by DAVID SIDERS at politico.com
When I began reporting my “Road Trip” series earlier this year, the idea was to explore how Americans’ stew of anxiety and fervor about our nation’s politics was reshaping the two political parties, not in Washington, but at ground level — at local board meetings, or small gatherings of party officials. In churches, at polling places and radio stations. In the living rooms of people’s homes.
In 2023, the country was coming back from a pandemic. Inflation was easing and, by most accounts, the economy was in pretty good shape. But if there were reasons to be optimistic, they weren’t registering in polls. And they definitely weren’t registering with the people I met.
It didn’t matter if they were Democrats or Republicans or independents. If they were young or old or Black or white. Nearly everyone I spoke with is talking about politics — and framing their motivations for the next election year — around a feeling of loss, and distress about what they’re going to lose next.
For the Republicans I spoke with, the sense of loss was often inward looking — not just about the economy or the Democratic president or the “radical left,” but about what their own party is becoming. In Arizona, where Republicans were still cheering Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, I watched the state Republican Party fill a megachurch where a combat Vietnam veteran suggested censuring insufficiently faithful Republicans by duct taping them to trees in a dog park “ so the dogs can pee on them.” At a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, a retired teacher told me, “I think we’re getting closer to the end times.” And in Michigan, where a group of hard-line Republicans seized control of a county board, a local party official said he felt, for the first time in his life, that “it is like a good versus evil fight that’s going on in the world right now.”