The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans’ strategies are failing. And they don’t seem to know it.

Protesters listen to speakers at a “Let Freedom Ring” rally on June 17 at the Michigan State Capitol, where attendees delivered affidavits to lawmakers requesting an audit of the presidential election results. (Sarah Rice/For The Washington Post)

Republicans apparently lack the capacity to step back and assess whether their strategy of obstruction and rhetorical bomb-throwing is paying dividends. If they did, they might rethink their approach.

President Biden’s approval rating remains steady in a batch of new polls (56 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval in the Fox News poll, 54-43 percent in Politico-Morning Consult and 56-42 percent in Gallup). Republicans voted against the American Rescue Plan, which included money for coronavirus vaccinations, and tried smearing Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, but Biden’s handling of the pandemic garners overwhelming support (64-34 percent in the Fox poll). Americans are also becoming increasingly comfortable venturing out to public places (81 percent in Fox, up from 52 just a week before).

The GOP’s reliance on lies and cultural red meat has been no more effective. Republicans’ attempt to discredit the election through the fake Maricopa County, Ariz., audit has not convinced much of anyone beyond the base of true believers. Even more embarrassing, the report from the Michigan Republicans’ 2020 election audit emphatically rejected MAGA fraud claims. The report states: “The Committee found no evidence of widespread or systemic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election. Citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan.”

The Detroit Free Press runs through all of the unsubstantiated claims from Republicans that the report debunks, including “that dead people voted, that hundreds of thousands of unsolicited absentee ballots were sent to Michigan voters, that a machine error switched votes in Antrim County and that tabulators at the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted, were connected to the internet, allowing outside parties to tamper with the results.”

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None of this will convince MAGA cult members that Biden won fair and square, but rational voters can see how desperate Republicans are and how willing they are to undermine democratic elections to reclaim power. Their nationwide crusade to pass voting “security” laws based on the lie that there was voter fraud can be seen for what it is: a ham-handed attempt to suppress voting, especially among minority voters.

In unanimously blocking debate on a stripped down voting reform bill, Senate Republicans align themselves with the new Jim Crow movement across the country. This surely will not help them with groups they lost in 2020 (e.g., college-educated Whites).

So if attacks on Biden’s successful vaccination response and the “big lie” are not helping them sway voters, how is the GOP’s latest made-up controversy, critical race theory, working out? For starters, most voters do not know what Republicans are yammering about. The Politico-Morning Consult poll found that 19 percent have a favorable view of critical race theory, and 52 percent admit they either do not have an opinion or have never heard of it. Fewer than 30 percent have a negative or somewhat negative view of the obscure academic theory. Even among Republicans and Republican-leaners, 44 percent have no opinion or never heard of it.

Moreover, Republicans who have attempted to smear the military as “woke” for its efforts to promote diversity, as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has done, got a rude awakening on Wednesday. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blasted Gaetz during a hearing at the U.S. Capitol. “I want to understand White rage, and I’m White,” he said. “What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.”

Miley continued: “I’ve read Mao Zedong, I’ve read Karl Marx, I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with ... having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and noncommissioned officers, of being, quote, woke, or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” For good measure, Miley provided a concise explanation of critical race theory — that racial inequality has become embedded in our laws and institutions. He wants to understand that “power differential,” he said.

In sum, Biden is sailing along on the strength of his response to the pandemic. Republicans are spinning their wheels with laughably fake audits and baseless assertions of a stolen election (in which many of them were elected or reelected). They resort to race-baiting with the scary-sounding critical race theory, only to be slapped down by the highest-ranking military officer in the country. Maybe they should try something new — like offering real solutions for real problems.