Democrats made the dangerous bet that helping the MAGA candidate elected would clear the path for flipping the seat come November.
That’s the big takeaway from Tuesday’s West Michigan primary upset that saw a MAGA, election-conspiracist candidate prevail over freshman incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Meijer.
The state’s 3rd Congressional District was watched nationally because of the Trump dynamics at play. Meijer is one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last year after the Jan. 6 riot. The vote made him a pariah to the Trump faithful.
Oddly, it also made Meijer a target of Democrats, who dumped nearly half a million dollars on a TV ad that boosted Meijer’s opponent John Gibbs by showcasing his far-right Trump credentials. The amount the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent on this ad is more than Gibbs raised during his entire campaign.
A dangerous bet by Democrats
Democrats made the dangerous bet that helping get the MAGA candidate elected would clear the path for flipping the seat come November. Attorney Hillary Scholten, the Democrat whom Meijer defeated by 6 points in 2020, is again making a run for the seat.
Oakland University political science professor David Dulio told me Monday that if Meijer had won the primary, he likely would have prevailed in November. A Gibbs win, meanwhile, is an all but certain Democratic victory in a district that now leans more left after recent redistricting.
Democrats' fingerprints on election
In a piece for Common Sense, Meijer put it this way: “If successful, Republican voters will be blamed if any of these (Trump-endorsed) candidates are ultimately elected, but there is no doubt Democrats’ fingerprints will be on the weapon. We should never forget it.”
Democrats' risky gamble doesn’t support their purported defense of democracy, which they’ve broadcast loudly during weeks of televised congressional hearings investigating Trump’s involvement in what went down Jan. 6, 2021.
Democratic leaders probably hope that everyone will forget their meddling in the race, and you can bet they’ll use Republicans’ “choice” of Gibbs as rationale for painting the whole party as tinfoil-hat wearing extremists.
The cost of impeachment vote
So far, Meijer is one of two Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to suffer a primary loss. Two others from Washington state survived their primaries Tuesday. Four of the 10 aren’t seeking reelection at all.
The most prominent of the 10 Republicans is Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who is up next in her Aug. 16 primary. It’s not looking good for her, especially given her very public role as vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee. Cheney has already faced punishment from the party, losing her leadership role in the House after her impeachment vote and continued criticism of Trump.
Trump has had mixed results as GOP kingmaker, but the message Tuesday seems to be that candidates who cross him risk a backlash at the ballot box.
Let's stop rehashing 2020
I would love to see the party move past Trump and rehashing the 2020 election. And I know most moderate Republicans and mainstream conservatives feel the same.
Primaries typically play to the party faithful, however, and Democrats are doing everything they can to help the most extreme GOP candidates whom they think they can defeat more easily in November, when a broader base of voters heads to the polls.
It’s despicable, and as Meijer said, don’t forget it.