Every single Presidential Election since 2000 has been called "The Most Important Election of our Lives." I can see with those who have run for the highest office of the land this century how that phrase could be bandied about so often. If the truth be told, these elections may have been the most important, but it's the mid-term elections that really tell the status of each party and where they are heading. Keeping this in mind, I can say that the election of 2022 is probably going to be the defining election for what the future of the GOP holds for at least the next decade or two.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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I became acutely aware of how important the mid-term elections are during the 2012 season. For those of you who may not have been paying attention or remember, it was the time of the Tea Party. The conservative movement was worried that then President Obama was going to hurl us face-first into a Kenyan-based form of socialism that would utterly crumble the over 200-year experiment in democracy that the United States has become. Because of this almost-palpable fear, a new group of conservatives came to the forefront in an attempt to stop our nation from being destroyed from within; the Tea Party. The first indication that this movement was one to be taken seriously was in February of 2011 when the Tea Party Patriots organized and hosted the American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Between this event in Arizona and the national media attention that some of the candidates were receiving (i.e. Ted Cruz), the movement started to take off. When looking at the outcome of the 2012 election, it's clear to see that there were millions of Americans waiting for a more hard-core version of conservatism to take over. With new faces like Brad Wenstrup, Deb Fischer, and the aforementioned Cruz all defeating their GOP opponents in primaries across the nation, it was made clear that this new breed needed to be taken seriously. It seemed that those who were "party lifers" welcomed the freshman politicians with open arms. Sure, there was some backlash, but when you have political household names like Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney throwing support behind the Tea Party, acceptance was inevitable. By the end of the election, the Tea Party had won seats in both the House and Senate across the country and have made their ideologies present whenever it pertains to any vote of any serious consequence.
I see 2022 being much like this; however, this go-around will be the "establishment versus Trumpers." And to be honest, I have no idea at all where this wind may blow.
Outside of the nation-wide general elections to be held, there are two specifically that I am going to be watching like a hawk. The races including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, and Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, both for good reasons.
For Murkowski, negative pushback has already begun. Since she was re-elected in 2016, the world of the GOP became a very different place. In a time when anyone and everyone in the party was bowing to the whims of ex-President Trump, she refused. She was consistently against Trump on a number of issues, and always made it clear she will vote for what she sees as morally correct over political expediency. The best example of her putting her money where her mouth is was with her vote to impeach the ex-President. Knowing full well that she was the ONLY Republican Senator up for re-election in 2022 to vote for the impeachment, along with the fact that she would most likely face a censure upon her return to Alaska, she did it anyway. When asked about it, she made her stance clear. "I know that my actions, my vote may have political consequences. And I understand that. I absolutely understand that. But I can't be afraid of that." Pollster Ivan Moore of Alaska Survey Research has been tracking the opinion of Murkowski for two decades. If she had to face another closed Republican primary, Moore says Murkowski would almost certainly lose. "On the conservative side, she's now a pariah totally on the right and will be. It's irreversible."
From the state that gave us Sarah Palin, it's hard to determine what exactly will happen. Alaska did recently change its voting rules however which will most certainly benefit her ability to remain in office. With their passage of Ballot Measure 2 in 2020, instead of running only against other Republicans, Murkowski will run against candidates of all parties. All voters will receive the same ballot, and the top four finishers will advance to the November election. Murkowski has acknowledged the new system helps her, but we also know how passionate the Trump fanbase is. If anyone decides to run against her as a Trump faithful, it could definitely spell the end of Murkowski's 20-year career ... maybe. It's the other race that has me adding the "maybe" caveat at the end.
