s longest battle so far, solidifying one of Russia’s few major territorial gains.What happens next is unclear. The evacuated soldiers were taken to Russian-controlled territory, where Ukrainian officials said the fighters would be swapped for Russian prisoners. But the Kremlin did not confirm the swap and signaled that it might level war-crimes charges against the soldiers.Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine appear farther apart than ever on peace negotiations.Voters in Asheville, N.C., cast their ballots today.Logan R. Cyrus for The New York Times3. Five states held primaries today.No state is more closely watched than Pennsylvania. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who spent the day recovering from a stroke, is the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination over Representative Conor Lamb. Three candidates are neck and neck in the Republican Senate race; Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity physician endorsed by Donald Trump, was slightly ahead in polls. The former president also endorsed Doug Mastriano, a far-right loyalist who has promoted conspiracy theories and is the leading Republican candidate for governor. Officials said that final election results might not come tonight.Madison Cawthorn, the controversial G.O.P. representative, is in a closely watched race in North Carolina. In Idaho, an extreme far-right candidate is running against its conservative governor. Oregon and Kentucky also held primaries; check in with us for results.Attorney General Merrick Garland in the White House Rose Garden.Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times4. The Justice Department is requesting transcripts from the Jan. 6 committee.The House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far. And the Justice Department has asked the committee to send transcripts of any interviews it is conducting — including discussions with Trump’s inner circle, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.The transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases or to pursue new leads. The move comes amid signs that Attorney General Merrick Garland is ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol attack, which coincided with the certification of the election that the former president lost.Capistrano Unified School District, in Orange County, Calif., has lost over 2,800 students since 2020.Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times5. America’s public schools have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020.Experts point to two potential causes: Some parents became so fed up with remote instruction or mask mandates that they started home-schooling their children or sending them to private schools that largely remained open during the pandemic. Other families were thrown into such turmoil by pandemic-related job losses, homelessness and school closures that their children dropped out.While a broad decline was underway as birth and immigration rates have fallen, the pandemic supercharged that drop in ways that experts say will not easily be reversed.Elon Musk, chaos agent.Susan Walsh/Associated Press6. Is he in or out?The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, raised further doubts about his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, saying (on Twitter) that “this deal cannot move forward” until he gets more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.Musk has latched onto the issue of fake accounts, which Twitter says make up fewer than 5 percent of its total, in a move that some analysts figure is an attempt to drive down the acquisition price, or walk away from the deal.The social media company is pressing ahead. In a lengthy regulatory filing, Twitter’s board urged shareholders to vote in favor of the deal, and provided a play-by-play view of how the board reached an agreement with Musk last month.A baby formula display shelf at Rite Aid in San Diego, Calif. on May 10, 2022.Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times7. More baby formula may be on the way.As a national shortage of infant formula put many parents on edge, the F.D.A. announced an agreement with Abbott Laboratories to reopen the company’s shuttered baby formula plant.Russia-Ukraine War: Key DevelopmentsCard 1 of 4In Mariupol. More

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    Young Americans Are Stressed. They Are Angry. And They Can Swing Congress.

