Saturday, May 08, 2021

Maybe she's just smarter than Kevin


Illustration by hotlittlepotato via Wired.

An interesting claim in this WaPo story: Liz Cheney seems to think there is evidence she has the politics right, and party management seems to be trying to hide the evidence from members:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee [at an April retreat] rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

The districts in question aren't identified, but they would be the ones that came out particularly close in 2020, or that Republicans flipped, in Minnesota and Michigan and Iowa, Arizona and California, New York and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and others, maybe even in Texas and Florida, enough of them to give one party or the other a more decisive control over the House than the Democrats have now. Not only is Trump hated in these places, but President Biden is very popular, with an overall favorability rating of 54%, compared to Trump's 41%; Vice President Kamala Harris is also more popular than Trump, and so are the two big initiatives Biden is trying to pass.

Cheney's calculation is apparently that the party doesn't have a chance of winning the House unless individual members are allowed to detach themselves from Trump to some extent, while the safe Republican seats will remain safe for the party regardless; nobody's forcing those candidates to de-Trumpify anyway, on the contrary primary threats are making them double down, and even if they didn't Republicans would win anyway—who else are those voters going to vote for? Kevin McCarthy, in contrast, is basically thinking only of the damage Republicans can do, in primaries against incumbents seen as insufficiently loyal to the retired emperor, and maybe worried especially about his own status, as a prisoner like Boehner and Ryan before him of the crazies who could get him deposed at any time.

It's reassuring to be able to think of Cheney not as some kind of unexpectedly noble martyr to Truth who would rather die than lie, but merely smarter than McCarthy, which takes no stretches of the imagination at all. On the other hand I wouldn't be concerned about the party recognizing its mistake and taking her advice, either; fear rules among Republicans, McCarthy especially, and probably some kind of PTSD (Post-Trumpatic Stress Disorder) from which it will take them time to recover. She may be right, technically, but it's not going to do her much good (sour Glenn Greenwald said she'd probably end up a host on MSNBC, which would be funny if he'd meant it as a joke) and it's not going to do her party any good at all for the time being. It's ended up making me a little more hopeful for 2022 than I otherwise might have been, so I thought I'd share that.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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