That’s also how too many of this year’s Republican primaries feel, including the latest round on Tuesday in Illinois. Drawn into the same rural downstate district by redistricting, Rep. Mary E. Miller defeated fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis by focusing on his votes to accept the results of the 2020 election and create a commission to investigate Jan. 6. She said her colleague “stabbed President Trump in the back.”
During a Saturday rally with the former president, Miller also thanked Trump for nominating the three justices who enabled “the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court.” The crowd cheered. Her staff later said she misspoke. Last year, Miller apologized after approvingly quoting Adolf Hitler. Her husband’s truck, parked at the East Front of the Capitol on Jan. 6, prominently displayed a decal for the Three Percenters, an extremist group whose members participated in the insurrection.
Republicans in the Land of Lincoln also nominated for governor someone who refuses to say Joe Biden won the 2020 election. State Sen. Darren Bailey, best known for introducing legislation to expel Chicago from Illinois, easily won the GOP primary over a moderate African American mayor from the Chicago suburb of Aurora. Trump’s endorsement certainly helped, as did tactical spending by billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker — a Democrat — on behalf of the less electable Bailey.
Another disheartening element in Tuesday’s primaries: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, wasn’t on the ballot for a seventh term. He decided not to run after Democrats drew him into the same district as GOP Rep. Darin LaHood. They shouldn’t have done that to a member of an endangered species — fair-minded, responsible Republicans — but Democrats argue that Kinzinger would have lost a primary no matter where they put him.
In being defeated by Miller, Davis is the third House Republican to lose a primary after voting for a bill to create a Jan. 6 commission, which failed in the Senate and would have looked quite different from the current committee. Of the 32 other House Republicans who backed that proposal, nine have retired or resigned.
counterpointTuesday’s primaries were a great sign for non-Trumpian Republicans
Then there were the four members of that group who survived primaries on Tuesday. They distanced themselves from the Jan. 6 commission vote, but in each case their opponent used it to bloody them. They were following a now-obvious playbook for surviving GOP primaries after crossing Trump: Avoid talking about the aftermath of the 2020 election as much as possible and praise the former president’s policies. That strategy worked earlier in Georgia.
Another glimmer of hope that the GOP will snap out of its Trumpian funk came Tuesday in Colorado, where Republican voters rejected candidates for governor, Senate and secretary of state who centered their campaigns around Trump’s election lies. If only they’d also rejected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
On the bad-car-accident theme, a major GOP crash looms in August with Rep. Liz Cheney’s bid for reelection in Wyoming. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered last year to back Cheney if she would forgive and forget the Jan. 6 insurrection. He did this for other members who backed impeachment, such as David Valadao in California. But Cheney refused to grovel, which led to her ouster as No. 3 in GOP leadership. Now she’s poised to lose her Aug. 16 primary in a state Trump carried by 43 points.
This week is a congressional recess, and Cheney could have been campaigning in Wyoming. The daughter of a former vice president knows the work she’s doing as vice chair of the select committee makes it harder to keep her job. She also knows this is the most important work she’ll ever do.
“The easy course is to hide from the spotlight,” Cheney said at the end of Tuesday’s surprise hearing.
No serious person can watch these televised proceedings with an open mind and conclude the Jan. 6 inquiry is unmerited, but tribalism and negative partisanship are blinding. Trump said during a rally last month in Casper, Wyo., that this primary is “the most important election” of the cycle. He has a receptive audience: The chairman of Wyoming’s Republican Party is a member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group, and was seen shouting into a walkie-talkie on the West Front of the Capitol during the insurrection.
For standing up to a demagogic bully in her own party, win or lose, history will remember Cheney as this generation’s Margaret Chase Smith, the Maine senator who challenged Joseph McCarthy when most of her fellow elected Republicans were too cowardly to do so.