Magenta Is Purplish-Red-- Kind Of Like Arizona
That ad above, which YouTube has suspiciously chosen to restrict, from the Republican Accountability Project— and this one— started running today, targeted at “traditional Republican voters” in seven swing states— Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (The ads should be running in Ohio, Iowa and Florida as well.) The purpose of the ads is to reach voters whose minds can be changed on Trump and the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack. The Republican Accountability Project has done a great deal of research that has persuaded them this are ads that will be effective with a very specific kind of Republican voter, albeit not the MAGAts that most Republicans have devolved into.
This morning, the NY Times published a feature by Robert Draper, The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment, about the Republicans in Arizona those ads are absolutely not meant for. In Arizona, Republicans are either still determined to overturn the 2020 election or they are RINOs (which is what the Republican Accountability Project is counting as “traditional Republican voters”). Draper wrote that “The aggressive takeover of the Arizona GOP by its far-right wing was made manifest of primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates— the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem— all prevailed. As a group, they maintain that the 2020 election was stolen, have promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and have vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as ‘godless communism.’ They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending. As Lake told a large crowd in downtown Phoenix the night before the primary: ‘It is not just a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a battle between freedom and tyranny, between authoritarianism and liberty and between good and evil.’ A week later, in response to the FBI’s executing a search warrant at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Lake posted a statement on Twitter: ‘These tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America.’ She added, ‘America— dark days lie ahead for us.’ Far from offering an outlier’s view, Lake was articulating the dire stance shared by numerous other Republicans on the primary ballot and by the reactionary grass-roots activists who have swept them into power.”
Whether that viewpoint is politically viable in a swing state is another question. Arizona’s two U.S. senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, are both Democrats. The tissue-thin Republican majorities in Arizona’s State Legislature— 31 to 29 in the House, 16 to 14 in the Senate— are the most precarious the GOP has experienced in over a quarter-century as the ruling party. And, of course, Trump lost Arizona in 2020, in large part by alienating the college-educated suburbanites who have relocated to the Phoenix metropolitan area of Maricopa County in increasing numbers.
Arizona has thus become what the state’s well-regarded pollster Mike Noble characterizes as “magenta, the lightest state of red.” In the face of this shift, the state’s GOP has aggressively declined to moderate itself. Instead, it has endeavored to cast out some of its best-known political figures. Last year, it censured its sitting governor, Doug Ducey; its former U.S. senator Jeff Flake; and Cindy McCain, the widow of the U.S. senator and 2008 G.O.P. presidential nominee John McCain, arguably the state party’s second-most-famous elected official, after Barry Goldwater.
In the weeks leading up to its Aug. 2 primary, and now as it turns toward the general election in November, Arizona has presented an American case study in how backlash to demographic and social change can cause a political party to turn on itself, even at its own electoral peril. “The fact that so much energy is being spent RINO-slaying and not beating Democrats is not a healthy place for our party to be in the long run,” one political consultant who works in multiple Western states including Arizona (and who requested anonymity to not alienate current and potential clients) observed fretfully.
...There is more at stake than the health of the Republican Party when its core activists, as well as a growing number of officials and those campaigning for governmental positions, openly espouse hostility not just to democratic principles but, increasingly, to the word “democracy” itself. It has long been a talking point on the right— from a chant at the 1964 Republican convention where Goldwater became the GOP nominee to a set of tweets in 2020 by Senator Mike Lee of Utah— that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. The idea, embodied by the Electoral College’s primacy over the popular vote in presidential elections, is that the founders specifically rejected direct popular sovereignty in favor of a representative system in which the governing authorities are states and districts, not individual voters. But until very recently, democracy has been championed on the right: President George W. Bush, a subject of two books I’ve written, famously promoted democracy worldwide (albeit through military aggression that arguably undermined his cause). For that matter, in Trump’s speech at the rally on Jan. 6, he invoked the word “democracy” no fewer than four times, framing the attempt to overturn the 2020 election as a last-ditch effort to “save our democracy.”
What is different now is the use of “democracy” as a kind of shorthand and even a slur for Democrats themselves, for the left and all the positions espoused by the left, for hordes of would-be but surely unqualified or even illegal voters who are fundamentally anti-American and must be opposed and stopped at all costs. That anti-democracy and anti-“democracy” sentiment, repeatedly voiced over the course of my travels through Arizona, is distinct from anything I have encountered in over two decades of covering conservative politics.
