The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The GOP effort at reshaping the U.S. to Trump’s vision continues apace

Rep. Peter Meijer at his watch party at Social House Kitchen and Bar in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Aug. 2. (Sarah Rice for The Washington Post)

One week after supporters of President Donald Trump fought their way into the U.S. Capitol in an effort to block the finalization of Trump’s election loss, the president was impeached by the House.

There was only one article of impeachment: “incitement of insurrection.” The text of the document noted that Trump had spent months elevating false claims about the security of the election and then, that morning, had called on his supporters to fight and to march to the Capitol. In the months since Jan. 13, 2021, the terse summary in the article has become only more substantiated, from evidence of Trump’s awareness of the threat posed by the crowd to the indictment of riot participants on charges related to sedition.

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And yet, on Tuesday night, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) became the second congressional Republican to lose his primary after voting to impeach Trump. He joins Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), who lost his primary in June. Of the other eight Republicans who backed Trump’s impeachment, half simply declined to run again.

There was some good news for the group Tuesday night. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) appear to be poised to advance to the general election in November. Rep. David G. Valadao (R-Calif.) already has. But then, those are blue-state Republicans. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, appears to be unlikely to join them when Wyoming Republicans vote next week.

Meijer’s loss, though, has a slightly different tenor. He’s not from a heavily Republican state but one that tends to lean Democratic. His Trump-endorsed opponent, John Gibbs, received support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with Democrats hoping that Gibbs would be easier to beat in November. But in the end, Gibbs won because Republicans wanted someone who was more loyal to Trump, if not necessarily the Republican Party. Gibbs won because when asked to choose between defending a democratic election or defending a Republican president, Meijer chose the former.

Tuesday night also marked the further spread of a Trump-backed effort to reshape state-level leadership. In Arizona, Trump-endorsed candidates for governor, attorney general and secretary of state all won or are leading. Should they prevail in November, the three state officials most responsible for bolstering the validity of election results in Arizona will be ones who have publicly aligned with Trump’s false claims about election fraud.

In three of the other four swing states where primaries have been held, the results have been broadly similar. In Georgia, Trump’s effort to upend the state’s incumbent leadership failed across the board; Republican voters backed the officials who had opposed the president’s efforts to undermine their choice in 2020. But in Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, Republicans have chosen officials who’ve either backed Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud in 2020 with gusto or who have elevated some portion of them.

(Michigan Republicans nominated attorney general and secretary of state candidates endorsed by Trump at a meeting in April. They need to be confirmed by another vote at the end of the month, which is expected to happen.)

These are just primary contests, of course. There’s no guarantee that these candidates will ever hold power. But excluding Georgia, the pattern is clear: Republicans continue to seek elected leaders who are willing to go along with Trump’s false claims about election security. In Nevada, for example, the gubernatorial nominee has offered muted agreement with Trump — but also lists “election integrity” as an issue on his website.

Republican primary voters have historically been more conservative than Republicans overall. To some extent, these results likely reflect the direction sought by the party’s more extreme members. But this is not exculpatory: Any Republicans who object to Trump’s claims about the election and his response to the 2020 election have either not turned out to vote as heavily or have simply been outnumbered.

Making the party’s position clear: A willingness to question the results of a heavily scrutinized election is often not disqualifying; holding accountable a president who sought to retain power often is.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Kelli Ward, chair of the Republican Party in Arizona, was interviewed by the right-wing streaming network Real America’s Voice. (A former anchor of Real America’s Voice, Tudor Dixon, was nominated as the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate in Michigan on Tuesday.) The results in Arizona, Ward said, was “an exorcism of John McCain” — the party’s 2008 presidential nominee — “from our state and our country.”

Not a fully incorrect assessment.

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