The dwindling anti-anti-Trump faction of Republican Party has tried less than nothing to stop Trump, and they’re all out of ideas. Instead, they’ve decided that it’s opposition Democratic candidates, rather than the Republicans who vote for and support authoritarian Republicans, who are responsible for the latter winning Republican primaries:
The idea that Republican elites aren’t to blame for who their voters want because their primary electorates are controlled by Democrats is as pathetic an evasion as I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/6Es8exfwNB— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) August 20, 2022
Clearly, this razor-thin race does not reflect strong and deep Republican support for an authoritarian extremist, but was decided because of a single ad pointing out Mastriano’s affinity with Donald Trump pic.twitter.com/4MWTP4T1yj— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) August 20, 2022
Not only did Mastriano win going away, making Shapiro’s ad completely immaterial on its face, the runner-up is an early Trump supporter and is also a 2020 election troofer. A Trumpian candidate can do so much damage in the executive branch that if Mastriano was in a close race with an anti-authoritarian I would think long and hard about doing anything that could even indirectly help his primary campaign. But it’s a moot point because Mastriano had a huge lead and no supporter of liberal democracy was competitive, so Shapiro’s only imperative is to maximize his chances of winning in the general.
One thing do what people trying to sell the idea that Shapiro was “supporting” or “promoting” Mastriano don’t want you to do, and watch the ad:
The ad is just a straightforward negative ad, whose primary goal is to define his presumptive general election opponent as an authoritarian extremist. If that makes him more appealing t Republican primary voters on the margin…what does this tell you?
Jonathan Last has an excellent post pointing out that whether you think they’re wise or not, Democratic interventions into Republican primaries this cycle have obviously been ineffectual (at least to the extent that ratfucking the primaries, as opposed to getting a message established for the general is the goal), which also actually shows you the ads. He raises a critical and, I think, dispositive distinction:
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.
It would be one thing if Dems were running ads trying to make the Trumpian candidates seem more moderate than they are. But it’s hard to see how they can be blamed if just running their basic general election negative ads, which are completely truthful, make a candidate more popular to Republican primary voters.
And this is the circle that anti-anti-Trump Republicans are trying to hopelessly trying to square:
Here is the real reason Republican elites and members of Conservatism Inc. are so wrapped around the axle about Democrats boosting their crazy candidates:
They need to blame someone for the outcomes they don’t like. But they can’t blame Republican voters.
Because if you acknowledge that we are living in a moment where some very large portion of Republican voters are illiberal, then you are forced into some uncomfortable choices. You can either:
- Make your own accommodation with illiberalism; or
- Start supporting Democrats, however imperfect they may be.
If there are two major party candidates on the ballot, and only one supports liberal democracy, and you support the other one anyway, it hangs entirely on you. If having judges who will consistently vote against abortion rights, voting rights, workers, criminal defendants and consumers while upholding ever abrogation of state democracy by Republicans is more important to you than maintaining liberal democracy, that’s a choice you can make, but don’t pretend that anybody else forced you to make it.