This week, the RNC is meeting in Utah, one of the reddest states in the country. Utah's PVI is R+13-- not as brain-dead as Wyoming (R+26) but much redder than Texas (R+5), Florida (R+3), Georgia (R+3) or Arizona (R+3). In 2016, Utah was not exactly Trump-country. Trump came in third in the primary:
Ted Cruz- 132,904 (69.5%)
John Kasich- 31,992 (16.7%)
Señor Trumpanzee- 26,434 (13.8%)
Even in the general election he won just 45.5% of the vote, the rest split between Hillary (27.5%) and Evan McMullin (21.5%). 4 years later, with no McMullin in the race, Trump took 58.1% of the vote to Biden's 37.6%, despite Biden having been endorsed by McMullin. Still, this was the highest percentage for a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ clobbered Goldwater in 1969. Biden won an outright majority of votes in Salt Lake County. Trump was strongest in rural counties.
Reporting on the RNC meeting, the Associated Press noted that "There are few overwhelmingly Republican states where Trump’s demeanor clashes with the political culture like he does in Utah, a conservative bastion that prides itself on maintaining political civility in polarizing times. The state has mostly bucked leftward political shifts that have swept neighboring Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. Republicans, who control the governor’s mansion and the statehouse, say the state’s low unemployment and rapid economic growth provide a model for the benefits of conservative governance and political discourse. 'We’ve got something that you’ll hear a lot about: It’s called the Utah way,' said McMullin, who is now running for the U.S. Senate as an independent. 'Usually, it has something to do with finding common ground to solve problems. I mean, that’s what has defined our politics.' In closed-door meetings this week, RNC members are expected to discuss a proposal to force candidates seeking the party's nomination to pledge not to participate in debates run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has played a defining role in presidential contests for the last 30 years... Committee members may also take up a resolution about expelling GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney from the party for joining the Jan. 6 House committee."
Kinzinger has another way of looking at what's going on in his party now. He's "calling on Democrats and independents to form an 'uneasy alliance' with Republicans to fight former President Donald Trump’s influence." He's trying to persuade non-Republicans to support anti-Trump Republican candidates in GOP primaries, warning that that failure to shift the GOP’s embrace of Trump could undermine democracy or even a lead to "failed state."
Kinzinger’s plan underscores the extraordinary challenges Trump antagonists face as they fight to purge Trumpism from the GOP using the existing political system, which offers party leaders little control if voters line up behind extremists. At the same time, Trump allies control the Republican Party infrastructure at the state and national levels-- in addition to fundraising.
...[Trump] has aggressively called for primary opponents against the 10 House Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to impeach him following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Three of them, including Kinzinger, have decided not to seek reelection, and the others face primary challengers already.
“We’re underdogs,” Kinzinger acknowledged. “But without an underdog coming in and taking on a fight... nothing’s going to change.”
The new focus on Republican primaries represents a strategic shift for Kinzinger’s network, Country First, which spent much of the last year propping up anti-Trump Republican candidates for state and federal office in general elections with varying levels of success.
Country First backed the winner in 8 of 11 state house races across Virginia and New Jersey last November. But Kinzinger’s preferred candidate for a high-profile special congressional election in Texas last May finished in 9th place with just 3% of the vote.
Kinzinger’s new campaign is designed to attack the root of Trumpism where it’s spreading with little resistance: in the Republican nomination process. Because the vast majority of Republican-held congressional seats are not competitive due to gerrymandering and cultural trends, the congressman argues that Trump-backed “extremists” can only be stopped in the Republican primaries that decide which candidate appear on the general election ballot.
But because Republican primary elections are often decided by the most passionate partisans-- in this case, Trump supporters-- Kinzinger hopes to change the composition of the Republican primary electorate to include more moderate voters and Democrats.
His group this week posted detailed instructions on its website instructing Democrats and unaffiliated voters about how to participate in upcoming Republican primary elections. Nearly two dozen states have what’s described as “open” primaries that allow voters affiliated with either party to participate, but even in states that close their primary contests to non-Republicans, Kinzinger says there’s time for voters to change their political affiliation-- at least temporarily-- to the GOP.
I wrote to Kinzinger a couple of months ago and invited him out to Bakersfield to do a high profile campaign event for Bruno Amato, the Democratic opponent to Trump ass-wipe Kevin McCarthy, who Kinzinger detests. As of now, he still hasn't responded. I wonder how Kinzinger would respond to Trump himself not running but if another neo-fascist ran in his place, say DeSantis. Would Kinzinger revert to form or would he continue his crusade? I hope some hoist of one of the Sunday talking heads shows asks him-- but I know none of them would.
I asked my friend Digby how she sees Kinzinger's idea and she repsonded the way most progressive Democrats probably would: "Anyone who has remained a Republican after what they've done cannot be trusted. There are Never Trumpers who have left the party for whom I have respect. They gave up their cushy positions and put their money where their mouths were. I'm even soft on many of those whom my progressive friends still hate (and for good reason.) I welcome apostates-- trust but verify. But ally with the Trump cult (which is what the GOP is now whether they like it or not)? No. The whole party is sick."