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On Politics With Lisa Lerer: On to November

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On Politics With Lisa Lerer: On to November

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By Lisa Lerer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host. Tonight we’re following Hurricane Florence updates. If you’re in the path of the storm, stay safe.

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What is it they say about primaries? They come in like a lion and out like a lamb? They get better with age? They taste like … chicken?

Whatever. The point is that the mess of state primaries, special elections and runoff races is finally over, and the final stretch of the midterms has officially begun.

We’re excited. Around here, nothing says fall like foliage, pumpkin spice dog treats (they’re real; Editor Tom says: “animal cruelty”) and campaign rallies.

But before we move into all the political fun we have in store over the next 53 days, we thought it was worth taking a look back at what we learned.

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CreditOli Scarff/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

There are new rules. But we still don’t exactly know what they are.

President Trump’s victory blew up a lot of what the “experts” thought they knew about politics. The midterms showed that he is continuing to change the rules.

He waded into Republican primaries — a decision once seen as anathema — and a lot of his chosen candidates won. G.O.P. strategists worry that a least a few of those candidates are out of step with the general electorate.

On the Democratic side, high-profile insurgent candidates — including Ayanna Pressley in Boston and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York — bucked the party establishment and ousted longtime incumbents.

The revolution kind of happened.

Despite all the attention paid to those Democratic upsets, 71 percent of the non-establishment candidates challenging incumbents in House primaries lost, according to the Brookings Institution.

But — and this is important — challengers still had a significant impact on the party. Scores of them rejected corporate PAC dollars. They pushed for single-payer health insurance in races across the country.

The desire for fresh blood in the party was real and resonant: By our count, about 60 Democrats have said they won’t back Nancy Pelosi for speaker should their party win control of the House.

It’s (still) all about Mr. Trump.

The president always casts a shadow over the midterm elections. But this one seems to block out the sun, moon and stars.

Republicans tried to outdo themselves in their support for the president. (My favorite example? In the Minnesota governor’s race, the candidates debated what was worse: Tim Pawlenty calling Trump “unhinged and unfit,” or Jeff Johnson calling him a “jackass.” Mr. Johnson won the primary.)

For Democrats, each new controversy was like a shot of adrenaline to their volunteers, donors and voters.

Republicans are quick to note that the president remains popular with their base. But with polls forecasting a surge in Democratic turnout, Mr. Trump’s larger-than-politics presence may end up benefiting his opponents most.

One for the history books.

After years of stagnating around 20 percent of Congress, record-breaking numbers of women are running for House, Senate and governor. They were joined by unprecedented numbers of L.G.B.T. and minority candidates.

Every primary night seemed to bring another first: Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar are likely to be the first Muslim women in Congress; Deb Haaland of New Mexico is poised to be the first Native American woman; and Gina Ortiz Jones, of Texas, could become the first Filipina-American. And in Vermont, Christine Hallquist became the first transgender candidate for governor on a major party ticket.

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Jonathan Martin’s district of the week

We’re starting what we hope will be a regular feature: Tapping the brain of our national political correspondent Jonathan Martin. No one knows political trivia — or where to find the best nosh on the campaign trail — better. He sent us this:

Like many of you, I have the Carolinas on my mind this week. And I can’t think of the Carolinas without thinking of Charleston.

Few cities have been impacted by a storm like the Holy City. Hurricane Hugo devastated Charleston in 1989, and the legacy of legendary former Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. is inextricably linked to the recovery he helped oversee. (How much does Charleston love its still-alive-and-well former mayor? They named their new minor league baseball stadium after him, and quickly short-handed it as “The Joe”).

Lisa tells me this is the part of these riffs where I have to offer restaurant suggestions, so here goes: The Ordinary, a really neat space in an old bank downtown, or The Wreck, which is a beer-served-in-a-can beauty on Shem Creek over in Mt. Pleasant.

I am hardly alone in my weakness for the charms of Charleston, and as more folks move to the area, its politics are changing. While still Republican-leaning, the congressional district that takes in most of the city could feature one of this year’s sleeper races. Republicans there ousted Representative Mark Sanford in a primary earlier this year and are running Katie Arrington, an enthusiastic backer of President Trump, against the Democrat Joe Cunningham, a local attorney.

It is one of those districts where, if Mr. Trump’s fortunes don’t improve, Republicans could find themselves in an unexpectedly competitive race.

And after Hurricane Florence, that could lure more reporters back to the Carolina coast for why we want to be there: to cover a political story, and have a good meal or three.