    Millions of newly minted college graduates are about to enter a scorching job market, but many are still held back by feelings of hopelessness and depression. Less than one in 10 Americans between 18- and 29-years-old describe ours as a “healthy democracy.” Most are convinced that both political parties cater to elites over people like them and that our politics cannot meet the challenges of the times. More than anything, “happiness and stability” are what youth seek, but even that appears out of reach at a time when they’re readying to launch.These headwinds, identified by our Harvard Youth Poll, combined with untamed inflation and declining approval of President Biden, should be of significant concern to Democrats who relied on young millennials’ and Generation Z’s historic participation to win the House in 2018, the White House in 2020, and the Senate in Georgia’s 2021 special election. Without both record-breaking turnout and the 20-point margins that teenage and 20-somethings put up for Mr. Biden in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Donald Trump would be a two-term president.Yet there’s a reason to believe that Democrats can run their own once-in-a-century, Rich Strike-style derby and maintain control of Congress in November’s elections. A trifecta of events and likely developments create a narrow window for Mr. Biden and Democrats to regain their footing and shock the world.The growing presence of Mr. Trump’s voice back on the national stage; the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on abortion and the likely fall of Roe v. Wade; and the opportunity for Mr. Biden to make good on a campaign commitment to address the student debt crisis have formed ideal conditions for Democratic renewal. While older voters will prioritize each party’s pledges to reduce inflation this fall, younger voters will additionally weigh the broad set of values and vision for the future held by Democrats and Republicans.Young Americans are more likely to vote when they see a tangible difference between the parties and feel the consequences of election outcomes. As Generation Z and young millennials were tuning into politics more closely, millions watched Mr. Trump roll back climate policy, undermine the Affordable Care Act, deliver tax breaks for the wealthy and pave the way for white nationalist theorists to enter the public square — all moves that were antithetical to the values of reducing inequality and standing up for those without a voice. These are values that we’ve found in young Americans across most points on the ideological spectrum. As Mr. Trump’s regressive MAGA message gains newfound traction through Republican primaries and in Elon Musk’s vision for Twitter, the fear of Trumpism on the march can be weaponized by Democrats to motivate young voters, as it was in the last midterms.Not long after Mr., Trump’s inauguration in 2017, young Americans from Boston to Bakersfield began describing to me how fear was a unifying force of their generation. “Fear of death. Fear of our rights being infringed upon. Fear of the future for our kids. Fear for our family. Fear for our health” is how a college student summarized it for me in an Ohio focus group. Polling that I conducted earlier this year for Snapchat underscored these views and their relevance once again to midterm elections. “Preserving individual rights and freedoms,” “ensuring that health care is a right,” and “safeguarding the rights of vulnerable populations” are viewed by at least two-thirds of likely Democratic-leaning and undecided young voters as “very” important issues in the coming congressional contests.The Alito draft opinion will only heighten these concerns. Three-quarters of adults under 35 disagree with the likely court ruling and believe Roe v. Wade should stand. Nearly half describe their reaction as “angry” in a recent CNN poll, and abortion policy was rated the most important midterm issue among this cohort by 10 points in a recent Monmouth University Poll.Criminalizing abortion with a new precedent that could jeopardize other constitutional rights is a clarifying political issue that — if harnessed effectively by Democratic candidates — will inspire a new class of values-first voters centered on protecting the rights of women and the vulnerable. I heard these views first hand, and raw, in Gen Z focus groups I conducted in Houston, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio last week — especially among young women of color. These are issues of both morality and practicality for this generation. The urgency reflected in the conversations I am having with young voters today is reminiscent of what I heard after the Parkland shooting in 2018 and George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Both events helped fuel record-setting youth participation at the polls.Later this month, when President Biden delivers the commencement address at his alma mater in Delaware, he can do something that will boost the financial standard of two generations while also giving another reason for young people to vote. Already relieving nearly $20 billion of federal student loans and pausing repayment until August, Mr. Biden can honor his commitment to Gen Z and millennials and immediately cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for every American. Accordingly, this executive action will help millions of Gen Z and millennials commit to their careers, family, and communities like their parents and grandparents did at a similar life stage. Beyond the essential economic bottom line, this action will begin to materially rebuild the fractured relationship between the leader of the Democrats and a voting bloc that was integral to his party’s most recent successes.With Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s turning more conservative, and Hispanic Americans more aptly described today as a swing vote than a reliable Democratic-voting bloc, maintaining historic levels of participation and securing a 60 percent youth vote threshold is no longer