None of this bad—deplorable—behavior on Trump’s part is ideological. He is not merely playing a vigorous role to advance his stances in fierce partisan policy debates. He is continuing—and intensifying—his war on truth and propriety. He is abusing his office, deploying troops to counter a nonexistent enemy, to create fear in order to gain a political advantage. He seeks to divide, not repair. He exploits tragedy. He engages in racism. He encourages extremism that leads to political violence and murder. Trump has been guiding the GOP and large parts of this nation into a dark place.
It’s true that many of the House and Senate races are about local concerns and matters that directly affect voters: health care, education, wages, and so on. But all these contests are occurring within a Trump-dominated context. As the egotist he is, Trump has proclaimed that this election is about him. In this instance, he is correct. That means the midterms collectively are a referendum on the damage Trump is doing to the office of the president and the political culture of the United States. Though Trump may not be on the ballot, decency is—and its future is on the line.