It was 2014. In Kansas, moderate Republicans formed organizations calling for sanity to return to their party. They asked Democratic registered voters to re-register as Republicans “your primary vote means nothing as a Democrat, but you can save us from crazy Republicans” they noted. The idea was that the moderate middle would save the Republican Party. Over time, however, what the elected moderate middle discovered was that they would never be accepted within their Republican party, and face repeated challenges on their right flank.
Moderates hung in there, cycle after cycle, hoping that they could at least prevent the damn from breaking. The end result, however, wasn’t what they wanted. In 2018, Democratic candidates had success, and moderate Republicans failed to escape the primaries or struggled in a general election where a fired-up Democratic base ousted them from their position. In the two years since I see more of the same. Democratic-leaning voters who registered Republican to try and save a moderate who “just can’t be a part of that party anymore”, and in that situation, the Republican base primary voters are fewer, and far more conservative. Well, conservative isn’t the right word. They are just lunatics. Last night, in Colorado, an underfunded Qanon conspiracy supporting candidate in Lauren Boebert defeated Scott Tipton. NRCC says they will stand behind her. The reason is simple: because that is who their party is now. The Republican party isn’t just the party of Trump — it is the party of conspiracy theories, chain emails, and hyper-ventilating blame games. It is likely to get worse, not better.
Political movements and momentum are not always containable by the one who started them. I may date myself, but as Billy Joel said “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Donald Trump is often seen as the advocate, or troller in general for conspiracy theory groups — like Qanon, but that doesn’t mean that Qanon stops there, or can’t go further. In fact, Qanon can often use their own conspiracies to rationalize why they have to do something other than what the President advocates. Trump endorsed Scott Tipton, but several qanon are celebrating this morning, with the general idea being that Trump had to endorse him because he was an incumbent, but this is who he would have “really wanted”. They have no problem saying this because Trump quickly switches teams so fast to support their goals that they take it as a tip toward their end efforts.
Congratulations on a really great win! https://t.co/rMpFiV6LvY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
Qanon, and those who follow their conspiracy peddlers — like Alex Jones, and maybe some elderly conservative near you who still doesn’t understand that not all email is real, have so successfully infected the Republican party that the idea of trying a moderate insurgence now is ridiculous, and even those who thought of themselves as moderate Republicans see it that way. It’s the party of Qanon, Knife Party’s Centipede, and Conservatives, and they know it.
So, what happens? For many Republicans who have long contended they voted Republican because of “financial issues” they are having to face the fact that it hasn’t really been in many of their financial interests at all, as much as it is to the disadvantage of others.
Let’s be honest. Wealthy Country Club Republicans would never, ever hang out with, tolerate, or invite any of these people over to a BBQ, or give them a pass at the club. They don’t want their kids to hang out with their kids. College-educated Republicans had always thought their party would come back to them. It would be the party of Eisenhower. They liked Reagan and George HW Bush, had issues with George W Bush, but hey, they were OK. They held their breath for Trump hoping that someone would rein him in. Now, they face down their moderate friends and shake their heads. In 2018, that killed the Republican brand.
Trump’s damage to the Republican brand is significant and could last in ways that his party just doesn’t understand. Moderates, though, don’t have time to wait. They are just leaving. It’s easier. And that’s bad news for anyone but frothing at the mouth Trump conservatives to the right of Trump in a Republican primary.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.