What if the Republican Party was uber-Trumpy but without Donald Trump’s charisma, huge platform, or large following? State Republican parties are testing that out, and it’s not going so well for them, The Washington Post reports.
Michigan Republicans, under the leadership of state party chair and failed secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo, are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and have talked about selling their party headquarters—except it’s owned by a trust, not the party.
Arizona Republicans are saddled with debt from paying legal bills for the fake electors in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Jeff DeWit, the state party chair, has been reduced to begging Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel for help, reportedly telling her, “We desperately need to keep the lights on.”
Georgia Republicans are also struggling to pay legal bills for fake electors, and Gov. Brian Kemp has created his own separate political operation, raising money and helping candidates but not contributing to the state party.
In each case, the state parties have been plagued by infighting—even physical altercations in Michigan—and weakened by embracing Trump’s obsessive denial that he lost in 2020. It goes to show what happens when regular, non-Trump people emulate Trump. They end up with far more of his weaknesses than his strengths—and Trump’s weaknesses already outweigh his strengths, as shown by his own 2020 loss and Republican losses during the time he’s led the party.
Even if you don’t personally see it, Trump has a charisma that works on frighteningly large numbers of people. The heads of state Republican parties don’t have that. Trump has a platform, with even media organizations that should know better covering him closely (and glossing over the most damning stuff). Heads of state Republican parties are extremely easy to ignore except when their level of messiness rises high enough to be entertaining. Trump has an army of small-dollar donors propping him up even as he uses their money for legal bills rather than winning elections. The financial states of the Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan Republican parties show quite clearly that they don’t have that.
State Republican parties don’t have those strengths, but increasingly, they have Trump’s weaknesses: the cult of personality replacing strategic thinking, personal grievances dominating everything, the mounting legal bills. It’s not a good combination for them.
Trump can pull off Trumpism, to an extent. (Not well enough to win the popular vote in a presidential election.) But the kind of petty infighting he promotes, and the extremist amateurs he has pulled into active roles in state parties, aren’t a good way to institution-build, and that’s something political parties need to do. Instead of building strength, remaking itself in Trump’s image is hollowing out the Republican Party. Long may it continue.