[OPINION] What’s the matter with Arizona?

By Frank Bruni | The New York Times

Another round of elections, another set of results that are more muddle than message. I’m beginning to think that America is just messing with our minds. There’s no such thing as taking the pulse of our body politic. It won’t sit still long enough.

To go by what just happened in Kansas, the country has had its fill of extremism. On Tuesday, Kansas became the first state in which voters — not ideologically truculent lawmakers, not Supreme Court justices with God complexes — had their say about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and those voters lashed back. They turned out in big numbers, and they decided overwhelmingly to preserve the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. The margin was about 59 percent to 41 percent.

Again, that was in largely rural, indisputably red Kansas, which Donald Trump won by more than 14 percentage points in 2020. The state’s cultural conservatism is so pronounced that when the journalist Thomas Frank wrote a book about the ways in which social issues attract voters to the Republican Party and drive their behavior, he titled it, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

There’s nothing the matter with Kansas this week. Its citizens chose common sense and individual autonomy over theocracy and the subjugation of women. That makes me just a little less worried about the direction in which this country is headed.

But it leaves me all the more perplexed by what happened on Tuesday in Arizona, which veered as much toward extremism as Kansas did away from it.

The Republican Senate primary there was won by a young provocateur, Blake Masters, who vilifies immigrants, fetishizes firearms, called Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson a “pedophile apologist” and recently predicted — or did he boastfully pledge? — that Anthony Fauci “will see the inside of a prison cell this decade.” Naturally, he says that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Of course, he enjoys Trump’s blessing.

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