Democracy is at stake in this year’s midterms. Will you leave it in the hands of MAGA enablers? | Editorial

Published: Sep. 15, 2022

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board


If We The People are to place any faith in the leaders we choose, it only seems fair for them to agree to a minimal set of rules.

One is that they should avoid allegiance with anyone seeking to overthrow the government and hang elected officials. Another is condemning anyone who enflames an assault on the seat of our democracy that leads to the death of cops. Others include rejecting provable lies about rigged elections, denouncing goons who threaten public servants, and agreeing to the peaceful transfer of power.

And maybe they should summon some intellectual curiosity when there is evidence that the leader of their party has stolen nuclear secrets.

At a time when more than two-thirds of all Americans believe democracy is in danger, voters deserve to know how candidates from the party of Donald Trump feel about these rules. So today, on Democracy Day 2022, we are beholden to ask: Will the Republican contenders in New Jersey’s key congressional races – four men who will ask for our vote in 54 days – acknowledge that these rules are sacred, or will they follow the MAGA wing of the party, now that it has jumped the rails of constitutional democracy and the factual universe?

Because like it or not, an allegiance to democracy itself must be the new litmus test for the people we send to Washington.

“These are the exact questions we all need to be asking about the future of our democracy,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute at Rider University.

“We can understand why candidates for office would not want to take positions that are controversial. But if our representatives won’t put some of their own skin in the game, we are in deeper trouble than we think. What could be more essential to the legitimacy of our nation than knowing who should and should not be accountable to our laws and our norms and values?”

The candidates in those four swing districts would not respond to direct questions about their party’s persistent narrative about voter fraud that doesn’t exist; or about the lie involving a stolen 2020 election and the violence that erupted from it; or about the resulting investigations of a disgraced president.

In the 7th District that is represented by Rep. Tom Malinowski, challenger Tom Kean Jr., who has been actively dodging the media for more than two years, was mute again.

Paul DeGroot, running against Rep. Mikie Sherrill in the 11th, has “raised questions” about the 2020 election on Facebook, according to

Bob Healey, challenging Rep. Andy Kim in the 3rd, has said “repeatedly….that Biden won,” a spokesman told us, and that “in terms of January 6, he believes Trump handled it poorly and should have done more to stop it.” We’re more interested in what he would do to prevent a recurrence, because the best predictor of a successful coup is a failed coup in which there is no accountability.

And Frank Pallotta, the opponent of Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the 5th District, also refused to answer direct questions, but he said “Joe Biden is the legitimate president” and that he will “support the (2024) Republican nominee” in a spikey email that was mostly about the bias of newspapers. Days later, Pallotta told NJ Spotlight News that he is “not a Trump Republican,” but conceded that Trump’s policies “were spot-on.”

It’s true that a Republican cannot win in New Jersey if he comes across as anti-Trump, as Seton Hall political scientist Matthew Hale reminds us. “If they want to win, they simply can’t afford to have the 10-to-20% of New Jersey’s Republican voters who are Trump supporters stay home,” he explained. “The best thing for them to do is put marbles in their mouths and mumble responses when Trump comes up.”

A serious candidate, however, should want to address threats to democracy with candor and clarity. It just has no chance of happening in this cycle, when the majority of Republican candidates throughout the country are determined to vulgarize and falsify the American story until the bare lies shine through, as the William Burroughs poem goes.

The bottom line: These New Jersey’s GOP candidates refuse to denounce a president who inspired a brutal mob that put a knife to the throat of our democracy and then called these knuckle-draggers “patriots.”

New Jersey voters should have a problem with that, because Qui Tacet Consentit -- silence means consent.

Or maybe voters characterize this election as Malinowski did last week, when he said the choice we face on Nov. 8 is between candidates who “get sh*t done” and candidates who are “bat-sh*t crazy,” because a Republican majority allows MAGA to run amok.

Either way, we agree with President Biden’s assertion that democracy is facing an existential threat, and that our candidates should be capable of pledging their commitment to its preservation or to a party that is driven by lies.

Because truth matters, even when it’s not Democracy Day. If we do not consider these midterms as our last, best chance to renew democracy’s principles, we will likely lose it forever.

This editorial was produced as part of the Democracy Day journalism collaborative, a nationwide effort to shine a light on the threats and opportunities facing American democracy. Read more at

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-09-16 02:25:45 -0700