Are Republicans Now Going to Endorse Doug Mastriano?
Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist, period.
The winner of tonight’s GOP primary for the governorship of Pennsylvania bused supporters to the Capitol on January 6th, was photographed on the Capitol grounds, and ever since has sought to use his limited political powers as a Pennsylvania state senator to overturn the election.
Behind the scenes, Republicans have fretted about Mastriano’s candidacy. Phrases such as “nightmare” and “total disaster” are frequently used to describe him. He is so off-the-wall that even Donald Trump, who has gone as far as endorsing an insurance commissioner in hopes of racking up wins, stayed out of the race, unwilling to put his finger on the scale until the very last minute. But because Mastriano gained such a strong grassroots following by whipping up the God, guns, and #StopTheSteal base, Trump had no choice. Mastriano boxed in Trump on MAGA. In the final days of Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, Trump said he was “obligated” to endorse Mastriano.
So here’s the big question: Now that Mastriano has easily won the Republican nomination, who else will feel similarly “obligated”? Good Republicans always have to support the Republican nominees. Big Elephant Mascot Thingy Says So.
Take a deep breath and feel the 2016 PTSD wash over your body.
The flashbacks go like this: Voters give an absolutely abominable candidate the GOP nomination. People in high positions of Republican political power issue the requisite endorsements. These people all secretly hope the candidate will lose. Instead—holy guacamole—he wins.
Go ahead and try to tell yourself it can’t happen again. Feel the doom settle in behind your neck and roll down your spine.
Do you want to assume Mastriano is going to get shellacked by the super popular, likable, nice man that is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro? The same Shapiro that was so confident that he put out an ad during the GOP primary that looked like he was trying to boost Mastriano’s prospects with Trump voters?
That sort of haughtiness also has a 2016 vibe. I can’t be the only one who remembers how some Democrats rooted for Trump to get the GOP nomination in 2016 because they believed—no, they knew—that Hillary Clinton would beat him. And when Trump got the nomination, Republicans laid back and let him grab it because they thought there would be no price. Clinton would win. Everything would be fine.
And then they kept making that same mistake for the next four years. He couldn’t do that much damage. There would be adults in the room. The guardrails would hold. They would get their judges and then it would be over.
Remember how Mitch McConnell put it even after stating clearly and definitely that Trump was “morally responsible” for January 6th? “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us.”
And like all of the Republicans before him, McConnell was wrong. They didn’t. Because Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to side with the Democrats for one vote on the basic issue of protecting our democracy. Now Trump is all but guaranteed to be the 2024 Republican nominee. Mastriano will compete in a midterm election where Biden’s approval is low, the economy is likely to be terrible, and Republicans are enthused.
And Republican are still feeling cheeky about how Shapiro will win this in a walk. That Shapiro will “take care of the son of a bitch for us.” Republicans are still willing to bet our democracy on someone else cleaning their own house for them.
Oh, and keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, the secretary of the commonwealth—the top elections official—is appointed by the governor. Does anyone doubt that Mastriano would fill that position with someone willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Republicans win the state in 2024?
There’s an obvious lesson: Hoping that Democrats will solve the problems of the Republican party has been a grave mistake. It’s not often countries get second chances. But if the GOP now gets behind insurrectionists like Mastriano, it’s January 6th forever.
Which is exactly what Mastriano is campaigning on.