Dear Lincoln Project Supporters,
I wanted to share several updates with you. On April 14th, I shared our strategy to accelerate the tensions between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. As I wrote, “Our strategy is to once again disrupt the forces of Trumpism to reduce their effectiveness in the 2022 battle. Our tactic is fueling the power struggle between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.”
Since then, we have successfully begun to execute this strategy. In the same effective combination of micro-targeted paid advertising, social media and use of our platforms on Lincoln Project Television and podcast, we stoked the tensions between the two. In case you have not seen them, here are our first two ads “Truthless” and “Swamp Thing” and Palm beach media coverage of our effort. For more information you can watch our discussion on the “civil war” between McConnell and Trump on LPTV and listen on the podcast.
This is the same pattern of asymmetrical warfare we employed to great success in 2020: a smaller force engaging a larger force. In politics as in war, once forces of disruption and chaos are unleashed within an opponent’s command structure, the overwhelming tendency is for it to accelerate and gain momentum, greatly reducing the effectiveness of any attempts at offensive strategy.
Our next strategic move will continue the strategic goal of dividing the Republican Party. Our tactic will be focusing on the division between what Liz Cheney represents – a fact-based conservative who believes in the American experiment – compared to the autocratic, antidemocratic movement that now overwhelmingly dominates the Republican party.
On Fox and Friends earlier this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) indicated that Liz Cheney’s role as Republican Conference Chair (the third ranking office in leadership) was no longer tenable; Cheney is incapable and unwilling to carry the House Republicans’ message any longer.
This is true. She has chosen, repeatedly, to disagree with her colleagues, the former president, and the right-wing ecology that propagates, to this moment, the idea that 2020 was a stolen election.
According to media outlets, Cheney voted with the Trump Administration more than 90% of the time. Her sin was not one of policy, or even politics. It was Cheney’s dogged refusal to go along with the rest of her party in propagating Trump’s fiction.
To be successful within the Republican Party today comes down to one question: Will you side with truth and democracy or will you side with Trump?
To side with Trump today is more than just a political statement, or a short-term play to rise through the party’s ranks. To side with Trump is a decision far more impactful than ensuring help with conservative activists or fundraising. To agree with Trump today is to propagate his Big Lie today, tomorrow and forever.
Donald Trump, along with most of us, believed he would lose the 2016 campaign to Hillary Clinton. He systematically called into question the results of that election, months before a single vote was cast. His words, and the belief in them by tens of millions of Americans, fundamentally infected our democracy – leaving it vulnerable.
Single-handedly, Trump moved the Overton Window away from the long-held, near-universal belief in the sanctity and security of American elections, toward the idea that if one loses on Election Day, the contest is not necessarily over.
In democracy, someone has to be willing to lose. This was, and has been a precept of American elections going back to America’s second president, John Adams. When defeated by Thomas Jefferson, he left office. Our tradition of the peaceful transfer of power was established.
That tradition ended on January 6th after 244 years.
At this point, we should not be surprised that so many Republicans, who once regularly affirmed conservative articles of faith such as limited government, a moral foreign policy and the market economy, have turned their backs on American democracy. What is surprising is that it happened so easily and so quickly to so many people – including so many that we once considered friends and colleagues. As the author Anne Applebaum says, authoritarianism is seductive and fast-acting.
And we’re already seeing what Republican politicians would do if they re-take power. Their reaction to several large American companies expressing their opposition to anti-democratic bills passing in Republican-held legislatures is telling:
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told corporate leaders to stay out of politics, or there would be consequences.
- Florida Senator Marco Rubio stated that, “America’s laws should keep our nation’s corporations firmly ordered to our national common good.”
- In the Wall Street Journal last week, Ted Cruz admitted that his time in office has been little more than a pay-to-play scam to “allow” companies to do what they want. Now that they’ve spoken up, Cruz intimates, the party on Capitol Hill is over.
These are just the opening salvos from Republicans. Should the GOP take the House or Senate next year, we will see the power of the Federal government unleashed on Republicans’ opponents. Investigations, hearings, and further erosion of democratic norms will be just the beginning as the GOP utilizes its state legislative allies to continue to reduce the franchise, increase the friction between voters and their ballots, and make elections less free and fair ahead of 2024.
What is happening with Liz Cheney will be just the beginning for the Republican Party. All authoritarian movements go through continual purification rituals and purges. Cheney, in the mind of Trump and his acolytes, is far from pure. Her ouster will ratchet up the level of loyalty and orthodoxy expected of Republican politicians and leaders. Policy does not matter. Only the Big Lie, and their willingness to live and die, politically, by that stated belief, will allow them to survive within their own, self-imposed prison.
What the Cheney episode should remind us, though, is that we cannot afford to lose one more election. Every November will be a referendum on America’s direction and future. There is no time for complacency.
There is no time for living room activism. Every day must be spent asking ourselves if we’re doing our part, if we’re doing enough to ensure that the grand idea called America continues, or becomes one more failed democracy, to be studied, lauded and wished for by those that once knew her.
This is our fight for 2022. We need you with us.