a “nice to have” but an indispensable component of Democratic competitiveness in this moment.Younger Americans are a notoriously tricky population for anyone to reach; the challenge for government and politicians is even more significant as a growing number choose to turn away from the daily news for their mental wellness. Instead, they prefer to “check in” at specific points throughout the year. The State of the Union was one such moment when youth viewership increased; commencement season is another such opportunity.Building on the substantial youth participation from the last midterm election is no easy feat. When baby boomers, Gen Xers, and older millennials were under 30, they often voted at roughly half the level that Gen Zers did in 2018. By understanding the drivers of Gen Z’s and young millennials’ hopelessness, and the circumstances that have shaped their worldview, Democrats will empower young voters and continue to reshape the electorate.The best chance for Democrats’ success in the Senate starts with three states where younger Americans already have higher-than-average voter registration rates:Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor who was once dubbed “America’s coolest mayor” in an earlier role, is the favorite to win the party’s nomination for Senate in Tuesday’s primary;North Carolina, where Cheri Beasley, who was the first Black woman to serve as the state’s Supreme Court chief justice, is the front-runner in her Senate primary, also being held Tuesday;and Wisconsin, where Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican and an increasingly unpopular misinformation peddler, is seeking his third term.In Arizona and Georgia, young African Americans and other voters of color played critical roles in 2020 and 2021 and can do so again — but the challenge for Democrats is steeper. The Phoenix and Atlanta regions are suffering the highest rates of inflation in the country, putting even more pressure on the incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, to prioritize young voters and speak to their values.Capturing three tossup House seats in California, including one once held by Devin Nunes, as well as winning or holding youth-friendly seats in Washington State, Iowa, Maine and Colorado, are among the best shots for Democrats to mobilize young voters in hopes of hanging on to the House in November.Gen Z and young millennials hold the fate of Congress in their hands. Their message to all of us is clear: the systems we have built cannot meet the challenges of our times and guarantee even basic rights to many of its people. Young voters are stressed. They are angry. In 2018 and 2020, they elected Democrats but in 2022 they need to see more before they commit with similar zeal again.The pathway is narrow, but the race is far from over.John Della Volpe (@dellavolpe) is the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and has overseen its Youth Poll since 2000, and the author of “Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America.” He was a pollster for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    From Bernie to Biden to … MSNBC

    Symone Sanders left a meteoric political trajectory to join the media. After working on Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, advising Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and serving as Vice President Kamala Harris’s chief spokesperson for her first year in office, Sanders is pivoting to become the host of her own MSNBC show, “Symone.” This makes her the latest in a revolving door of former Washington insiders turned media anchors (think George Stephanopoulos, Nicolle Wallace, Jen Psaki and Kayleigh McEnany).In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Sanders on whether the porousness between the Beltway and prime time is a good thing, and how she plans to cover a White House administration she just left.[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]They discuss the relevance of cable news in a world of plunging TV ratings and the rise of TikTok. They address speculation around high turnover in the vice president’s office (which Sanders dismisses as “palace intrigue”). And they talk politics, including Sanders’s predictions for midterms and whether Biden really is the best option for Democrats in 2024.(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)Courtesy of MSNBCThoughts? Email us at sway@nytimes.com.“Sway” is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe and Wyatt Orme, and edited by Nayeema Raza; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris and Mary Marge Locker; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Carole Sabouraud and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski. More

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    Gearing Up for G.O.P. Gains in the Midterms, White House Braces for Barrage of Inquiries

    The turbulent aftermath of the Trump era is taking the possibility of a divided government to new levels of intensity, as some Republicans appear eager to target President Biden and his family.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations by congressional Republicans, should they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections — including preparing for the possibility of impeachment as payback for the two impeachments of President Donald J. Trump.As part of those preparations, Mr. Biden and his White House counsel, Dana Remus, have hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer who is now the top lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to oversee responses to subpoenas and other oversight efforts, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, and Ms. Remus have also been meeting for months to work out potential divisions of labor between White House lawyers and outside counsel, according to people briefed on the matter.The arrangement is said to be aimed at respecting the limits of what taxpayer-funded lawyers should handle and ensuring that Mr. Biden’s two sets of lawyers