Jonathan Bernstein: Republican paranoia could cost the party in November – West Central Tribune

The terror that mainstream conservative Republican politicians have felt at the threat of being labeled insufficiently conservative — of being labeled Republicans in name only — has made government difficult for them since the 1990s. But every time that they were the minority party in Washington, they could correctly assume that there was little electoral cost to appease the right wing of the party.

This year, that presumption may no longer hold. With an incumbent president whose approval rating is just over 40% and plenty of unhappiness about the economy, Democrats are set to face heavy losses. Instead, there are signs the Republican could make only minor gains midway through November. The GOP could even lose seats in the Senate and among governors. And it’s all down to Republican fears of being labeled RINO.

From the 2016 presidential campaign to the second Senate impeachment vote, Republicans have had plenty of opportunities to get rid of Trump. Yet time and again they have instead chosen to stay with him, with the party, and with the party-aligned media, giving Trump, who apparently cares little about public policy or the conservative movement, the ability to decide what which counts as orthodoxy.

Given the legal troubles the former president got himself into, being a ‘true conservative’ now includes an obligation to defend Trump’s bid to overthrow the 2020 election as well as his right to classified documents, including ultra-sensitive information about human intelligence, and store it willy-nilly in a place not even close to safe.

Republicans know the weeks leading up to the midterm elections are not a good time to tussle with the party leader, especially one they believe will not hesitate to turn against anyone who opposes him. . That means the next opportunity to get away from Trump is likely after the November midterms. Until then, Republicans are likely stuck with whatever he’s doing that disrupts the party’s attempts to run cohesive campaigns and focus voters on President Joe Biden’s weaknesses.

Nominating extremist candidates who perform poorly in general elections has sometimes cost Republicans dearly. It’s getting worse. To some extent, that’s a consequence of Trump’s presence, but the former president’s support doesn’t have much influence.

Instead, the problem is that the party just doesn’t know how to protect itself from crackpots and fraudsters. Republicans lack an effective counterargument against anyone claiming to be a true conservative and denouncing everyone else as RINOs. So inexperienced candidates with unpopular views, such as Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters or Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, are often nominated – or they end up dragging the eventual nominee so far. of the mainstream that he risks losing.

Democrats don’t always appoint moderates, and even healthy parties sometimes choose to adopt unpopular positions despite the potential election costs. But Republicans too often act as if the only relevant question is which candidate is the purest conservative. Relevant experience and the call for freelancers are either ignored or considered a defect.

It’s unclear how much the Supreme Court‘s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion will cost Republicans this fall. But that certainly doesn’t seem to help. The tribunal itself has become unpopular. Voters seem to be growing more committed to abortion rights now that those rights have been threatened or taken away; meanwhile, Republican legislatures pass all manner of bills without compromise.

We could attribute some of this to a normal drive to push through new policies, even at the cost of future electoral losses. But Republican moves in the wake of the court’s decision, in addition to the court’s decision itself, seem reckless. Republican presidents and senators have not been content with staunchly conservative justices such as current Chief Justice John Roberts or former Justice Anthony Kennedy. Trump, in particular, has used judicial appointments to secure the support of the toughest activists in the Republican coalition, and Republican senators have followed eagerly, only to find that if you put extremists in court, you risk getting extreme decisions that put targets on the politicians who supported them.

The same goes for state legislators and governors who don’t want to settle for most of a loaf when they can grab it all. Abortion is one of many policy areas, along with guns and climate, in which Republican justices are taking extreme positions that are hugely popular among the most loyal Republican voters but have little support beyond. of them.

It’s still possible that Biden’s unpopularity will overwhelm everything else once the majority of voters start paying attention. But it’s also possible that, perhaps for the first time in modern US history, the ruling party will manage to spoil an election it was poised to win.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and politics. A former political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics. Send your comments to: [email protected]

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