Politics

Welcome to the Marvel Political Universe

Presidential and midterm elections are now surrounded by lead-in elections

Girls dressed as characters from “Thor,” pose during an event near the Capitol reflecting pool hosted by Awesome Con in 2014. The U.S. election system is starting to take on aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a constant churn of smaller narratives setting up bigger chapters. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The American election system has become its own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Presidential elections every four years used to be the tentpole movie that everyone went to see. Midterms, off-year special elections, primaries — those were for the real political geeks out there. Not anymore. 

People are voting in record numbers in this year’s midterms, a trend foreseen by this year’s primary contests. And the 11 special congressional elections held since President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, from April 2017 to Aug. 7 of this year, have kept voters engaged, political ads airing and the money flowing. 

Each one of these elections, from the special election in Georgia’s 6th District to the last primary in Rhode Island, has told a story that adds valuable context to what’s happening now in the lead-up to Election Day — and how it sets the stage for the 2020 contest. 

With “The Avengers” franchise, Marvel Studios built in an audience by teasing its storylines in earlier movies like “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Now, 10 years into that decision, it’s difficult to know what the heck is going on in “Avengers: Infinity War,” if you didn’t see “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Dr. Strange.”

Welcome to the Marvel Political Universe. You may think it’s just about Election Day, but there is a whole lot going on before and after, and if you want to understand why the Arizona Senate race is so competitive in a state Trump won, well, you need to tune in to things like the special election for Arizona’s 8th District earlier this year. Consider that the “Ant Man” of the MPU.

Find all of Roll Call’s election coverage, race ratings and more right here.

Sunday at the Movies

UNITED STATES - JUNE 13: From left, Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., actor John Cusack, Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., John Lewis, D-Ga., Al Green, D-Texas, and others sit on the 14th Street NW, entrance to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in protest of the Trump Administration's policy of separating parents and children at the border on June 13, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Back in June, John Cusack (middle, with sunglasses and Cubs hat) protested the Trump administration with, from left, Reps. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., John Lewis, D-Ga., Al Green, D-Texas, and others on the 14th Street NW, entrance to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, registering their disapproval of the administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the border. Back in 1991, Cusack ran for Congress (albeit in a movie.) Intrigued? Come out to the Miracle Theatre Sunday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Come out this Sunday to the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill for the very first Inside Elections Movie Night. The brainchild of Inside Elections Publisher and Roll Call Elections Analyst Nathan L. Gonzales, we’ll watch “True Colors,” a 1991 political thriller starring John Cusack and James Spader.

It’s one of the rare Hollywood treatments that portrays a congressional campaign, with Cusack playing Peter Burton, an ambitious striver running for Congress in Connecticut. Spader is his bud from law school who takes a different path. They clash.

It’s pretty good and seldom seen. The movie starts at 6 p.m. Come for the stars, stay for the witty banter between Nathan and me.

This Week’s Podcast

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Not all movies are superhero (or political) endeavors, though. Take the latest movie from Matthew Heineman, the Academy Award-nominated director and maker of documentaries like “Cartel Land” and “City of Ghosts.”

His new picture, “A Private War,” tells the story of the late war correspondent Marie Colvin. Portrayed by Rosamund Pike, Colvin’s tale is a reminder of how dangerous journalism is, and comes at a time when the president of the United States consistently labels journalists as the enemy of the people — and writers like Jamal Khashoggi end up dead at the hands of his homeland’s government.

Heineman and Pike discussed their movie in a wide-ranging conversation on the latest Political Theater Podcast. Have a listen:

The Kicker

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Jennifer Wexton, the Democrat challenging Rep. Barabra Comostock in Virginia's 10th district, stops for a photo with a group of supporters dressed up as Elvis during the 62nd Annual Kiwanis Halloween Parade in Leesburg, Va., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Jennifer Wexton, the Democrat challenging GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th District, stops for a photo with a group of supporters dressed up as Elvis during the 62nd Annual Kiwanis Halloween Parade in Leesburg, Va., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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