Selfish Politicians Are The GOP’s Biggest Problem

I doubt I’m telling you something you don’t already know here, but in the wake of a very lackluster midterm election performance in which there are an awful lot of indications showing that as universally horrid as the Democrats are a dysfunctional Republican Party simply is not strong enough to take advantage, what’s most clear is that you can’t survive in today’s American politics if your political class is selfish and arrogant.

You see that on the national level in spades. Mitch McConnell, the octogenarian fossil in charge of the party’s Senate caucus, actively sandbagged a number of Republican candidates by not funding them, and that ultimately took down Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and, more than likely (they’re still counting and it isn’t over), Blake Masters in Arizona. As a result, instead of having 52 or 53 seats and a potential Rick Scott-led GOP caucus it now looks like 50 or 51, or maybe even 49, Republicans in the Senate and McConnell is going to remain the leader – a position the 80-year-old has held since 2007.

Not much good has happened for the GOP in the Senate since 2007.

Not to be outdone, Donald Trump has shown an unbelievable selfishness in the prosecution of the 2022 midterms. Trump spent the final week of the cycle stealing headlines from Republican candidates by touting his 2024 presidential campaign launch due for next Tuesday, all the while trashing Ron DeSantis and threatening to expose “dirt” on him should DeSantis run in 2024 – which, based on last night’s blowout victory in Florida, is objectively the obvious play for the party.

Trump also openly trashed McConnell. Which isn’t wrong, but it’s just as damaging as McConnell trashing Mehmet Oz, Herschel Walker and Masters as bad candidates earlier this year. You demoralize your own voters when you openly promote faction within their party in the middle of an election cycle.

But even the good candidates fell victim to a selfish, arrogant and self-destructive behavioral pattern. Here was Kari Lake – who might yet manage to pull out her Arizona gubernatorial race despite a horrible underperformance – just a few days ago…

What on earth was that?

Lake was ahead by 11 points in polling less than a week from the election and as of this writing she’s still behind – though the conventional wisdom seems to be that she’ll eventually overtake Katie Hobbs. We’ll happily take the win, but it’s an underperformance nevertheless.

And it’s selfish to put your campaign, and the future you represent, on the line for a needless, undisciplined attack on a reporter like Lake uncorked in that clip.

We love Kari Lake. But as much fun as “owning the libs” might be, you owe it to your supporters and voters not to piss their efforts away on a showboat move like that.

We know all about selfish politicians in Louisiana. We are absolutely awash in them.

I talked about this a little on Monday, in the aftermath of the news that the Louisiana Republican Party has endorsed Jeff Landry for governor in 2023, but the selfishness of the political class in this state has shaped its politics for a long time and among many it has not abated.

Just the recent history, the awful tenure of John Bel Edwards as governor in particular, is proof enough.

I want to say David Vitter ran for governor for the right reasons. Vitter was serious about some major policy reforms in this state, so serious that he put them on paper for all the special interest crowd to see them and plot against him. Even so, David Vitter was a U.S. Senator. To run for governor as a U.S. Senator is the literal definition of talking with your mouth full.

Sure, this is analysis in retrospect, but Huey Long set the model for how to influence your home state’s policy while in the Senate: you run a puppet for governor.

Vitter wouldn’t have needed a puppet. An ally would have done. Instead, he ran himself and the voters hated it. Worse, before running to succeed Bobby Jindal Vitter failed to resolve his longtime rift with Jindal, and so Jindal’s camp ran Scott Angelle, whose history showed neither particular accomplishment nor actual conservatism, against him.

Talk to your average Republican voter in Louisiana, as I’ve been doing a lot over the past week, and you will hear a whole lot of grousing about both Vitter and Jindal as massively selfish politicians. Nobody has forgotten Jindal’s ill-fated presidential run in 2016 and his inattention to Louisiana leading up to it.

2015 begat 2019, which was an absolute mess for Republicans in this state. And that mess came courtesy of one thing – the selfishness of politicians in Louisiana, Republicans in particular, who refused to listen to their constituents when the latter, begged and pleaded for party primaries so that 2015 couldn’t happen again.

Without a party primary, the thought was only one Republican could run if the party was going to beat an incumbent Democrat. But who should that be? John Kennedy was the obvious choice, but Kennedy was already in the Senate. And while Kennedy toyed with running, ultimately he recognized that in most places if you’re a senator you don’t run for governor. That left a void, which ultimately couldn’t be filled by either Ralph Abraham or Eddie Rispone. The latter made the runoff but when he did, a key outbreak of the arrogance and selfishness plaguing GOP pols in Louisiana did him in.

