Let’s say at the outset that no candidate is “unelectable”, especially one who’s been through a thorough vetting process in a party primary.
If you win an election, doesn’t it automatically make you “electable”?
Americans heard the term a lot this year from the establishment media, the hired group of self-appointed political experts who crave to pin the “unelectable” label onto certain candidates due to this or that reason. The vast majority of 2022’s designees were endorsed by former president Donald J. Trump and all of them (or nearly all – I can’t think of a single Democrat candidate who was deemed “unelectable” by the talking heads) being Republicans.
This is not to imply that all party nominees are the same in terms of probability (or even possibility) of electoral victory. Some candidates just aren’t very good. It could be they have personal baggage that theoretically turns off a significant segment of the voting public or their views don’t align with the constituents of a particular district, state or locality. Or perhaps they lack basic candidate skills such as delivering speeches or they possess a harsh personality and a face that only a mother could love. Or they could be dead… or having had a stroke a few months prior to Election Day and can only read questions off a computer screen.
One or all of these factors may combine to make it challenging for the person to reach the fifty-percent-plus-one threshold in a two-person race. But just as everyone is technically born equal, political candidates go into any race with a fighting chance to prevail. Unless the establishment (which includes corporations, cultural forces (Hollywood), academia, the keepers of accepted decorum) or even worse, the Washington gatekeepers gets involved, with the right combination of messaging, fundraising and big-name backers, most anyone could feasibly squeak through.
If you get down to the nitty gritty, even Liz Cheney isn’t “unelectable”. The legendary Republican turncoat might be lucky enough to win the dog catcher race in liberal Jackson (Wyoming) if the stars aligned for her.
Yet in the aftermath of the recently concluded 2022 elections, there’s been much discussion about “unelectable” candidates. And the topic will stick until the next round of elections, too. In a piece titled “House GOP reckons with ‘candidate quality’ problem after midterms — and ahead of 2024”, Ally Mutnick wrote at Politico:
“The question of ‘candidate quality’ has consumed the GOP after an election cycle that failed to produce the expected gains. It was perhaps most pronounced in the Senate, from Arizona to New Hampshire to Georgia. But Republicans won’t get another shot at those seats for six years. A number of losing 2022 House candidates could jump back in to run for the same seats in 2024, an undesirable outcome for the GOP — unless the party can find fresh faces…
“Some party strategists are interested in pitching battleground House runs to [Tiffany] Smiley and [Joe] O’Dea, who come armed with high name ID and large donor pools. There’s also talk of making another attempt to get Bill G. Schuette, the son of the former Michigan Attorney General, to make a bid against Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) is considering a comeback campaign for her seat, according to people familiar with her thinking, after it fell into Democratic hands months after far-right, Trump-aligned Republican Joe Kent beat the incumbent in an all-party primary.
“The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that seeks to elect members who will work in a pragmatic fashion, has already begun canvassing senators and House members for potential recruits in places like Kansas and Pennsylvania.”
“Pragmatic fashion” equals go-along-to-get-along equals establishment.
Granted the left-leaning Politico is not the greatest source for neutral commentary on today’s political imbalance, but Mutnick’s article is particularly one-sided and misleading. Mutnick is almost certainly a liberal and a Democrat (yes, the two go together), so anything she writes on Republicans must be taken with a grain of salt. But to claim someone like Colorado’s Joe O’Dea would make a good future GOP House candidate?
Heck, O’Dea lost his senate race to a spineless wienie like Democrat senator Michael Bennet by over 14 points despite having dissed Donald Trump and distanced himself from the “extreme” elements (translation: conservatives) of the MAGA coalition. O’Dea also positioned himself as a centrist on cultural issues – a lot of good it did him with the Trump-haters, didn’t it?
Nearly all of the races Mutnick mentioned involved conservative candidates chosen by the grassroots, the type the media habitually labels as “far right”, “extreme”, “election deniers”, “Trump endorsed”, and last but not least, “unelectable”. Does this mean if Liz Cheney had managed to corral enough Democrats to win her primary – instead of losing by 37 points – that she would’ve been shown as “far left”?
What about all the loser establishment candidates who came up short in their very winnable races this year? Off the top of my head, in one of the 2020 Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, establishment Republican Kelly Loeffler lost to then-unknown and untested Raphael Warnock because she was a terrible candidate. Not that many people outside of Georgia saw it, but Kelly’s lone debate against the standard liberal/Marxist African-American Democrat was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. Loeffler was robotic, stiff, lacked passion and generally… awful.
The truth is, many of these so-called “unelectable” conservative candidates end up losing because the Washington GOP establishment pulls resources from them at critical moments. When the Mitch McConnells and Karl Roves of the world decide among themselves that candidate X can’t win, it’s almost as if they completely abandon the playing field to the always well-funded Democrats.
This year, Herschel Walker, Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania), Blake Masters (Arizona) and Adam Laxalt (Nevada) were all good candidates who fell victim to a party establishment that wouldn’t pull out all the stops to help them over the finish line. It’s old news by now, but McConnell dumped money into the Alaska senate race to aid ultra-establishmentarian Lisa Murkowski against her conservative intra-party opponent when the same funds could’ve been used more earnestly – and effectively -- elsewhere.
In other words, a large part of any conservative’s “unelectable” status has to do with how the national GOP heads view their chances. There’s too much history to conclude otherwise. Just in the last decade alone there have been a number of examples where Republicans could’ve easily won elections only to have the poohbahs turn their backs on good candidates and watch them falter.
How about Richard Mourdock in Indiana in 2012? Or Todd Akin in Missouri, also in 2012? Akin made a non-politically correct statement about abortion and instantly the Washington ruling elites leaped off his bandwagon, allowing the awful Sen. Clair McCaskill to take the seat instead.
Besides, don’t Democrats say stupid things and therefore become “unelectable” too? How about this year when Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman couldn’t talk at all without questions being reworded for him on a screen and his answers often were rambling and made little sense? It is true that Democrats would elect someone who’s brain deficient – or dead (also in Pennsylvania) – rather than support a capable conservative candidate, but why isn’t this propensity addressed in the establishment media?
Joe Biden himself perhaps would’ve been considered “unelectable” in the 2020 race if he actually crawled out of his COVID-induced basement bunker long enough to conduct campaign appearances or hold press conferences and answer standard questions regarding his governing platform. The career swamp dweller was never regarded as the sharpest stick in the stack, but shouldn’t people demand more?
The national Republican party exists to win political races, not choose the participants. If a candidate comes up short in a certain instance, responsibility and blame shoots upward to the top to Ronna McDaniel. Anyone for a new RNC Chair next month?
What establishmentarians are really saying when they wax about “electability” is, “we don’t trust the people to choose the best candidates.” The ruling class will do anything to consolidate power, and relying on “ordinary” voters to opt for boat-rockers and system-disrupters is too much for the powerful to risk. Keep this in mind the next time you hear anything about “candidate quality”.
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