There is no question that the Mar-a-Lago Variant is the most communicable and the moist virulent strain that we’ve encountered yet of the prion disease that has afflicted the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan first fed it monkey brains back in the late 1970s. In Tuesday’s Washington Post, Amy Gardner does some serious political epidemiology on the topic and her results are not promising at all.
Across the country, as campaigns gear up for a handful of key races this year and the pivotal 2022 midterms, Republican candidates for state and federal offices are increasingly focused on the last election—running on the falsehood spread by Trump and his allies that the 2020 race was stolen from him.
While most of these campaigns are in their early stages, the embrace of Trump’s claims is already widespread on the trail and in candidates’ messages to voters. The trend provides fresh evidence of Trump’s continued grip on the GOP, reflecting how a movement inspired by his claims and centered on overturning a democratic election has gained currency in the party since the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Dozens of candidates promoting the baseless notion that the election was rigged are seeking powerful statewide offices—such as governor, attorney general and secretary of state, which would give them authority over the administration of elections—in several of the decisive states where Trump and his allies sought to overturn the outcome and engineer his return to the White House.
Gardner’s work is invaluable in that it demonstrates the fundamental impotence of the Never Trump faction of the Republican Party. Let Liz Cheney inveigh on TV. Let Adam Kitzinger light up all the green rooms. Out there in the hinterlands, where they are electing the people who a) don’t give a monkey’s what you wrote in The Bulwark last week; b) will be the people who vote in state legislatures to gerrymander their state’s electoral maps for 2022, and c) represent the farm system for future Republican congresscritters, governors, and, god help the good work, presidents, the prion variant still holds dominion over the party’s higher functions. And it’s already filtering upwards.
Of the nearly 700 Republicans who have filed initial paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run next year for either the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives, at least a third have embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat. Many of them—136—are sitting members of Congress who voted against Joe Biden’s electoral college victory on Jan. 6. Similarly, of the nearly 600 state lawmakers who publicly embraced Trump’s false claims, about 500 face reelection this year or next. Most of them signed legal briefs or resolutions challenging Biden’s victory. At least 16 of them attended the Jan. 6 protest in Washington.
This is still where the political momentum is strongest and, to paraphrase an old Boston political axiom, the money follows the crazy. We’re already seeing the corporate class begin the delicate task of reneging on what once looked like the stirrings of a civic conscience. From PBS:
Six months later, many of those companies have resumed funneling cash to political action committees that benefit the election efforts of lawmakers whether they objected to the election certification or not. When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left. Walmart, Pfizer, Intel, General Electric and AT&T are among companies that announced their pledges on behalf of democracy in the days after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent bid to disrupt the transfer of power.
The companies contend that donating directly to a candidate is not the same as giving to a PAC that supports them. Given America’s porous campaign finance laws, that’s a distinction without a difference to campaign finance experts.
There is no political remedy for this except its utter electoral destruction. It must be made so painful for these politicians to hold these beliefs that they get scared straight. Unfortunately, the prion disease already has made the political immune system so weak that this strategy may now be completely unworkable. But it’s really the only one left, and the only institution left to undertake that strategy is the creaky old Democratic Party, which spends so much time getting in its own way that it is in danger of causing some sort of time paradox where it meets itself…and likely is very disappointing. The crisis is not just coming. The crisis is not just here. It’s settled in for a siege.
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