On Wednesday, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., announced he wouldn’t be challenging Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel for the job she’s had since 2017, but not before he called out “the disappointing results of every election during her tenure.” That leaves McDaniel facing only one well-known candidate, a person who truly deserves to be the GOP’s next head honcho: the “My Pillow” guy, Mike Lindell.
No, I’m not joking. Lindell, the Trump-worshipping, 2020 election-denying, conspiracy-peddling activist who’s been sued by Dominion Software for pushing debunked claims that Dominion’s machines manipulated vote counts to defeat his beloved Trump, is the perfect embodiment of today’s GOP.
Days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Lindell was at the White House with a document that read “insurrection act” and “martial law if necessary.” He slammed Republican candidates who accepted the results of the 2020 election, and he hosted packed “voter integrity” events where he spewed fantastical tales of election fraud.
Don’t believe Lindell is today’s GOP? Look at the facts. A September poll found that over 60% of Republicans still maintain the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Meanwhile, McDaniel recently stated that after recounts and all election litigation are resolved, “then everybody should accept the results. That’s what it should be.”
Look what happened in GOP primaries in the competitive races in battleground states: Trump-backed election deniers defeated the establishment-supported candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and beyond.
Those who blame Trump for “picking” flawed candidates who lost in November are missing the real story. Trump simply endorsed such candidates; Republican voters actually chose to support those candidates over mainstream Republicans. Why? Because that’s where the energy of the GOP base is.
In Arizona this year, the GOP establishment lined up behind lawyer Karrin Taylor Robson, who, despite wrongly claiming the 2020 election wasn’t “fair,” didn’t make that lie a focus of her campaign. In a tight Republican primary, the party’s voters rejected Robson for Kari Lake, the Trump-approved queen of election lies. Lake, who's often been called “Donald Trump in high heels,” has more than earned that description. She made Trump’s election lies a central theme of her campaign, and she mimicked Lindell’s lies about Dominion.
The same thing happened in Wisconsin. In the GOP’s gubernatorial primary, the election-denying Tim Michels was languishing in the middle of the pack — until Trump endorsed him. He went on to defeat Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who had, before the primary, accurately stated that Joe Biden was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, won his re-election campaign over Michels.
We saw similar stories in battleground states such as Michigan and Nevada, where election deniers defeated establishment candidates in the Republican primaries only to be defeated by Democrats in the general election.
Even though every Trump-backed election denier running statewide in a battleground state lost in November, more than 170 such deniers won their races for Congress and statewide offices in more Republican states. In the incoming Congress alone, more than 150 of the 222 House Republicans who won cast doubt on the 2020 election results. That means nearly 70% of the GOP caucus that will control the House on Jan. 3 lines up to varying degrees with Lindell’s thesis that the 2020 election was “stolen.” To repeat: Lindell is more representative of today’s GOP than McDaniel.
A week before Zeldin did, Lindell slammed McDaniel for her failures over the last five years.
Of course, as a Democrat, I have selfish reasons for wanting Lindell to defeat McDaniel. The lies that Trump started and Lindell consistently parroted are no doubt a big part of why Republicans lost so many big races this year. Lindell, whose cellphone was seized in September by the FBI as part of a criminal investigation into alleged election tampering by a Colorado county clerk, hasn’t met an election conspiracy he doesn’t love. If he’s the face of the GOP, Democrats will have an easier time describing the party as posing a real threat to our democracy. To be clear, though, the Republican Party does pose such a threat to our democracy and will, it seems, continue to be such a threat no matter who serves as RNC chair.
A majority of the RNC delegates have signed a pledge to support McDaniel for a fourth term at the committee’s winter meeting next month. But Lindell is actively campaigning and claims he’s been securing votes. If this race follows the pattern of this year’s GOP primaries, then the election denier will beat the mainstream Republican and we’ll be looking at RNC Chair Mike “My Pillow” Lindell.
Having a Trump-idolizing, election-denying, conspiracy theory-loving Lindell leading the party to ruin would be exactly what the GOP deserves.