It’s the failure to reinstall a legitimately defeated president, under the misguided belief that victory was stolen from him, that seems to have ushered in the view among Arizona Republicans— and many more across the nation— that democracy itself was at fault and had been weaponized by the political left, or the “enemies from within,” as McCarthy once put it.
...The leading name in this new Republican wave is that of Lake, the gubernatorial candidate, who was a well-known personality on Phoenix’s Fox affiliate for over two decades. At a Trump rally in Arizona I attended in January, she called for the arrest of illegal border-crossers and also of Dr. Anthony Fauci for unspecified Covid-related offenses, as well as unspecified conspirators “in that corrupt, shady, shoddy election of 2020.” To this litany of suspected criminals, Lake has also added teachers. “Put cameras in the classroom,” she told the Arizona conservative talk-radio host Garret Lewis last November, arguing that parents should have access to video evidence of “something being taught in the classroom” that they might deem objectionable.
Lake neatly if hyperbolically described the Arizona GOP's us-versus-them outlook on Twitter in June: “They kicked God out of schools and welcomed the Drag Queens. They took down our Flag and replaced it with a rainbow. They seek to disarm Americans and militarize our Enemies. Let’s bring back the basics: God, Guns & Glory.” On her campaign website, Lake describes the media— her former profession— as “corrupt” and “the enemy of the people.” A campaign video displays her bashing televisions to bits with a sledgehammer and a baseball bat. At a rally the night before the primary, she directed her audience to turn around and “show these bastards”— referring to the camera crews positioned on a riser— their disapproval, which they proceeded to do with loud jeers.
...Trump endorsed Lake last September, a few hours after she wrote on Twitter that the likeness of the former president should be chiseled into Mount Rushmore. Trump also endorsed Blake Masters, now the Arizona Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent Democrat, Mark Kelly. Masters, the 36-year-old former C.O.O. of Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, embraces the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. “If you say as a candidate, ‘Obviously, the Democrats, they hope to just change the demographics of our country, they hope to import an entirely new electorate,’ they call you a bigot,” he told Rob Hephner, who goes by Birdman, on the “Patriot Edition” podcast in April. Such views are in alignment with those of Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, who gave Masters his “forceful endorsement.” (Masters rejected the endorsement.) The campaign yard signs for Masters that I saw festooning Arizona’s highways bore pledges like “Blake Masters Will Prosecute Fauci” and “Blake Masters Won’t Ask Your Pronouns.”
...The effect of disinformation on the growing extremism of Arizona’s conservative activist community was described to me by a former state Republican operative who asked not to be named so that he could speak candidly about a trend he found to be disturbing. He told me that he frequently received emails from several of the state’s conservative precinct committeepersons. “I’ve never known a group of people, many of whom I genuinely liked, to be so misinformed,” the former operative told me. “I wish I could send you a file of memes that I’ve seen from them over the years. They’re lies or half-truths designed to incite rage. So, what ends up happening is you start to get all these clustered groups that start to spread disinformation, but they’re also the same people that are the root source of power in Arizona’s political system, which is the local precinct committee.” Arizona, the former operative said, is particularly susceptible to the churn of disinformation, owing to its large population of retirees. “These are all folks that have traded in their suit pants for sweatpants,” he said. “They’re on the golf course, or they’re in hobby mode. They have more than enough time on their hands. They’re digesting six to 10 hours of Fox News a day. They’re reading on Facebook. They’re meeting with each other to talk about those headlines. And they’re outraged that, ‘Can you believe that the government is lying to us about this?’”
I might add that the Michael Bender piece The Times published a week earlier about Lake is worth reading as well. Noting that she's "among a crop of hard-right Republican candidates winning primaries this year with a potent mix of election lies and cultural grievances," he differentiated her from most by pointing to "her polished delivery and ruthless instincts, both honed through decades in TV news... Her say-anything bravado has won cheers from a base eager to stick it to the state’s old guard. Her lack of experience with policy and her fixation on fictions about the 2020 election have left the establishment white-knuckled, bracing for how she might wield power... Polls show Ms. Lake as an underdog in her race, having survived a narrow primary race last week in which Gov. Doug Ducey and most of the Arizona Republican establishment opposed her. But if she can unite her party and expand her appeal to independent voters, Ms. Lake has history on her side: Arizona Republicans have won six of the last eight governor’s races. On Saturday, Mr. Ducey released a statement urging his party 'to unite behind our slate of candidates.'”