If you have not been paying attention to what's been going on in Georgia and those who represent the state in the House (and you are a fan of reality), then you are in for a treat. In November a Republican named Marjorie Taylor Greene won the election for Georgia's 14th Congressional District. Given the state of the election cycle at the time she decided to go all-in on the side of conservative conspiracy theories and join the ranks with a group called the Freedom Caucus Members. I'm not going to specify all of their beliefs and what makes them so much different than the Tea Party, but just know that anything that came out of Trump's mouth during his presidency is looked upon as a complete fact. Qanon and the Democratic pedophile rings, that the DNC wants to immediately open all the borders and give jobs to anyone who isn't white, to the fact that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization that wants to rid the world of all police and white people ... the list goes on. But, I think you have a good idea. Her election, and all the statistics on it, showed that when it comes to the realities of the Trump faithful, it is a double-edged sword and difficult to predict.
Because of her outlandish views, the rest of the House of Representatives became worried that whichever governmental agencies she would head, would be thrown right into the toilet. This concern was so great that in February of 2021 the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments. Normally, with this kind of punishment, the representative apologizes and tried to do as much damage control as possible to minimize the damage that's been caused. Not Greene. She doubled-, and in some cases tripled-down on her prior controversial statements. With Democrats having control over the House, this punishment wasn't too surprising. What is surprising is looking at the 2020 totals for Greene.
First off, she ran unopposed. There was nobody there to check her on her statements. She was allowed to make any assertion she wanted to without worrying about being anywhere close to the truth. Though she had no opposition, she secured 74.7% of the vote. This means there were nearly 26% of the population would rather see nobody or anybody else over Greene. Even with these negatives, Greene has made it clear that nothing is going to stop her from completing her mission to the best of her ability. This happened during the vote for the recent $1.9 trillion Biden stimulus when she delayed the vote with a roll call procedure. Many Republicans were not amused. "I think this is an end result of what the House has become, what the posture of the House has become," said Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois. "I think what you're seeing with a lot of the shenanigans on the floor is because so many members have so much time on their hands to be able to go to the floor, and worry about what's happening with suspension bills rather than moving along, trying to look at legislating into the future." Her "shenanigans" also drew the ire of Democrats. So much so that future procedure may be impacted. Democrat from Rhode Island David Cicilline told reporters he plans to propose a rule to bar members not serving on committees from proposing motions to adjourn, emphasizing that he was “dead serious.”
Of course, the Trumpers and their love for the ex-President run deep. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a high-profile member of the House Freedom Caucus, told CNN he had nothing to do with the effort to force the roll call votes but he had no problem with Greene exerting her rights as a member of Congress.
This is the double-edged sword I previously mentioned. She had toed the line for the Trump faithful and literally did everything within her power to support the Trump agenda. She joined a caucus that is known for its anti-reality sentiments concerning the political world. She did everything she could to see the moral agenda of the GOP take flight. Yet, Greene ran unopposed but didn't even hit 75% of vote totals.
Murkowski has never shied away from speaking her mind. She is the classic interpretation of what the Republican party is supposed to be; doing what you feel is morally correct even in the face of adversity. Whether it was a possible censure, or having her chances hurt in the upcoming 2022 election, it was more important to her to follow her beliefs as opposed to what is popular.
These examples are why I say that the 2022 election is going to determine the future of the party over the next decade or two. Because of Tea Party loyalty, we still have a plethora of those in government with leadership positions that have had them since the movement began in 2012. Trump loyalty is something different altogether though. Morality can change with the drop of a hat. Complete revision of core ideologies. Ruthlessly attacking anyone who opposes you.
The upcoming midterm election is going to let the GOP know exactly who they are: either they will be a group known for power in the face of any actionable accountability and will stop at nothing to "Make America Great Again." Or they are going to trust in the establishment and put their faith in those who have made politics their career and can thereby bring back some sense of reality and ethics to the party.
To be honest, I do not know which way the wind will blow because of how fractured the GOP has become. It's funny whenever I hear conservative talk show hosts talk about how fractured the Democratic party is. They aren't wrong, it does have some splintering. But to ignore the fact that there are clearly two solid factions in the GOP is ludicrous. Hopefully, for the overall good of the nation, these two factions never mend their fences and primary themselves into the unemployment line. Only time will tell ...
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