What Are YOU Doing To Protect “Good Republicans” From Their Voters?
Whose fault is it that Republican voters keep choosing illiberal conspiracy theorists?
Tomorrow night on TNB I’ll be joined by the OGs, Mona Charen and Bill Kristol. Mark it down now: Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
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1. Don’t Ever Blame the Voters
A few days ago Peter Meijer went crying to Bari Weiss’s Substack about how terrible the mean Democrats are for running ads which accurately—and negatively—described his primary opponent, the conspiracy-nut and MAGA standout John Gibbs.
It was deeply unfair, Meijer wrote,
[Y]ou would think that the Democrats would look at John Gibbs and see the embodiment of what they say they most fear. That as patriots they would use every tool at their disposal to defeat him and similar candidates that they’ve said are an existential threat.
Instead they are funding Gibbs. . . .
Over the past year, in private and in public, these Democratic colleagues praised the courage of Republicans like me. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called my vote “an impressive display of courage and integrity.” To leading Democrats, we were the Good Republicans.
At the same time, to some in my party, we were Bad Republicans—RINOs at best, traitors at worst. After the impeachment vote, I was immediately censured by two county parties in my old district. In my new district, the Republican Party of the largest county repudiated me a few weeks ago. The Michigan GOP Chair joked about my assassination. There have been too many online threats to count.
Watching this unraveling inside my party has been utterly bewildering. The only thing that has been more nauseating has been the capacity of my Democratic colleagues to sell out any pretense of principle for political expediency—at once decrying the downfall of democracy while rationalizing the use of their hard-raised dollars to prop up the supposed object of their fears.
He’s right. It is unfair. Just like it’s unfair that some people are born into $50 million trust funds. The world can be a cold, cruel place.
But I want to unpack Meijer’s complaint—and by extension, the complaints of all of the other anti-antis who are upset this morning about the choices Republican voters keep making.
Let’s start with the DCCC: They ran ads explaining to Michigan voters what sort of crazy person Meijer’s opponent was. These were not positive ads. They accurately described Gibbs’s nuttiness.
These ads were purely negative. But also the DCCC knew what they were doing. They were helping Gibbs by raising his name ID with voters who would see the negatives as positives—by voters who want crazy. These DCCC ad buys were, as I wrote at the time, foolish, dishonorable, and dangerous.
But also, they are not the whole story. They are, in fact, only a very small part of the story.
2. Don’t Cry for Peter Meijer
Yes, he voted to impeach Donald Trump when the evidence clearly warranted impeachment. That’s not nothing. In fact, it’s a really big something. Good for him.
On the other hand, Meijer has spent the last year-plus running away from impeachment and just kind of hoping that his voters would forget about it.
He took no preemptive action to defend himself against the most salient issue for Republican primary voters. He did not aggressively defend himself. He did not make his affirmative case for impeachment. He simply went into turtle guard and hoped for the best.
All while he kept blaming Democrats for the world’s problems.
I want to re-highlight two passages from his little cri de coeur. Bear with me:
I was immediately censured by two county parties in my old district. In my new district, the Republican Party of the largest county repudiated me a few weeks ago. The Michigan GOP Chair joked about my assassination. There have been too many online threats to count.
Watching this unraveling inside my party has been utterly bewildering. The only thing that has been more nauseating has been the capacity of my Democratic colleagues to sell out any pretense of principle for political expediency . . .
Hit pause here for a second: Peter Meijer says that Democrats opportunistically running a negative ad that accurately described his opponent was more nauseating than members of his own party threatening him with violence and death.
I’m sorry, but that’s forked up.
A few weeks ago I proposed an analogy:
Let’s pretend that you make Coxonium and this product is poison.
I decide to run ads promoting Coxonium that say,
Coxonium is good for your health! Tastes great, goes down smooth, and cures whatever ails you!
If people buy Coxonium, maybe that is my fault? I have lied to them about Coxonium and what it does. Sure, maybe they should have done their own research. Not relied on a single ad. Checked the news to see if anyone had died from Coxonium. But whatever. I’ve still got some culpability. I was selling people a bill of goods.
But what if I run Coxonium ads like this:
Coxonium is poison. Real, genuine poison. If you take it, you will probably die. Do not buy Coxonium because it will kill you.
And what if people who see this ad say, “Well shit, Lurleen. I been fixin’ to git myselfs some poison and damned if that Coxonium don’t look like the finest poison there is. Let’s buy it!”
Is that really on me and the ad?
Because it seems to me like the culpability lies with the guy who loves poison and can’t wait to buy it, even after being told what it does.
Meijer and his apologists are insisting that his own voters lack agency and that they would have made “the right choice” if only Democrats hadn’t told the voters who and what John Gibbs is.
And like I said up top: We are not children. Raising Gibbs’s name ID probably did help the guy.1
But at the end of the day, the problem isn’t that Democrats tricked Republican voters into choosing John Gibbs.
The problem is that Republican voters want John Gibbs.
And Peter Meijer can’t bring himself to say that.
Here is another question, courtesy of Christian Vanderbrouk:
Speaking only for myself, I did not see Kevin McCarthy barnstorming Meijer’s district to give him cover for his impeachment vote. And how much money did McCarthy’s Congressional Leadership Fund PAC spend in defense of Meijer?
Did you see lots of Very Concerned Conservatives attacking Gibbs for the last three months in order to protect Meijer? Or anyone from Fox? Or anyone from . . . anywhere, really?
No. Meijer was on an island with his impeachment vote and his money, fending for himself.
Presumably, that’s because elected Republicans and members of Conservatism Inc. felt they couldn’t defend Meijer without getting on the wrong side of Republican voters.
It was only when the DCCC ran those ads that you saw some of the anti-anti types pop off about the race—because it was a chance to kind-of, sort-of defend Meijer by taking shots at Democrats.
Here are the three takeaways from Peter Meijer and the Good Republicans now mourning his loss: