It would be an overstatement to suggest Donald Trump has maintained complete control over the Republican Party’s 2022 primaries, picking winners and losers in line with his whims. There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, with the former president’s preferred candidates suffering embarrassing defeats in Georgia, Nebraska, and Idaho.
But as members of the Impeachment 10 can attest, it would also be a mistake to downplay Trump’s influence — especially when the former president, fueled by a petty sense of vengeance, is determined to destroy the careers of specific members of his party. A New York Times analysis noted overnight:
Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Mr. Trump in early 2021 for his role inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol. Only two have survived the 2022 Republican primaries, a breathtaking run of losses and forced retirements in a chamber where incumbents typically prevail with ease.
With a focus on former House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, who lost in a landslide to a Trump sycophant in Wyoming yesterday, the Times added that the outcome “may have only strengthened Mr. Trump’s hand as he asserts his grip over the Republican Party, by revealing the futility among Republican voters of even the most vigorous prosecution of the case against him.”
Circling back to our earlier coverage, when the outgoing president was impeached early last year for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, it resulted in the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history. Against a backdrop in which Republicans seemed eager to move on from their failed, defeated president, 10 GOP House members voted with the Democratic majority in favor of the impeachment resolution, and they had every reason to believe they’d be vindicated by history.
History, however, doesn’t elect members of Congress. Voters do.
As the defeated, scandal-plagued, failed president reclaimed control over the party, and “leaders” — I’m using the word loosely — like Kevin McCarthy scurried to Mar-a-Lago to bend the knee, members of the Impeachment 10 came to realize that it didn’t matter that they were right. What mattered was that much of their radicalized political party wouldn’t tolerate their heresy, which would overshadow every other part of their careers in public service.
Some saw the direction in the prevailing winds and decided to avoid the indignity of defeat. It’s why four members of the contingent — Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez, New York’s John Katko, Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, and Michigan’s Fred Upton — announced their retirements before the primary season even began in earnest.
Four more thought they could maintain the trust of the voters who’d elected them in the first place:
- In South Carolina, Rep. Tom Rice was crushed in a primary, losing by more than 26 points to a Republican primary rival who insisted that the 2020 election was “rigged.” (It was not rigged.)
- In Michigan, Rep. Peter Meijer suffered a relatively narrow loss in a GOP primary to John Gibbs, whom the Times described as “a former official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development with a history of firing off inflammatory, conspiratorial tweets.”
- In the state of Washington, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler lost her primary race to Joe Kent, who, according to an Associated Press report, has “connections to right-wing extremists, including a campaign consultant who was a member of the Proud Boys.”
- And in Wyoming, Cheney suffered a lopsided defeat to a Trump-backed lawyer who embraced the Big Lie.
There are two other House Republicans from the Impeachment 10 who are still standing — Washington’s Dan Newhouse and California’s David Valadao — though whether they’ll win re-election in the fall remains to be seen.
As for the seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, two are retiring — North Carolina’s Richard Burr and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey — and four aren’t up for re-election this year. The other is Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who yesterday advanced to the general election.