Many people who see Lake as a clown, are more worried about Blake Masters as a real force for Evil and part of a bid by Nazi billionaire Peter Thiel to buy 2 Senate seats, for which he has spent at least $30 million so far. Reporting for the Arizona Republic last week, Laurie Roberts wrote "Arizona’s Republican nominee for governor is who she is. There’s been no sudden lurch toward the center since winning her primary, no softening of her hard right views to try to broaden her appeal to a wider swath of voters. She is all in UltraMaga and proud of it. What you see is what you get. Then there’s Arizona’s Republican nominee for the Senate, Blake Masters. First, he wanted to privatize Social Security. Now, he doesn't. First, he wanted a nationwide ban on abortion. Now, he doesn’t. After nearly a year of watching this 36-year-old venture capitalist, I am compelled to ask: Will the real Blake Masters please stand up?
In June, Masters wanted to privatize Social Security,though he said he wouldn’t “pull the rug out” from seniors already receiving it.
“We’ve got to cut the knot at some point though, because I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to receive Social Security,” Masters said, during a June 23 candidate forum hosted by FreedomWorks. “We need fresh and innovative thinking. Maybe we should privatize Social Security. Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it.”
Fresh off his primary election win last week, Masters was calling for an increase in Social Security payments.
“I do not want to privatize Social Security,” he told The Republic’s Ronald Hansen. “I think, in context, I was talking about something very different. We can’t change the system. We can’t pull the rug out from seniors. I will never, ever support cutting Social Security. If anything, we actually should probably increase payments because they don’t go as far these days with Mark Kelly and Joe Biden’s crazy inflation.”
OK, so people do evolve in their thinking … sometimes, it seems, within the span of a few weeks. Consider Masters’ apparently evolving views on abortion.
In January, locked in crowded Republican primary, Masters chided his opponents who wouldn’t back a national abortion ban, according to a report by the Huffington Post.
“What good is actually winning elections if you don’t do what you promised to do when you get in?” he said, during a Jan. 27 forum in Gilbert.
At that forum, he also argued against kicking the abortion issue to states, saying that amounts to “playing defense.”
“I don’t think it’s enough to return it to the states,” he said.
In May, during an event in Carefree, Masters expounded on those views, according to that Huff Post report.
“I think the 14th Amendment says you have the right to life, liberty and property,” he said. “You can’t deprive someone with that without due process. Hard to imagine a bigger deprivation of due process than killing a small child before they have a chance to take their first breath. So I think you do need a federal personhood law.”
The Arizona Legislature in 2021 passed a personhood law, conferring constitutional rights on all fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs starting at the point of conception. It was blocked by a federal judge.
Now that Master must win over those all-important moderate Republican and independent voters?
Well, last week, Masters told The Republic’s Hansen that he believes states should set their own abortion laws. And as for that federal personhood law? Now he says he’d use it only to ban abortion in the third trimester.
Funny that never came up on the primary election campaign trail, don’t you think?
“The federal government should prohibit late-term abortion, third-trimester abortion and partial-birth abortion,” he told Hansen. “Below that, states are going to make different decisions that are going to reflect the will of the people in those states, and I think that’s reasonable. I think that’s what most people certainly in this state and nationwide are looking for.”
In case you were wondering, Masters also now says he supports the Arizona law passed last year, banning abortion after 15 weeks.
“I would look to Arizona’s (15-week) law and say I’m OK with it,” Masters said. “I think it’s a reasonable solution, which reflects where the electorate is.”
This, from the hard right candidate who in January wanted a national ban on abortions. One who asked, “What good is actually winning elections if you don’t do what you promised to do when you get in?”
Leaving me to wonder: What, exactly, is Blake Masters promising?
I guess we'll soon see if authenticity means much to hyper-partisan Arizona voters. My guess is that it doesn't.