In the aftermath of the midterm elections, there’s been some debate in Republican circles as to whether to acknowledge the party’s disappointment with the results or pretend that the setbacks were triumphs. Donald Trump, for example, has tried embracing both approaches.
On Nov. 11, for example, the former president published an item to his social media platform declaring, “WE WON! ... Big Victory, don’t be stupid. Stand on the rooftops and shout it out loud!” Two days later, the Republican wrote a follow-up item, saying it’s Mitch McConnell’s “fault” that the party “blew the Midterms.”
The Republican National Committee has settled on its position — and it’s not shouting “WE WON!” from any rooftops. The Associated Press reported:
A decade after its last election autopsy, the Republican National Committee is moving forward with a new post-election audit designed to examine the GOP’s underwhelming performance in the recent midterms and the party’s broader struggles in the years since former President Donald Trump took power. The report, which will likely take several months to complete, is expected to explore internal concerns about candidate quality, the lack of a clear governing agenda and the party’s unwillingness to embrace early voting, among other issues.
On the surface, such an endeavor makes a lot of sense. Republicans were well positioned for massive gains in this year’s midterm cycle, but they instead suffered disappointments across the board. A “review” — the party is apparently avoiding the word “audit” — would presumably help Republican officials better understand what went wrong, and what steps they could take to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
But just below the surface, it’s not quite that simple.
For one thing, it’s not altogether clear what the examination will be examining. The AP report added, “There is some disagreement about the exact focus and scope of the upcoming review.” Or put another way, one day into the process, Republicans aren’t on the same page about their own post-election initiative. That’s not an ideal start.
For another, some of the RNC’s choices for its “Republican Party Advisory Council” are quite dubious. The list, for example, includes Kellyanne Conway, despite her association with Donald Trump’s failed presidency, as well as Blake Masters, who struggled as a far-right U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona this year, ultimately losing to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by about five percentage points.
Who better to advise the RNC on how to win than a losing candidate who underperformed, not only relative to Arizona Republicans from the last election cycle, but also when compared to other far-right Republicans on the 2022 ballot?
But perhaps the biggest reason for skepticism is that we’re seen the party run this plan before.
The AP article added, “Ten years have passed since the RNC last commissioned a post-election audit. The ‘Growth and Opportunity Project’ of 2013 ultimately called on Republicans to adopt a more inclusive and welcoming tone, while embracing a more forgiving position on immigration.”
Party officials and candidates largely disregarded the recommendations; Republican leads on Capitol Hill killed a bipartisan immigration package; and Donald Trump soon after took over the party. The “Growth and Opportunity Project” ultimately became less of a blueprint and more of an embarrassing answer to a trivia question.
Sure, it’s possible this time will be different, but is there any evidence to suggest Republicans are eager to change direction and learn from their defeats? I’m not saying the new audit can’t produce worthwhile ideas; I’m saying those worthwhile ideas, if they exist, would go ignored by a party that doesn’t want to change.