He wants to win Missouri as a populist. Don’t compare him to Josh Hawley.

In this, he may look remarkably like the more famous Missouri populist who won a Senate seat with a similar message: Republican Josh Hawley. Kunce doesn’t like the comparison – he sees Hawley as a “false populist,” pointing to the senator’s education (banker’s son, private school graduate) and his votes to uphold the “corporate judges” (Neil Gorsuch, for example, who in a pre-Supreme Court trial ruled against a trucker fired for leaving his cargo behind after a brake malfunction left him stranded for hours in the cold). Don’t even launch Kunce on Hawley’s recent comments denouncing video games and the state of American masculinity (Marines play video gamesKunce points out). But in the rhetoric, if not in the backstory, it can be difficult to tell the two apart. While Kunce does not share Hawley’s concerns about corporate “awakening”, the two blame multinationals, big tech, China, and the elites for what plagues America in general and Missouri in particular. Also, both made it to Yale – although Kunce points out that he did so with financial assistance. (Hawley’s office declined to comment for this story.)

Although Republican pollsters recently found Kunce the loser, 40 percent to 47 percent, against current GOP frontrunner former Gov. Eric Greitens, Kunce finds that margin quite encouraging so early in the race, when many Missourians don’t even know who he is; his main rival in the Democratic primary, veteran state senator Scott Sifton, loses to Greitens in the poll by a similar amount and faces the same name recognition challenges, but he is far behind Kunce in collecting of funds. Many people know Greitens, who resigned to avoid impeachment in a 2018 scandal involving an allegedly forced sexual encounter with her hairdresser and alleged campaign finance shenanigans; he denies any wrongdoing and made an agreement with the prosecutor to drop the criminal charges at the time. Still, the prospect of a Greitens primary nomination worries National Republicans and excites National Democrats. Incredibly for a Trump country seat currently held by a Republican, retired Senator Roy Blunt, and in a midterm year in which Democrats are expected to do wrong, CNN set the Missouri race on its list of the top 10 seats most likely to tip over in 2022, though the Cook Political Report views the seat as solidly Republican, as do Missouri pollsters.

Despite slim odds, Kunce’s run is a test for Democrats who still struggle to absorb the lessons of Trump’s call and reverse their losses among working-class and campaign voters, especially in the heart of the country. It is also an experience of reclaiming political populism for Democrats after the GOP near-takeover, and defining it without the anti-immigrant nationalism of Donald Trump or the religious conservatism and anti-awakening of Josh Hawley. . But Kunce can be just as critical of National Democrats as he is of Republicans, whom he describes as all part of the same corrupt system ruled by donors and Wall Street lobbyists. He believes the concerns of the working class, white or black or otherwise, are essentially the same, and that the same anti-business message can win over Trump voters on Harley in southern Missouri and black retirees in southern Missouri. St. Louis. “The working class is the working class,” he said. “The issues are a lack of transversal power for ordinary people and a system that divides us and pits us against each other. “

Missouri is a particularly telling location for this experience, as a long-standing former swing state inclined to elect moderates left and right, where Republicans now control all branches of state government and hold eight of the 10 seats of the Congress delegation. “A victory here in Missouri,” says Kunce – where plains populism once had a foothold, where voters have a history of independent-mindedness and “show me” the practicality – “literally changes everything. It shows that we can be the workers’ party. The state’s recent political history tells a tale of Democrats alienating former supporters through a combination of ideological mismatch and popular neglect – and Kunce’s political fate will show whether an anti-elite economic message will be enough to win them back.

For a whole century from 1904, Missouri was a famous political baron who picked the winner of all but one presidential election, when his constituents chose Democrat Adlai Stevenson over Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. “A mirror to the nation,” the Chicago Tribune called in 2004, at the end of that period: “Part of Dixie, part of industrial Detroit, a little bit of Great Plains conservatism and a pinch of the West to get the government to pull back on me and cut my taxes.” . “Or like Slate put that year: “This is the swingiest of swingers,” where any discussion of politics probably contained “the words ‘microcosm’ or ‘representativeness’.”

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