The Corner

Elections

Do Republicans Care About Winning?

Former Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship (third, left) and his attorney Bill Taylor (fourth, right) are met by media outside the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia, December 3, 2015. (Chris Tilley/Reuters)

We hear a lot on the right about the pernicious, Kulakian, elitist forces that, luxuriating in their favored Swamps, are hellbent on obstructing President Trump and his agenda. We hear less about the Republican primary voters who routinely serve as their own worst enemies — and, by extension, as the president’s biggest challenge.

In West Virginia, CNN reports, Don Blankenship has a real shot at becoming the party’s Senate nominee:

In the final days of the Republican US Senate primary in West Virginia, what was once considered improbable by the political establishment in Washington became a very real possibility: Coal baron Don Blankenship, who spent a year in prison for his involvement in the deadliest US mine explosion in four decades, is in striking distance of the party’s nomination.

After entering the race months after leaving prison and then running a race-baiting, conspiracy theory-laden campaign, Blankenship enters Election Day with all of his opponents focused on him, suggesting a real concern that a last-minute surge by the candidate could make him the Republican nominee.

It should go without saying that to hand this man the Republican party’s standard would be morally grotesque. As was Roy Moore, Don Blankenship is wholly unfit for office, and in a sensible society he would be laughed out of the room at the first sign of his interest. To watch his online advertisements is to be transported into a world of dark comedy.

But, okay, we live in strange times. So let’s appeal to the bottom line: To nominate him would also be utterly moronic. The GOP has a real shot at winning a Senate seat in West Virginia this year, and selecting Blankenship is a sure-fire way to guarantee that it does not. If, as so many of the president’s fans insist, what matters is ensuring that Trump gets results, this is the worst play in the book. To whom, exactly, would losing a Senate seat be “sticking it”?

Should Blankenship get the nod, the Democratic party will propose that the voters who chose him are, ipso facto, “pro-mining-disaster,” or that they endorse his ugly comments about Mitch McConnell’s family. In truth, though, this will be a little off. Rather, what seems to be happening in the GOP at the moment is what happens when a child reaches the age of two: Whatever you say he can’t have, he wants; whenever you tell him to stop crying, he screams; and even naked appeals to self-interest fall on deaf, obstinate ears. A small sliver of our present rebellion is understandable: If you were told that Mitt Romney was Hitler, you are less likely to believe that the next guy is — which, as Aesop understood, is why we should always be careful with our warnings. Most of it, however, is not understandable at all. On the contrary: Most of it is inordinately stupid. Perhaps the two silliest ideas in our contemporary politics are “Well, if that guy dislikes him, he must be alright” and “If he’s drawing criticism, he must be saying something worthwhile.” These are elementary logical fallacies — self-indulgent shorthands that are used to avoid thinking for more than twelve seconds. Some people are indeed criticized unfairly because they threaten the status quo or have annoyed a particular group or have ideas that are disdained by the gatekeepers. But to know whether that is the case, one has to look at the details of the charges being leveled against them. Once it was apparent that Roy Moore had disqualifying views and some extremely unlovely predilections, it should have been obvious why he was being knocked. So, too, should the reason that Blankenship has been deemed to be a disaster have been clear from the first day of the contest. To argue that if Mitch McConnell is against a man responsible for a mining disaster, well, then maybe mining disasters aren’t a big deal, is to outsource your brain to another.

As it stands, the GOP is struggling to get much done. Even in the Senate, appointments are provoking prolonged fights and endless delays. Because its primary voters chose Roy Moore, the party’s majority has already been cut to the bone. If, as seems likely, John McCain is now out of action, the GOP will soon be down to 50, and much of the rest of the year will be a grind. The only way for the Republican party to reverse this alarming trend is for it to choose good candidates who can win statewide election. Do its voters really want that? Or are they just watching TV?

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