Trump’s swampy endorsements won’t make America great again

If we ever build a D.C. political swamp museum, I will propose that Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) receive his own, special first-floor exhibit. Despite representing a district that chose Donald Trump by 23 points, Simpson since 1999 has voted for every bill that has made our government what it is today.

As a full-spectrum liberal, Simpson is one of the biggest spenders in all of Congress. He is a passionate supporter of DACA amnesty and endless worker visas for illegal aliens. He is a long-time supporter of redefining marriage. And, of course, he has also spoken out against Trump on multiple occasions. If we are ever going to change the uniparty, low-hanging fruit like Mike Simpson must be pruned from the GOP’s androgynous-looking family tree.

It’s hard not to notice that Trump’s endorsements of bad incumbents appear to be iron-clad, while his good endorsements are hit-or-miss at best.

Yet, shockingly, Trump endorsed Simpson ahead of this week’s primary — along with nearly every other liberal Republican facing any challenge.

It’s no longer about a few ego-driven, wayward endorsements of establishment members. Trump is becoming a defeat mechanism, endorsing every single RINO with a challenger on the horizon. Open seats in solid red states are electing new McConnell-style Republicans with Trump’s help. He is even intervening in state legislatures to undermine the Freedom Caucus’ efforts to transform the party from McConnell Republicans to Trump Republicans, or at least who Trump was perceived as representing.

Before Trump’s rise, conservatives struggled to swap out the corrupt, old-guard GOP establishment. It was a vicious cycle of well-known and well-funded incumbents and candidates who would govern in accord with the monied interests and use that superior campaign cash to ingratiate themselves with the conservative base during the primaries.

Rewarding enemies, punishing would-be allies

What we needed was a force-multiplier who could help candidates who struggle with money and name ID needed to actually get elected and realign the party’s priorities with those of the voters rather than donors.

On the surface, Donald Trump was the perfect man for the job. He ran on draining the swamp, being a new type of Republican, and incessantly touted his personal wealth as a shield against undue influence from special interests. He could have endorsed Freedom Caucus-style candidates in every open seat. He might have even endorsed challengers against incumbents.

Five cycles into Trump’s dominion over the party, conservative organizations, and conservative media, he easily could have changed the face of the party. Yet, the opposite has occurred.

All the people who voted for the budget bills, foreign aid, and FISA reauthorization used to at least sweat a primary challenge even under the unlikely scenario they would lose. Now, they are guaranteed a 100% chance of re-election because they automatically get House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to call in the endorsement on behalf Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell’s preferred candidates.

With few exceptions, Trump has endorsed every single incumbent who has voted for the bad bills, and unless he is pressured to stop, will do so for the remaining primaries.

In the past, Trump would butt heads with incumbents who “said bad things” about him, which would often align with our strategic interests to remove incumbents who were bad on policy. But by backing the likes of Mike Simpson, Trump is now endorsing the worst of the worst — including past antagonists.

This isn’t about reflexively endorsing incumbents, either. In last Tuesday’s primary, Trump endorsed every single liberal Republican in Kentucky and Georgia — except for Thomas Massie. You might chalk that up to their past disagreements. But in places like Indiana, Trump declined to endorse conservative incumbent Victoria Spartz in her tough battle for re-election, even though she never had a beef with Trump. Meanwhile, Trump endorsed obscure RINO incumbent James Baird in the district next to Spartz’ over a conservative challenger.

It’s hard not to notice that Trump’s endorsements of bad incumbents appear to be iron-clad while his good endorsements are hit-or-miss at best.

Is Trump making red states more moderate?

With Trump refilling the swamp in Congress, the best we can do now may be to build a conservative bulwark in state legislatures to make red states red again. The State Freedom Caucus Network has revolutionized the way we do legislating and primaries in several red states. Nowhere is this more evident than in South Carolina, where the freedom caucus has built an entire parallel movement to challenge the liberal Republicans, many of whom were Democrats until recently.

Yet, for the first time, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and liberal Republicans called in an airstrike and got Trump to reach into the legislative primaries to support most of the incumbents the Freedom Caucus is targeting.

The South Carolina Freedom Caucus, ardent allies of Trump, worked assiduously to land primary challengers against GOP leaders who are literally Republicans in name only. Yet Trump endorsed every one of them, including Assistant Majority Leader Jay West, who supported John Kerry and Carla Schussler, who supported Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

Yes, Trump did back some incumbent Freedom Caucus members, including Thomas Beach, Jay Kilmartin, Mike Burns, and Bill Cumley, but he declined to endorse 10 other incumbent conservatives who face liberal challengers. This includes people like Rob Harris, who supported Trump from day one.

It’s always a one-way street with a leftward curve. Now, liberal challengers are sending out mailers claiming these conservative incumbents are so bad Trump wouldn’t even endorse them, which sows confusion when voters most need clarity.

When viewed together with Trump’s leftward shift on issues such as abortion, Obamacare, Bud Light, abolishing the FBI, Ukraine war funding, and bailing out Speaker Johnson, these endorsements paint a disturbing picture. The man who claimed his personal wealth would shield him from the left-wing overtures of wayward GOP donors is now so desperate to pay his legal bills that he is willing to give them everything they want.

We still have plenty of time before the election. It’s not too late for a course correction.

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