“We’re not focused on 2022, and I don’t see that changing…It’s a near-toxic environment.” – Republican Jason Watts
LANSING — Extreme conservative activists’ actions to invent a conspiracy casting widespread doubt on the electoral process rather than admit defeat and preserve the continuity of our democracy has unearthed a rift within the GOP that grows wider by the day.
Falling through the gap at a rapid clip are those that acknowledge the reality of 2020’s outcome, making them easy targets of an ongoing “RINO hunt” to purge anyone who isn’t a true believer from party ranks. Such is the chaotic reality of the MIGOP, which stands to become even more radicalized as extremists consume the party — ousting anyone that challenges their singular fixation on reversing election results.
New reporting from Politico details the events that led up to Republicans now sounding the alarms on a party utterly obsessed with false claims about the 2020 election.
Multiple MIGOP leadership posts sit empty, others are occupied by extreme activists. Equally distracted are nearly all of the Republicans running in the primary, as they have made addressing 2020 the bedrock of their platforms if not its sole component. The only one that hasn’t — James Craig — refuses to say whether or not he thinks the outcome was legitimate.
See below for key excerpts on how the MIGOP became “too focused on the last election to be competitive in the next one” and read the full report here.
Politico: Trump’s false election fraud claims fuel Michigan GOP meltdown
Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 150,000 votes in Michigan last November.
Trump and the Michigan Republican Party still aren’t over it.
The outcome — and the former president’s obsessive efforts to dispute it — has left the state party in disarray, raising questions about the GOP’s focus as it looks to unseat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a top battleground state next year. […]
Much of the trouble can be traced to the 2020 presidential election results, which Trump and his allies have alleged were marked by fraud without providing evidence. […]
Some party officials and conservative activists continue to press for a “forensic audit” of the election results, encouraged by Trump, who has called on “American Republican Patriots” to run primary challenges against “RINO State Senators in Michigan who refuse to properly look into the election irregularities and fraud.”
One of the casualties of Trump’s efforts to spread the lie that Biden stole the election was Jason Roe, the party’s executive director, who resigned this month. Roe — whose father also served as executive director of the state GOP — first raised the ire of activists for telling POLITICO Magazine last year: “The election wasn’t stolen. [Trump] blew it.” Then, in May, Roe told the Michigan Information & Research Services podcast that Trump “was seemingly doing everything he could to lose a winnable race” and urged the party to move on from 2020.
The state party also lacks a communications director after Ted Goodman left to join former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s campaign for governor. Goodman’s replacement lasted less than a week, according to several Republicans familiar with the party’s staffing.
At the top of the party, Ron Weiser, chair of the Michigan GOP, has faced his own distractions. A Trump loyalist and prolific party donor, Weiser agreed this month to pay $200,000 out of his own pocket to settle a complaint filed by his predecessor, former Chair Laura Cox, over an alleged “payoff” to pressure a candidate into dropping out of the 2018 secretary of state’s race.
In April, Weiser, an elected University of Michigan regent, was censured by the Board of Regents for calling the state’s top three elected female Democrats “witches” and joking about the assassination of the two Michigan congressional Republicans who supported Trump’s second impeachment.
Weiser’s co-chair, Meshawn Maddock, has been a leading voice in spreading Trump’s baseless election fraud claims. She organized buses of Trump supporters to Washington, D.C., on the day of the Capitol riot, though Maddock has said she wasn’t involved in the rally and has condemned the breaching of the Capitol. […]
Bill Ballenger, a political pundit and former GOP state legislator, suggested the big issue for the party isn’t how to stem the tide of negative stories but how it will ease the tension between the Trump wing and the more traditional establishment Republicans. Even more consequential, he argued, are the new political maps after an upcoming round of redistricting that will determine congressional and state legislative districts.
“A lot of this other stuff is unseemly and ugly appearing and embarrassing, obviously, to people involved, but when it gets right down to it, if they come up with a relatively strong gubernatorial nominee, I think they certainly are gonna be in a better position next year against Gretchen Whitmer,” Ballenger said. […]
Still, some Republicans argue that their party is too focused on the last election to be competitive in the next one.
“They’ve gotta offer something other than their wish that we could somehow redo the 2020 elections,” said Bob LaBrant, a GOP strategist and former general counsel at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “I think there’s a strong segment of the party that are convinced that the only thing we need to do is do a forensic audit and somehow that will uncover all sorts of fraud.”
Establishment veterans like LaBrant, however, no longer dominate in a state party where loyalty to Trump is expected. […]
Jason Watts, a former Allegan County GOP official who was ousted from his post as Sixth District treasurer this year after telling The New York Times that he didn’t vote for Trump in 2020, said the party is dwelling on the 2020 election when it should be prioritizing winning back the once-reliable suburban voters it has lost in recent years.
“We’re not focused on 2022, and I don’t see that changing,” Watts said. “Until we get beyond that, we’re going to suffer the consequences and lose in the next couple of cycles because we just can’t get off this circular firing squad of remorse, and somehow feeling that the other side cheated, when the evidence doesn’t show that at all.”
“It’s a near-toxic environment,” Watts said, “and I don’t think you see any signs of that dissipating.”