GOP Voters Don’t Care About Winning Elections, Just Owning the Libs

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

In the twilight of her campaign, Nikki Haley pleaded with Republican voters to move on from the “unhinged chaos” that comes with Donald Trump. At every appearance, she called out Trump’s ugly rhetoric, his toxic narcissism, his grift, and his reckless empowerment of Vladimir Putin.

Even as he moved closer to clinching the 2024 GOP nomination, Haley warned Republicans that the multi-indicted Trump cannot win the general election. And again and again, she appealed for a return to what she called “normalcy.”

But on the eve of Super Tuesday, this much seems clear: The Republican voters don’t want normal. And Trump’s expected sweep will put an exclamation point on the GOP’s full embrace of the chaos that will define the next year.

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Electability? All in all, they’d rather have The Trump Show.

Both national and swing state polls show Haley is a dramatically stronger candidate than Trump in the general election. (A new Marquette University poll has Haley beating Joe Biden by 16 percentage points, while Trump and Biden are in a statistical tie.)

The warning signs are everywhere. Over the weekend, Haley said she no longer felt bound by an RNC pledge to support the party’s nominee. Half of the Republican voters in South Carolina—and a quarter of Trump’s own supporters—worry that he is too extreme to win in November.

But in a choice between winning and a year of unhinged bedlam—it’s frankly no contest.

Republican voters look at Trump’s attempts to overthrow the government, the document thefts, the gaseous malice, the insults to service men and women, and his pledges to pardon rioters who attacked cops…and they have decided they want four more years of it.

Trump has been found liable for sexual assault and defamation, faces a half-billion dollar judgment for fraud, and may stand trial on 91 felony charges, but GOP voters are unfazed. To the contrary, the evidence suggests they are jazzed.

And they are entertained.

The rambling ugliness of Trump’s rhetoric—demagogic, crude, mocking, and chronically fake—continues to enthrall his base precisely because it offends all the right people. There are scores to be settled, hippies to be punched, and libs to be owned.

And Republicans will accept no substitutes.

At his recent CPAC appearance, Trump described his return to power as “judgment day” for the “liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government.” He boasted that is victory in November would be “my ultimate and absolute revenge.”

The crowd abso-freaking-lutely loved it.

While Haley implored primary voters to remember “what normal feels like,” Trump’s base was being dazzled by his new line of golden sneakers, or at least unembarrassed by it.

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When Trump refused to condemn Putin’s murder of Alexei Navalny, and then portrayed himself a victim of political persecution, the media yawned, but MAGA was thrilled.

Trump promised the largest mass deportation in the nation’s history, adding: “We have languages coming into our country… they have languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of. It’s a horrible thing.” Black people, he said, liked him, because he’d been indicted so many times, and they “embraced” his defiant mugshot.

Haley called the remarks “disgusting,” but Republican voters simply shrugged, because Trump was, once again, breaking things.

Breaking things, after all, is the point, isn’t it?

A recent article in The Atlantic described a subset of Americans who need chaos either because they are angry or merely bored. They are attracted to candidates who want to burn it all down.

A New Hampshire voter explained to Politico’s Michael Kruse that he liked Trump because he’s “a wrecking ball. “Our system needs to be broken,” the voter told Kruse, “and he is the man to do it.”

There is no evidence Trump will try to heal the breach in his own party, or that he will make any serious attempts to reach out to moderates or other swing voters. Over the weekend he boasted that MAGA now represented 96 to 100 percent of the Republican Party and that “We’re getting rid of the Romneys of the world.”

And the Republicans who are backing Nikki Haley? They’re being publicly shamed (canceled, if you will) by their fellow party members who have chosen a personality cult over a viable candidate.

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On Saturday, the Trumpified Missouri GOP held its caucuses. Lynn Schmidt, a Missouri Republican, described the scene in an email:

“There were 558 people in the gym for our caucus. When Haley was nominated, the room erupted in boos. Then they asked all of Haley's voters/supporters (62 of us) to line up two by two in the middle of the gym while the other 469 people continued to boo and jeer at us. We were literally lined up in the middle of the gym for all of our neighbors to see… They called us Democrats and talked about hating RINOS.”

I was never under an illusion that the Republican Party wasn’t completely gone. But the level of hate that was spewed in that room should worry all of us.

Nota bene: This does not seem like a political party that is interested either in returning to normal or to winning elections. But that’s no longer the point. The rage, the trolling, the purging—that’s the point.

Charles Sykes is the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind.

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