Send him your restaurant recommendations (preferably in battleground states) here.

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Thanks for writing

Part of what has made our first week so much fun is reading your letters. We heard from high school students, a 97-year-old nun, and readers in all corners of the country. In all, over 500 of you wrote to let us know what you want to see in this newsletter.

Jules in Denver said that they’d like to read about “what people are doing to band together … to *incite* politics.”

Elaine in Louisville (“83 years old and still kickin’!”) asked for “stories unrelated to the disconcerting news out of Washington.”

And Conrad in New Jersey suggested “an occasional look at an interesting race for a local office somewhere in the country.”

Good idea, Conrad. We want to know who we don’t know. Are there candidates in your community running for any level of office who interest you, inspire you or infuriate you?

Tell us about them and why they stand out. Write us at onpolitics@nytimes.com, and we may feature your pick in an upcoming edition.

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Help me feel smarter

They aren’t mentioned in the same breath as Scorsese and Spike Lee, but they should be. Here are 20 women from film history that you should know.

Elkhart, Ind., is the “R.V. capital of the world” — and stronghold for Trump supporters. But signs of a slowdown have residents worried. Read that story.

Here’s one to think about over the weekend. How will the police solve crimes on Mars? The Atlantic looks into it.

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… Seriously, guys

It’s Friday! After a long week, we’ve all earned some funny photos of animals. Here you go.

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Isabella Grullón Paz and Margaret Kramer contributed to this newsletter.

Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Beer, sausages and politics: German nationalism threatens Oktoberfest

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Despite its political neutrality and impression of inconsequential revelry, in recent decades, the festival has become a stage on which politicians can show off their common touch.
Parading in dirndls, chewing pretzels and singing folk songs, these political elites will celebrate a “Germanness” so seemingly playful that it is acceptable in a country that, since the Second World War, has shied away from patriotism.
Wurstmarkt -- world's largest wine festival
And this weekend, the images will seem more timely than ever. The ruling conservative party in Bavaria looks likely to lose thousands of votes in the state election next month to the far-right, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which campaigns against immigration, Islam and multiculturalism.
It also calls on ethnic Germans to have more children to prevent the eradication of the German people. “The preservation of one’s own national people is a priority in politics and for every government,” the party said in its manifesto for last year’s federal election. Roughly one in eight Germans voted for the AfD in that election, many of them angry about the arrival of a million refugees and migrants in 2015.
Polls predict that the Christian Social Union — a conservative party that has mostly ruled Bavaria since the 1940s and is moving rapidly to the right on immigration in a bid to head off the AfD — might lose its absolute majority.
But using Oktoberfest for political advantage is nothing new.
Bavaria's State Premier Guenther Beckstein toasts with Angela Merkel during the Berlin version "Oktoberfest" in 2008Bavaria's State Premier Guenther Beckstein toasts with Angela Merkel during the Berlin version "Oktoberfest" in 2008
The festival has a long and unfortunate history of being used in this way. It first took place in 1810, following the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. It was seen by some as an attempt by the nobility to win favor among normal Germans.
Then, in the 1930s, the Nazis renamed it the “Great German folk festival,” a celebration of Aryan identity.
After the war, the festival became a politics-free space. Today, politicians of all ideological backgrounds make public appearances.
From Angela Merkel to rebel left-wing politicians such as Claudia Roth, who recently paraded her dirndl there, mainstream politicians have their pictures taken holding enormous glasses of beer, or steins.
It is remarkable that all these politicians have long felt comfortable promoting a “festival that emphasizes its German origin with strength and power in every aspect,” as the official website claims.
Germany approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia, breaking coalition promiseGermany approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia, breaking coalition promise
But even this idea of Germanness lacks a certain authenticity. The kinds of dirndls and lederhosen worn at the festival have little to do with German history. Dirndels and lederhosen were not even worn in Bavaria when the festival first took place.
And it could very well be the case that this gimicky, artificial environment — complete with fancy dress and beer — provides the perfect cover for a politician to roar German songs without looking nationalist.
And it’s this roaring that might soothe some German voters that long for a uniform homeland — without otherness.
And while German politics is currently divisive and the atmosphere in Bavaria is febrile, it’s hard to see this sentiment winning a majority for any party. But as more or the German mainstream apes the policies of far-right nationalists simply to stop their votes from bleeding away, it’s worth asking the question: where could this end?

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