The Democrats are inserting themselves into Republican primaries in a bid to promote more extreme GOP candidates so the more moderate Republicans — and, presumeably the more electable Republicans — will not be the ones to face the Democrat in the general election.
It worked bigly in one U.S. House primary in Michigan:
Democrats this year have tried to interfere in multiple GOP primaries, using ads that appear to be attacks on more extreme candidates as a way to subtly promote those contenders. The idea is to line up opponents who the Democrats believe to be more easily beatable in the general election.
But Tuesday’s vote was the first in which the closeness of the outcome — Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs won with 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns — suggested that the Democrats’ meddling may have tipped the results.
Now, Democrats will see whether their high-stakes gambit to take out Rep. Peter Meijer will win them the seat in November. Regardless of what happens, critics say the attempt to boost Gibbs is reckless and undermines Democrats’ argument that they are the party upholding democracy.
“It’s cynical and dangerous,” said Richard Hasen, a UCLA law professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project. “We know that the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party is doing a lot to undermine people’s confidence in the fairness and integrity of elections. The idea that Democrats would be willing to gamble on electing more of these people because they think they’ll be easier to beat in the general election really is playing with fire.”
Meijer was one of the few principled Republicans left in the House, as long as you define “principled” loosely by the metrics of the current Republican Party. However, he only voted with Democrats 38% of the time. That is not a great number. He was courageous on some of the big questions — impeachment, holding Bannon in contempt, forming the Jan. 6 commission, etc. But most of the time — and this should be the paramount consideration — he voted exactly as you’d expect a billionaire Republican to vote.
Losing a moderate Republican vote is a loss in today climate, no doubt. But losing a Republican and gaining a Democratic vote would do far more good in the House than saving Meijer’s congressional career.
Acting as election spoilers is hardball politics the way the Republicans have played politics for decades. Republicans have even promoted straw third-party candidates in general elections to siphon away liberal and moderate votes from Democratic candidates.
Sometimes it’s worked. Sometimes it has not.
I certainly don’t fault Democrats for trying trying to match the (far more numerous) cynical ploys of the Republicans, although if it backfires in this Michigan race and the crazy Republican is elected, there will be loads of Monday morning quarterbacking.
If the Democrat wins, all the better.
However, just to inject a bit of scary realism into the debate, Democrats have lost the last six elections in the district. The margins of GOP victory in all those races weren’t blowouts, but they weren’t super close either.
If I were the Democrat making the decision to meddle in this race, I’d definitely be torn.
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