Opinion The tiny number of Republicans who oppose MAGA candidates speaks volumes

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HR King
May 29, 2001
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By Jennifer Rubin
Columnist |
October 3, 2022 at 12:34 p.m. EDT
A supporter distributes campaign stickers for attendees at an event for Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro in Bethlehem, Pa., on Sept. 22. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)





A few Republicans have popped up here and there to endorse an independent or Democrat running against MAGA-type election deniers. But those individuals remain a small minority. If anything, their candor and clarity serve as a reminder that the GOP remains a tribal quagmire of cowardice, careerism, and authoritarian and racist sentiments.


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Take Tanner Ainge, a Republican and former Utah County commissioner who endorsed conservative independent Evan McMullin in Utah’s Senate race over incumbent Republican Mike Lee. Ainge writes in an op-ed for the Deseret News: “Lee was all in for Trump — carried away by the spirit of party to the point of comparing Trump to Moroni [a revered figure among Mormons], campaigning in Mar-a-Lago after Jan. 6, and failing to publicly speak out against the embarrassing and un-American ‘stop the steal’ movement.” Ainge warns, “Winning elections in the future will require the activation of an increasingly silent, unrepresented, unaffiliated block of voters. Lee does not represent a majority of Utahns, but if only highly partisan voters show up on election day, he will win.”
Such logic is baffling to most Republicans. Indeed, they view the refusal of Mitt Romney to endorse his fellow Utah senator as heresy. Lee’s participation in the coup plot is no big deal, they argue. Once conservatives start running against MAGA Republicans, where will it end?







Meanwhile in Ohio, a group of five Republican local officials gathered in Cincinnati to call on Ohioans to “vote for Democrat Tim Ryan over Republican J.D. Vance in November’s U.S. Senate election.” Likewise, Jonathan Petuchowski, former legislative director for retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), writes in the Columbus Dispatch: “The two candidates for U.S. Senate from Ohio offer a stark choice to voters.” He asks, “Do we want a senator who believes in democracy — that we should honor the will of the people? Do we want a senator who tells the truth and is consistent in his core beliefs?”

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Petuchowski says Ryan, a moderate, is the only acceptable choice. He writes, “J.D. Vance, on the other hand, has made clear that he is all about division, and following in the hate-mongering steps of Donald Trump.” He adds, “The fact that Vance publicly states that Trump won his re-election bid in 2020, despite the total lack of evidence for such a belief — and the fact that he previously dismissed such claims — speaks volumes about Vance’s lack of integrity, but also about his total lack of understanding of how democracy works.”
And where is Petuchowski’s former boss, Portman? He has endorsed Vance. And former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich? Crickets.







Similarly, small pockets of Republicans have endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race against MAGA extremist Doug Mastriano (who was present outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021). And Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) has drawn some support from a conservative third-party group against his Republican opponent, the scandal-plagued, truth-challenged Herschel Walker.
But these Republican defectors are the rare exceptions. The vast majority of Republican officials — even former or retiring ones — have lined up behind election-denying, radical authoritarians (or have remained silent).
It’s not hard to see why so many are so reticent. Those who cross party lines are excoriated by right-wing media outlets and former allies. Moreover, the compliant Republicans seem utterly unbothered by the racism, authoritarianism and conspiracy theories that MAGA candidates spew. The concocted fear of “socialism” and the unsubtle fearmongering about replacement of Whites now define the “mainstream” GOP.
The exceptions to GOP loyalty certainly prove the rule: that membership in the party requires one to subscribe to (or at least tolerate) authoritarianism and White Christian nationalism. Republicans keep telling us what and whom they stand for. We should believe them.