The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats keep trashing Republicans who did the right thing on Jan. 6

Rep. David G. Valadao R-Calif. in 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly referred to the Voter Protection Project. This version has been corrected.

On Jan. 13, 2021, David G. Valadao of California cast one of only 10 Republican votes in the House to impeach President Donald Trump. Mr. Valadao said: “His inciting rhetoric [on Jan. 6, 2021] was un-American, abhorrent, and absolutely an impeachable offense. It’s time to put country over politics.” For this patriotic stand, Mr. Valadao was singled out for attack by the GOP’s dominant pro-Trump wing — and also by Democrats. Leading up to his June 7 primary contest, Democrats spent $110,000 on ads criticizing his impeachment vote hoping to boost the more ideologically extreme Republican Chris Mathys to victory, giving Democrat Rudy Salas a weaker opponent in the November general election. That Mr. Mathys also expressed doubts about the validity of the 2020 election only heightened this stratagem’s hypocrisy. And it proved futile when Mr. Valadao beat Mr. Mathys.

Now Democratic-aligned activists are trying once again to punish Mr. Valadao’s good deed. As Axios first reported, the Voter Protection Project, a political action committee that backs Democratic candidates for House and Senate, has set up a website,, calling Mr. Valadao “A Traitor Who Turned His Back On President Trump To Serve His Own Interests” in an attempt to weaken his support among Republicans. VPP’s Twitter profile describes the PAC’s purposes as “electing voting rights champions and holding Republicans accountable for their attacks on the ballot box.”

“Hypocritical” is too weak a descriptor for the contradiction between these tactics and Democrats’ depiction of this election as a struggle against “ultra-MAGA” election deniers. Another word that comes to mind is “reckless.” Perhaps it will work out for Democrats. There is a chance, however, that some extreme Republicans whom Democrats elevated during the primaries might win on Nov. 8, if the oft-predicted “red wave” materializes. Democrats and their allies spent $53 million supporting 13 Trumpian Republicans in their primaries, usually via ads portraying them as hard-line conservatives — which GOP voters would like. Six of the 13 made it to the general election. Two have realistic shots at victory: Senate candidate Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and House candidate John Gibbs in Michigan, who beat another pro-impeachment Republican, Peter Meijer, in their primary. House candidate Robert Burns in New Hampshire also has an outside shot. As for Mr. Valadao, FiveThirtyEight says he is “slightly favored” to win.

The top of the Democratic Party hierarchy backed this ends-justifies-the-means approach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has defended it as “in furtherance of our winning the election.” Democrats have argued the similarities among Republicans outweigh their differences, creating an overriding imperative to keep them from winning the House majority. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since punishing GOP politicians for being less partisan in the past ensures that they will be more partisan in the future. Democrats could have waged this campaign on the premise that, win or lose, they must emerge with their political principles intact. Instead, they decided to get clever about it — maybe too clever by half.

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