Years from now, we can hope, the children of Republican politicians will learn about the events of our time and ask their parents: “Why on earth did you support Donald Trump?” But the children of some Democratic politicians will have a question for their parents: “Why on earth did you support Republican candidates who supported Donald Trump?”
If you thought American politics could not possibly get more like a meth-induced hallucination, consider the strange tactics of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It’s running TV ads intended to help a GOP congressional candidate who claims the 2020 election was stolen and has the hearty endorsement of the only president to be impeached twice.
The DCCC ads are phrased to sound critical of former Trump administration official John Gibbs, blaring that he was “handpicked by Trump to run for Congress,” favors “a hard line against immigrants at the border” and is “too conservative” for western Michigan. But Democrats are not running these spots because they fear Gibbs will win. They are running them because they fear he will lose.
The purpose of the ad buy is to help Gibbs evict incumbent Republican Peter Meijer. They think Gibbs would be easier for Democrat Hillary Scholten to beat in November.
But Meijer is the kind of Republican Democrats want more of. His voting record is one of the most moderate on the GOP side — and he exhibited a titanium backbone in voting for Trump’s 2021 impeachment. But in their zeal to elect a Democrat, Democrats are climbing aboard an alligator to get across the swamp.
The Gibbs ad is part of a pattern. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Chicago Tribune reported, “gave $24 million to the Democratic Governors Association, which then spent millions on TV ads encouraging Republicans to vote for his favored GOP challenger, state Sen. Darren Bailey.”
Featuring a photo of Bailey with Trump, the ads announced that he is “100% pro-life,” “says he’ll protect the Second Amendment at all costs” and “sued to stop J.B. Pritzker’s COVID mandates.” And they apparently worked with Trump followers. Bailey won.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running for governor, ran ads giving a hand to Republican Doug Mastriano — an election denier who chartered buses to Trump’s Jan. 6 rally, attended it and was on the Capitol grounds during the insurrection. Shapiro figured those ads would set him up for a cakewalk, and he got the opponent he wanted. But polls show Mastriano nipping at Shapiro’s heels.
That portent highlights one of the hazards of helping far-right candidates: They could win, particularly in an election that could be a Republican romp. Apparently some Democrats have forgotten 2016, when they wished for Trump to get the GOP nomination so he could be buried in a Hillary Clinton avalanche.
The lesson of that election is that crazy candidates can become crazy officeholders. In 2024, if he wins, Gov. Mastriano might be able to deliver Pennsylvania’s electoral votes to Trump or another Republican nominee, regardless of who gets the most votes.
Bailey is a long shot in Illinois, but the game is like Russian roulette. Yes, you have an excellent chance of winning, but …
Even if Republicans like these crater in November, though, the Democratic effort does real harm by empowering them in a party that needs to be rescued from extremist lunacy. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who has won the admiration of House Democrats for defying Trump on the Jan. 6 committee, says those behind this ploy “don’t understand the threat to democracy.”
Several House Democrats agree. “It’s dishonorable, and it’s dangerous, and it’s just damn wrong,” Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., told Politico. “No race is worth compromising your values in that way,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a member of the Jan. 6 committee.
Meijer is a conservative who votes the wrong way on many issues dear to Democrats, but he was right on the central issue of the moment: the desperate need to protect the Constitution from Trump and those who would torch it for their own ends.
To help MAGA warriors take over the GOP may help Democrats win elections in the near term. But it could also ensure that future elections will fall into the hands of ruthless fanatics who are determined to seize and keep power no matter what the voters say. If that day comes, some Democrats will slap their foreheads and ask, “What were we thinking?”