The Awkward Rediscovery of Basic Party Interests
Newt Gingrich and other MAGA-Republicans stumble back across the idea of inclusion.
Lately, I’ve been writing about some subtle revaluation going on with the GOP. Political leaders and even some right-wing media pundits have been musing aloud, after three consecutive disappointing election-cycles, that the party may be getting some things wrong… including rather fundamental things about elections.
A big one is on the issue of candidate-quality. I’ve already covered this topic a fair amount, but to quickly recap: voters, for the most part, don’t like candidates who they suspect might be insane, unhinged, or part of a cult. While such characteristics may not hurt candidates during their primaries (in some cases they may even be a prerequisite), general-elections are a different beast. Making constituents afraid of you isn’t a great model for success.
Another one is how campaign funds are directed. Party leaders who raise money on behalf of specific candidates should probably direct the bulk of that money to those candidates, rather than stuff almost all of it in their personal war-chests.
Following Herschel Walker’s high-profile loss in Georgia’s Senate runoff last week, I’ve watched even prominent MAGA-Republicans advocate for different electoral approaches. And while I largely agree with what they’re recommending, I keep finding myself laughing at their presentations.
This is because the ideas they’re putting forth were mainstream Republican sensibilities not that long ago — baseline stuff. That was… until a certain someone blew those sensibilities out of the water — the same someone these individuals have spent six years running shameless interference for. And because these individuals are fully cognizant of the part they’ve played, they’re now twisting themselves into pretzels to avoid publicly acknowledging what went wrong in the first place.
For example, here’s a clip of Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich last week, following Walker’s defeat:
“For whatever reason.” Really?
It’s as if Republican voters’ resistance to mail-in voting is some mysterious, unexplained phenomenon.
It’s not, of course. We all know what happened, and that it started just two years ago with the 2020 election. Prior to that, Republican voters had actually been quite receptive to voting by mail. It was the preferred method of a lot of older Republicans in particular, accounting for about 25% of all ballots cast in the 2018 midterms.
What changed was President Donald Trump urging his supporters, when he was running for re-election, not to participate in mail-in voting.
“Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters… They're fraudulent in many cases,” Trump said during a White House briefing. He made similar remarks in other public appearances in the months that followed.
It was a big topic for him online as well:
Despite no facts supporting the narrative, Trump argued for months that mail-in systems were fundamentally corrupt, and that they somehow favored Democrats. Some believe he did this to create a pre-made excuse for his eventual November loss, and there’s good evidence suggesting he was well-aware of the “red mirage” situation his efforts would create, further aiding his plan to prematurely declare victory on election night.
To this day, Trump insists that mail ballots are an enemy of democracy. He most recently cited them as the reason so many of his 2022 midterm nominees crashed and burned on election night:
Now, the good news for the GOP is that while right-wing influencers (like Hannity, Gingrich, and others) can’t quite bring themselves to publicly recognize the origin of the problem, they’re at least clearing the MAGA-air a little by telling their viewers what most of them understood prior to 2020: mail-in voting is a good alternative.
Banking votes early is, and has always been, a smart political strategy. When voting is made more convenient and less time-intensive for potential supporters, they’re more likely to follow through with voting for you.
Speaking of Newt Gingrich, he delivered another zinger the other day:
So, Newt likes the idea of not being “stuck into one party’s demands of following without thinking.” He says, “Republicans should learn to be more inclusive of individualism.”
That is so great to hear. I agree with Newt’s excellent advice. Bravo!
I just wish that advice would have come before nearly every principled, independent-thinking Republican in Washington had been purged from the party and public office for the crime of insufficient personal-loyalty and subservience to the leader of the GOP — the same guy who Newt has long shilled for.
I mean, just imagine the strength of a Republican Party that’s inclusive of individualists like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who’ve sought accountability for a Republican president’s efforts to overturn U.S. democracy to stay in power, and his provocation of a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Imagine the strength of a Republican Party that stands by Republican state-election officials who admirably defend and uphold the results of democratic elections, even when those results are politically discouraging.
Imagine the strength of a Republican Party that tolerates Republicans in Congress who sometimes vote for Democratic legislation.
Imagine the strength of a Republican Party that respects a lone GOP Senator’s conscientious determination that a Republican president’s attempt to extort political dirt out of a foreign ally, using congressionally-approved defense-funding, is an indefensible, egregious abuse of executive power.
Well done, Newt. Your wisdom is appreciated, and your advocacy for an inclusive, “big tent” Republican party — like the one that used to exist and was quite helpful for winning elections — is truly inspiring.