If the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, today’s Republican Party is certifiable.
After a disappointing 2022 midterm—that should have been interpreted as a warning against Trumpism—the Republican Party has given zero indication that they will hit the panic button in time to salvage 2024.
Let’s start with the OG election denier, Donald Trump, who is still ostensibly the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. On the heels of demoralizing midterm results, Trump promptly announced he was running for president and then spent last week dining with antisemites and neo-Nazis.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded by saying, “There is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy”—a demonstrably untrue statement. McConnell went on to say that “anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, [is] highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.” McConnell’s goal may be noble, but in the words of the Big Lebowski, “Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man…”
The guy with the best chance to help Republicans move on from Trump is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At least, he appears the most likely candidate to be able to defeat Trump in a presidential primary. But this would likely be a Pyrrhic victory. Trump would likely sabotage DeSantis in a general election. So it’s heads: Trump wins, or tails: DeSantis loses. Either way, Republicans probably lose another presidential race in 2024.
Republicans might console themselves by looking at the 2024 congressional races. According to Politico, Dems face a “Senate map from hell” because Democrats are defending a lot more seats than Republicans. What is more, some of the places Democrats are playing defense are increasingly red. How would you like to be a Democrat running for re-election in Montana, Ohio, or West Virginia?
This is good news for Republicans, but ask yourself this: What have Republicans done in the last few weeks to suggest they won’t make the same mistakes that caused them to underperform in 2022? Is there any reason to believe that high-quality candidates (think Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey or New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu) will be attracted to this Republican Party? Is there any reason to believe that Trumpy candidates (think Blake Masters and Herschel Walker) won’t continue to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024?
Maybe Republicans will demonstrate leadership and competence in the House of Representatives.
According to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, “The first goal [of a Republican Congress] should be to give the American people a sense of hope—and a reason to believe things can be dramatically better.” Fat chance. There’s no guarantee that Kevin McCarthy will even become House Speaker. If he does, there is virtually zero chance he can control the “clown caucus.” Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene will call the shots, which will make it easy for Team Biden to paint them (and Trump) as the face of the GOP.
Not only is it unlikely that House Republicans will clean up their act by 2024, it’s also possible that their insistent election denialism could cost Republicans another House seat this year.
To recap, Republicans can’t count on salvation from the 2024 presidential race, senior Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, a friendly U.S. Senate map, or the narrow House majority. Perhaps the Republican National Committee will save the day.
Again, don’t hold your breath. Even assuming MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell doesn’t wrest control of the committee from RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, what are the odds the new “Republican Party Advisory Council” will provide a clear pathway back to sanity and victory?
One of the council’s members includes losing Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters. As National Review’s Jack Butler put it, Masters “underperformed every other statewide Republican running in Arizona this year and failed to knock off vulnerable incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly despite the professed desire of Arizonans for a Republican senator.”
To be sure, anything can happen. Life moves fast. The Republican Party has been prematurely written off more times than I can count. The difference, though, has been that after past losses the GOP wanted to attract voters and was willing to make changes to win elections.
For example, in the wake of Watergate, the RNC had yellow buttons printed with the slogan, “Republicans Are People, Too!”
Considering some of the weirdos the GOP nominated to run in 2022, “Republicans Are People, Too!” is just the kind of humble, desperation message that the GOP should embrace.
Republicans will likely have to hit rock bottom before they admit they have a problem. Until that happens, we’ll be unable to look away from the slow-motion political car crash that is the GOP.