McConnell & McCarthy Are Shredding What's Left Of The Republican Brand
Yesterday, the Republican Governors Association had the good sense-- and instinct for survival-- to throw the MyPillow guy out of their annual conference in Nashville. Mike Lindell tried boarding s shuttle to a dinner at the Tennessee Governor's Mansion and was informed that he isn't a governor. He had boasted on Steve Bannon's radio show that he intended to confront Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for not stopping the steal. Instead he boarded his private plane and flew away in a huff.
See? Who said no Republicans have any sense? And yesterday another one, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), told Politico that Kevin McCarthy isn't fit to serve as Speaker if Republicans take back the House majority. "I certainly wouldn’t support him if it were today. This country deserves people who are going to do tough things and tell the truth."
Early this morning, the L.A. Times published a piece by Doyle McManus that began with a 1932 ditty sung by Groucho Marx:
Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood:
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it-- I’m against it!
McConnell could reprise the role today without anyone blinking an eye. "One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration," McConnell lisped menacingly earlier in the month.
McManus wrote that "That includes blocking even proposals that have bipartisan support, such as one that would establish an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot of Jan. 6. Such a probe would be a bad idea, McConnell said, because it would distract voters from President Biden’s policies, which he says will 'turn America into a socialist country.' ... The last thing McConnell wants is for Biden to have a list of accomplishments to brag about come election time... It’s not surprising that negotiations on ambitious legislation would be tough; they’re supposed to be. The problem is that only one party is behaving as if it wants to pass anything at all. McConnell, in contrast, is rooting openly for Biden and the Democrats to fail. He’s revived the playbook he used against then-President Obama, when he saw obstructionism as a way to turn voters against the administration and toward the GOP."
But there is another risk beyond nominating fringe or flawed candidates. Republican leaders and other elected officials in Washington and in many state capitals are projecting great confidence that this election will be a referendum on the incumbent president, rather than on their own actions. Granted, that is the norm, but it doesn’t seem as if many in the Republican Party are concerned about how their brand looks to anyone beyond their most loyal customers.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, it is a miracle that the 2020 elections came off as smoothly as they did. One reason was the efforts made by states and localities to accommodate the challenge, making it easier to vote by mail, creating drop boxes for people to turn in their ballots, and expanding registration and balloting time frames. A recent Census Bureau report found that 69 percent of ballots were cast either by mail or another form of early voting, up from 40 percent in 2016 and 33 percent in 2012. It would seem that many voters tried and liked what some call “convenience voting.” Does it risk soiling the GOP brand to be seen as taking it away? While the Republican base believes that voting fraud is rampant, there is little evidence that those outside the base think elections are being stolen.
Republicans’ posture on creating an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6 is another potential risk factor. Once Democrats agreed to divide commission appointments evenly between the parties and wrap the whole thing up before the election year begins, the optics for Republicans changed rather dramatically, at least from the point of view of independent voters.
Our elections have now become mostly base-oriented, with people voting straight party tickets, but in really close races, those “pure independents” who do not lean toward either party, though few in number, can be decisive. Last fall, it was precisely this group, in my judgment, who had tentatively decided to vote against both Trump and GOP Senate and House candidates before having a change of heart. All the talk of a Democratic wave focused their thinking on the implications of that outcome-- everything they’d been hearing about democratic socialism, abolishing ICE, and defunding the police, and wondering whether Medicare-for-all was just a Trojan horse to take away their private, employer-provided health insurance, or that talk by some Democrats of packing the Supreme Court and abolishing the filibuster indicated a desire to change the rules if they weren’t winning. Most did stick with Joe Biden, but enough peeled off to make that race closer than expected, and it did make the difference in a lot of Senate and House races that had seemed headed in a different direction.
Republicans should be concerned about the role of such voters next year.
The Republican Party is badly tarnished, and at least for now, way beyond repair. This morning NBC's Meet the Press team wrote that "Back in January, the Republican Party had a chance to walk away from Donald Trump-- after his defeat, after Jan. 6, after his second impeachment and after he refused to attend President Biden’s inauguration. Instead, they stuck with him, which has led to many GOP members downplaying the Capitol attack, fighting the creation of a bipartisan commission to study what happened on Jan. 6, and watching the former president continue to question the legitimacy of a contest he lost fair and square. And now they face the very real possibility of seeing their party’s de-facto leader and potential 2024 frontrunner getting indicted in the coming months... [T]his new Trump legal drama will be with us-- and the GOP-- for months. Since last January, the Republican Party has been stuck in a no-win situation with Trump: Either they cut ties with their former president and see him take his base of supporters with him, thus hurting them in 2022 and 2024. Or they stick with him-- and all of the drama that comes with it. Well, they chose Door No. 2."