do not mix work in a way that could inadvertently undermine executive and attorney-client privilege protecting what lawyers know from any subpoenas for their testimony or notes.It is a routine dynamic of Washington life that when one party controls both elected branches of government, Congress goes easy on oversight. When government is divided, the opposition party is much more aggressive about wielding subpoenas and oversight hearings to try to uncover and highlight incompetence or wrongdoing by the executive branch.But the turbulence of the Trump era and its aftermath are taking that to new levels of intensity, and some Republicans appear eager to focus on Mr. Biden and his family — particularly the foreign business dealings of his son Hunter Biden. A handful of far-right Republicans have already signed onto a flurry of impeachment resolutions.Republicans have also signaled an intent to scrutinize various matters related to the pandemic that could reach into the White House, including the administration’s imposition of mask mandates and the extension of an evictions moratorium, both of which were later blocked in court. A particular target is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a top medical adviser in the Trump and Biden administrations who has become a villain to supporters of Mr. Trump.Understand the Pennsylvania Primary ElectionThe crucial swing state will hold its primary on May 17, with key races for a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship.Hard-Liners Gain: Republican voters appear to be rallying behind far-right candidates in two pivotal races, worrying both parties about what that could mean in November.G.O.P. Senate Race: Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator, is making a surprise late surge against big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.Democratic Senate Race: Representative Conor Lamb had all the makings of a front-runner. It hasn’t worked out that way.Abortion Battleground: Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where abortion access hangs in the balance with midterm elections this year.Electability Concerns: Starting with Pennsylvania, the coming weeks will offer a window into the mood of Democratic voters who are deeply worried about a challenging midterm campaign environment.And they have listed a series of other topics they intend to dig into, including the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan and the surge in migration across the southwestern border; another frequently mentioned target is the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas.Late last year, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on a podcast that because House Democrats had twice impeached Mr. Trump — for withholding military aid to Ukraine while pressing it to open an investigation into the Bidens, and for “incitement of insurrection” over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — “there’ll be enormous pressure on a Republican House to begin impeachment proceedings” against Mr. Biden, “whether it’s justified or not.”It remains to be seen whether Democrats will lose one or both chambers in the midterm elections, giving Republicans the power to open investigations and pursue subpoenas. Polls have suggested that Republicans are well positioned, but events — like the likelihood that Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court will soon end women’s constitutional right to abortion — could upend political dynamics before November.The White House counsel, Dana Remus, has been meeting for months with Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer to work out potential divisions of labor between White House lawyers and outside counsel.Andrew Harnik/Associated PressStill, the party that does not control the presidency typically does well in the midterms. The decision to hire Mr. Sauber comes as Republicans crow on conservative news media and in town halls across the country about their plans to initiate ferocious oversight efforts if they return to power in 2023.Mr. Sauber, a veteran Justice Department prosecutor, is set to start at the White House in several weeks, people familiar with the matter said. He spent years at the Robbins Russell law firm in Washington, where he specialized in representing companies and people facing congressional and other governmental investigations.Among his clients was Susan Rice, a top official in the Obama and Biden administrations, during the Republican-led investigation into the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Another was Mary L. Schapiro, a former chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 2011, when she was under scrutiny by both Congress and an inspector general.Mr. Sauber, who is known as Dick, will have the title “special counsel to the president,” which no other White House lawyer in the Biden administration has had, the people said. That reflects the elevated role his oversight portfolio is anticipated to have next year compared with what it has been under the lawyer he is succeeding, Jonathan Su, a deputy White House counsel.“Dick is an excellent lawyer who brings decades of experience that will be a valuable asset,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said in a statement, adding that “we are ensuring the White House is prepared for the issues we are facing or will face in the future.”The secretary of veterans affairs, Denis McDonough, praised Mr. Sauber’s work at the department. “He has a deep understanding of government,” Mr. McDonough said in a statement, noting that he would be a welcome addition to the White House.The White House has also added Mr. Sams to focus full-time on oversight matters. In the 2020 election cycle, he was a campaign spokesman for Kamala Harris, who was then a Democratic presidential candidate and is now the vice president. Mr. Sams went on to work for the Department of Health and Human Services on pandemic-related issues.Understand the 2022 Midterm ElectionsCard 1 of 6Why are these midterms so important? More