The Arizona GOP needs to rid itself of Trump’s 'whackadoodle’ extremists: columnist
Although Arizona has gone from being a deep red state to being a swing state, the Arizona GOP has not responded by purging itself of extremists. In fact, far-right MAGA conspiracy theorists like Kelli Ward (who chairs the Arizona Republican Party), gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (a former television news anchor) and Rep. Paul Gosar have becoming increasingly prominent in Arizona politics. And Arizona Republic opinion columnist Phil Boas, in his June 2 column, has a recommendation for the Arizona GOP: ditch the MAGA extremists and return to a more traditional Barry Goldwater/John McCain type of conservatism.
Lake, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Ward have been aggressive promoters of the Big Lie — falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Such “whackadoodles,” Boas writes, have been a thorn in the side of non-MAGA conservatives like former Sen. Jeff Flake.
“In Arizona, the whackadoodles took control of the Arizona Republican Party a decade before Trump,” Boas explains. “They were loud and eccentric and loved to censure John McCain. But they were never trusted with more power than, say, your average hamster, so they were perfectly adorable and easily ignored. That changed when the Maricopa County Republican Party invited Donald Trump to speak at the Arizona Biltmore in 2015.”
Boas adds, “Trump then was still considered a pretender in the race for the White House, and his sometimes crude comments led more powerful Republicans such as U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to protest.”
McCain, a Barry Goldwater disciple who died in 2018, was a scathing critic of Trump and the MAGA movement. And in 2018, Flake — obviously frustrated by the MAGA extremists who had taken over his party — decided not to seek reelection. That seat is now held by a centrist Democrat: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has been a frequent source of frustration to the progressive wing of her party but gets along well with members of the McCain family — including John McCain’s widow Cindy McCain and his daughter, Republican activist Meghan McCain, a former co-host of ABC’s “The View.”
Arizona’s other U.S. Senate seat — the one once held by Goldwater and later, McCain — is also held by a centrist Democrat: Sen. Mark Kelly, who is up for reelection in the 2022 midterms. A state that was, for many years, synonymous with Goldwater/McCain conservatism now has two Democratic U.S. senators.
Boas notes that Lake and Ward have become “the most visible evangelists of Trump Republicanism in Arizona,” arguing that both of them have been terrible for the Arizona GOP.
But Boas stresses that the type of MAGA extremism that Lake and Ward champion was recently rebuked in some GOP primaries in Georgia, where incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp defeated a Trump-backed challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, by a whopping 52%. And incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was victorious as well, defeating his challenger, Rep. Jody Hice, by 18%.
Perdue and Hice, like Lake in Arizona, campaigned on the Big Lie.
“In Georgia, a state long considered a peer to Arizona because of its demographic similarities, the old-school Republicans stomped Trump candidates for governor, secretary of state and attorney general,” Boas observes. “Brian Kemp won reelection as Georgia governor, beating Trump errand boy David Perdue by 52 points. That’s not a landslide. That’s a collision of planets, an exploding ball of flame that can still be seen through the drapes at Mar-a-Lago.
Boas adds, “If you’ve been buying what the Arizona GOP televangelists have been selling, this might be a good time to short.”
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