Rispone had it suggested to him that he needed to call Abraham, whom he had attacked – unfairly, as the case was – in the primary, and do what it took to sew up his support so the Republican vote could be unified. He balked at the suggestion, and he also balked at the suggestion Abraham could be brought aboard if he helped to cover the congressman’s campaign debts, which is something that often happens.

So he only got tepid support from Abraham, and Abraham’s voters didn’t turn out for Rispone. Because he wasn’t humble enough, and because he didn’t understand enough that when you run for office it isn’t about you but instead it’s about the people of the place you seek to represent, to do what was necessary to win.

As I said Monday, the Republican State Central Committee, by a significant margin, has decided that they’re not putting up with any more of these selfish gambits on the part of politicians which constantly lead to misery. They endorsed Jeff Landry early because Landry has done all the things a winning candidate needs to do – he’s been raising truckloads of money for a long time, he’s been making alliances all over the state, he’s been vigorously fighting for the conservative cause in his capacity as the state’s attorney general and he jumped into the race early to leave no question about where he is on the subject.

Those are the actions of somebody who understands this is bigger than he is. That it’s the mission, not the man. That’s always been what’s driven Landry, and for whatever flaws people might come up with in describing him there is no questioning his sincerity. He wants political power, yes, but he wants it because he aims to be an agent of change in Louisiana.

So when the RSCC made their endorsement, the other GOP candidates who have flirted with running set to grousing.

Here was Sharon Hewitt, the state senator from Slidell…

And here was Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser…

State Treasurer John Schroder also groused about the endorsement, saying “Almost a year out? This is more about money and inside party politics! There’s still a lot of water that must pass under the bridge. Ultimately, the citizens of Louisiana must have candidates who present ideas and solutions to fix the problems of this state.”

Again, the reason the RSCC decided to endorse early was to forestall a divisive and messy primary the likes of which has led to disaster in 2015 and 2019. And without fixing the jungle primary system which makes these messes inevitable, they don’t have any other options.

Hewitt carried the bill to dump the jungle primary and bring back party primaries in this past legislative session. We were told by multiple members of both houses of the Louisiana legislature that the bill had sufficient support not only to pass but perhaps even to survive a veto. And yet for some reason Hewitt didn’t move the bill. Maybe Senate president Page Cortez convinced her not to; we don’t know. But if she had advanced the bill through the legislature and passed it, then there wouldn’t be the pressure on Landry to seek the early endorsement or on the RSCC to give it.

And meanwhile, Sharon Hewitt is not currently a candidate for governor. If she was so opposed to the idea that Landry would bear the party standard, then she should have gotten into the race. As something of a dark horse, she would have needed to already get in. She’s late to the party. Rispone was in the 2019 race by August of 2018, and Rispone had unlimited funds.

Is the complaint that Landry’s RSCC gambit foreclosed her opportunity to run? If so, the answer is she did that to herself through her inaction.

As for Nungesser, he’s opposed the return to party primaries. He also embraced Edwards at a rally to raise taxes and has never apologized. Nungesser even came out against the bill protecting girls’ sports from the encroachment of biological males. On what planet does Billy Nungesser believe that the Republican State Central Committee was going to reward that kind of performance with its endorsement for governor?

And as I said Monday, Billy Nungesser is not a candidate for governor. He told Rotarians in Lake Providence that he would be one a few weeks back, and then he sat on his rear end while Landry ate his lunch and drank his milkshake. Nungesser talks about competition being the essence of conservatism, but the competition began when Landry officially announced and it was Nungesser who failed to compete.

He’s a selfish politician who won’t even fight for himself. Why would anyone support him as the man to lift this state out of disaster?

As for Schroder, the number one concern we keep hearing about his candidacy is specifically that he has yet to provide and ideas or solutions as the reasons for being of his potential candidacy. Over and over we keep hearing that he’ll give speeches about the mechanics of winning a gubernatorial race but not once will he provide a vision along the lines of “if you make me governor here are the things I will fight to make happen.”

We are awash in selfishness. We suffer from a terrible drought of vision and belief and commitment. And given the condition of the state and the nation, we simply can’t afford politicians who seek to be the biggest hogs at the trough right now.

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