Democrats and their allies are not bashful when they describe the events of January 6 and their implications, even at the risk of hyperbole. This was an “attempted coup,” the “worst attack on democracy since the Civil War,” and a “lawless” effort to “dismantle” America’s democratic institutions. We are obliged to “make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.”
I don’t have to take their word for it. The evidence of my own eyes long ago confirmed the epochal scope of that assault on the levers of American self-governance, culminating in a once-unthinkable event that can now never be unthought. I’ve written many thousands of words about that menace. I’ve highlighted the ways in which the constitutional order broke down, and I’ve castigated those who would downplay the significance of the attack in pursuit of their own temporary, parochial political advantage. I don’t need to be lectured about that day’s horrors and their ramifications. In fact, it’s partisan Democrats who would benefit by internalizing their own sanctimonious rhetoric. If January 6 was a seminal day in American history that must never be repeated, why is the Democratic Party doing its utmost to prop up insurrectionary elements on the right?
A recent more-in-sorrow Washington Post analysis found that over 100 victors in this year’s Republican primary elections are, to some degree, proponents of Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud and malfeasance delivered the presidency to Joe Biden. Many of them “are overt in their intentions to use public office to affect electoral outcomes.” Perhaps these candidates would have emerged victorious on their own. We will never know because the next generation of conspiratorially minded Republican leaders received a boost from their Democratic opponents.
“Democratic groups are buying ads touting some of the most extreme pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries around the country,” Axios reported on Monday. Elections observers are witnessing a trend in which Democratic groups leverage the Republican Party’s more unattractive pathologies to ensure that the most radical, id-channeling candidates on the GOP’s fringes make their way onto the ballot in November.
Axios flags a Nancy Pelosi-affiliated PAC’s 30-second television commercial boosting a Trump-backed primary challenge to Republican Rep. David Valadao, which wields the bombastic language of the nationalist right for maximum effect. “David Valadao claims he’s Republican,” the ad’s narrator sneers, “yet, David Valadao voted to impeach President Trump.” In California, the Democratic candidate ran spots elevating Greg Raths—the Republican who ran against establishmentarian Rep. Young Kim and who has been condemned by right-wing media for making anti-Semitic remarks—as his true opponent. These efforts to give the MAGA right a leg up over their more responsible Republican peers are likely to fall short, but the campaign is not without its successes.
In Colorado, the “underfunded” campaign by state Rep. Ron Hanks to face U.S. Senator Michael Bennet in November is the beneficiary of millions of dollars of spending in his favor from left-wing groups. The Democratic PAC’s advertisements burnish Hanks’s conservative credentials—he is, in fact, “too conservative for Colorado” (wink). Hanks has and continues to insist Donald Trump won the 2020 election and maintains that Biden’s ascension to the White House was an event on par with 9/11. Meanwhile, Hanks’s opponent, local contracting company CEO Joe O’Dea, has failed to attract a similar spotlight. “It’s actually brilliant,” one Colorado-based Republican strategist told Politico. “If Democrats spend $1 million to help Hanks win the GOP primary, that will save them $20 million in the general.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association have committed millions of dollars to beating Aurora, Illinois’s first black mayor, Republican Richard Irvin. What state House GOP leader Jim Durkin called an “obvious effort to hijack the Republican primary election” seems to be working. The Democrats’ preferred opponent, state Sen. Darren Bailey, is surging in the polls. Bailey has made “election integrity” a signature theme of his campaign and has lent credence to conspiracy theories about the threat posed by Internet-connected voting machines.
This cynical crusade’s biggest success came in the race for Pennsylvania governor. The GOP nominee, Doug Mastriano, spent less than $370,000 on television advertisements, but the Democratic gubernatorial nominee’s campaign supplemented that spending with over $840,000 of their own funds. The playbook is familiar by now. The supposedly negative spots label Mastriano too conservative, too committed to supporting Donald Trump, too zealous in the pursuit of objectives the MAGA wing of the GOP support. Mastriano has boasted of his intention to “take the corrections to elections, the voting logs, and everything” and has pledged to pursue constitutionally dubious electoral reforms, including a universal, state-wide voter reregistration initiative.
The Democrats’ strategy here isn’t new. The party is elevating flawed Republican candidates under the assumption that they will be easier to beat than their more conventional rivals. In this way, Harry Reid survived his low job-approval numbers in 2010 by promoting Sharron Angle over the Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden. Similarly, Claire McCaskill managed to forestall Missouri’s transition to a reliably Republican state by pulling out all the stops so businessman John Brunner lost his 2012 primary bid to Todd Akin.
But what made those two Republican nominees unpalatable to a broader electorate were traditional political differences—disagreements over abortion rights or how best to preserve the solvency of America’s entitlement programs. What Democrats are engaged in today is far more cynical. Opposition to the reckless myth-making that convinced thousands of Trump-backing Americans to ransack the Capitol is, we’re regularly told, something that should transcend partisan politics. The Democratic Party’s electoral tacticians are conceding that the unprecedented attack on the seat of government is just another political football.
Most troubling, there’s no guarantee that the paranoid MAGA-backed candidates that the Democratic Party is promoting will lose their respective races. In a political environment that produces wave elections, surprises happen. If Democratic political organs were committed to ensuring that nothing like January 6 ever happens again, they would be less cavalier about the hazards they’re actively promoting. And I, for one, resent being told by Democrats that I have to care about preserving America’s republican institutions more, apparently, than Democrats do.