The one Republican Party
In a speech in Philadelphia on September 1, President Biden made the case that there were two distinct branches of the Republican Party. There are the "MAGA Republicans," who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election and are seeking to undermine American democracy. And there are "mainstream Republicans," who reject this ideology.
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
Now, I want to be very clear — very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.
I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
…[R]espected conservatives, like Federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig, has called Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans, quote, a “clear and present danger” to our democracy.
As a political strategy, Biden's message may be effective. Biden does not want to alienate Republicans (or right-leaning independents) that might consider voting for him. But it is telling that Biden's example of a "mainstream Republican" is a federal judge who retired in 2006.
Among elected officials and those seeking office, however, there is only one Republican Party. Advancing Trump's lies about election fraud — or supporting those that do — is what it takes to remain in good standing.
If anyone could qualify as a "mainstream" Republican, it would be Glenn Youngkin, the Governor of Virginia. Youngkin has a background as a private equity executive, not a bomb-throwing right-wing ideologue. In the general election, Youngkin kept Trump at arm's length, declining to appear in person with the former president. In 2021, Youngkin won in Virginia, a state which hadn't elected a Republican to any office since 2009. Politico has dubbed him "The Republican Who Wants To End The Trump Era."
But now, as he flirts with a presidential run in 2024, Youngkin is headed to Arizona in October to stump for Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. Who is Kari Lake?
Lake has made the lie that Trump won the 2020 election the centerpiece of her campaign. “You know how to know [the news is] fake?” Lake said in her first TV ad. “Because they won’t even cover the biggest story out there: the rigged election of 2020.” During a campaign appearance in May, Lake "claimed nearly a dozen times in a single hour that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald J. Trump." She said she was running for Governor because "[w]e need some people with a backbone to stand up for this country — we had our election stolen." In a June debate, Lake said that if she were Governor, she would not have certified Biden's victory in Arizona.
Lake has also adopted Trump's xenophobic rhetoric on immigration. "They are bringing drugs, They are bringing crime. They are rapists and that’s who’s coming across our border," Lake said during a campaign speech earlier this month.
She has explicitly embraced the MAGA label. In a July appearance with Trump, Lake said, "When Mama goes MAGA — it's GAME OVER… It's game over for the Swamp Rats. And it is game over for the RINOS & the Radicals."
Now, purportedly mainstream Republican Glenn Youngkin will reportedly "stump for Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake" next month. Youngkin "is expected to hold political and fundraising events for Lake." In response to a request for comment from Politico, Youngkin glossed over Lake's extreme views, saying only that Arizona “deserves another Republican governor.”
In August, Youngkin campaigned with Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate for governor in Michigan. Dixon has a lot in common with Lake. They are both former media personalities, and both have repeatedly advanced false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. "Steal an election then hide behind calls for unity and leftists lap it up," Dixon tweeted in November 2020. She accused Democrats of "sloppy" and "obvious" voter fraud. During a primary debate in May 2022, Dixon said that she claimed that "Trump was the rightful winner in Michigan, which he lost to President Joe Biden by about 154,000 votes." Campaigning for Dixon, Youngkin said Dixon has been "right on the money about the big things."
Georgia's responsible Republican embraces election denier as running mate
Youngkin is also headlining a rally for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp next week, reports CBS News. Kemp, who refused to cave to Trump’s demands to obstruct the certification of the election, is often portrayed as a “responsible” Republican.
While Kemp has not explicitly claimed that the election was stolen, he has repeated unfounded allegations of voter fraud. During a debate in May, Kemp said he “was as frustrated as anyone else with the 2020 election results” and admitted to signing Georgia’s voter suppression law as a result of his frustration. Kemp also insists he has "never said a bad word" about Trump and continues to thank him for “all the things that he did to help Georgia.”
Now Kemp has embraced Burt Jones, a staunch election denier, as his running mate. Jones, the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor, was a signatory of the lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results. Jones was part of "a phony slate of GOP electors in Georgia, designed to help Donald Trump’s failed effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election." He reportedly played a central role in organizing the scheme.
Since then, Jones has repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election was stolen. Last year, Jones participated in "an 'Election Integrity Town Hall,' with [Congresswoman] Marjorie Taylor Greene [R-GA] where organizers handed out 'Trump Won' signs to attendees."