Arts & Entertainment

Voting for Mercy

New York Review of Books

In today’s midterm elections, United States voters are selecting, in addition to thousands of state and local officials, thirty-five senators, thirty-six state governors, and all 435 congresspeople in the House of Representatives. Among these candidates is Democrat John Fetterman, of Pennsylvania, who is running for senator in a close race against Republican Mehmet Oz. Yesterday the Review published an essay by the journalist Maura Ewing that detailed Fetterman’s history advocating clemency for prisoners enduring particularly harsh sentences, and Oz’s attempts “to turn Fetterman’s mercy for the state’s aging prisoners against him.”

Below we have collected, alongside Ewing’s article, four essays and one poem from the Review’s archives about the recent history of American midterms, Ohio senatorial candidate J.D. Vance, and the Democrats.

Maura Ewing
Clemency Under Fire

In Pennsylvania’s tight Senate race, John Fetterman’s commitment to commuting harsh sentences has come under fierce attack from the right.

Midterm Election Results, 2010
a poem by Frederick Seidel

My old buddy, my body!
What happened to drive us apart?…

Nancy Isenberg
Left Behind

“The most obvious myth J.D. Vance promotes is the idea of the hillbilly’s Scotch-Irish pedigree. It is as if his family’s roots—and its inherited strengths and failings—can be traced to the supposedly unchanging traits of a single ethnic group.”

Sean Wilentz
How Our Politics Broke

“One party remained a coalition while the other long ago became a reactionary movement, backed by a minority of Americans and dedicated to plutocracy and racial demagogy, that has imposed its will on the nation.”

Elizabeth Drew
The Stranglehold on Our Politics

“Most of the electorate can’t be bothered with midterm elections, and this has had large consequences—none of them good—for our political system and our country.”

Michael Hirsh
Who Will Speak for Democrats

“Nancy Pelosi seems confident that she can overcome the resistance and keep her unruly party in line as she has done in the past.”


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