The 2018 midterm campaigns are officially underway. More than a dozen states have already held primaries and 8 more are being held today, with voters from both parties selecting the candidates who will represent them at the polls this November. Both of us have spent enough time in politics to know it’s too early to say which issues will prove decisive, especially because off-year elections often feel more like a patchwork quilt of local contests than a single national race.
Still, in an important way, the 2018 midterms are a stress test for our entire political system. This is the first nationwide election to follow one of the most bitter, divisive, and uncivil presidential campaigns in modern American history. Given some of the lessons learned, rightly or wrongly, from 2016, it will be tempting for candidates of both parties to decide that the old rules of political behavior no longer apply. Some strategists may conclude that the only way to win elections is with petty nicknames, headline-grabbing tweets and inflammatory accusations of questionable veracity.